San Diego's beaches and bays are a prime attraction for tourists and locals alike. But the city's lifeguard force is now on the mayor's chopping block.
Mayor Jerry Sanders warned on Wednesday that cuts are likely unless the Proposition D sales tax hike passes.
Prop. D critics say the concerns about safety on our beaches and bays are a 'scare tactic'. But a media handler for the No on D campaign raised a lot of eyebrows with a post on a political blog yesterday.
“Sure, we all agree on police and fire protection being essential. What about lifeguard service? I say no. It’s your choice to go into the ocean, so you accept the risk,” Gayle Falkenthal wrote.
"Well, we're finally getting a sense of how the opponents of Prop. D view our city and the services our citizens count on," said Mayor Sanders.
The lifeguard’s service is being asked for a seven percent budget cut next year, on top of the six percent they lost in the current budget cycle. They make about 5,000 rescues annually. This year's workload has been lighter.
"We got by this year because of 20-year cold weather and really cold water. It's cyclical. It's not going to be that way next year and I'm very fearful for the lifeguards in the spring and our ability to protect the public," said Lifeguard Union Head Steward Ed Harris.
"It's shameful and it's unnecessary to try to scare voters," said councilmember Carl DeMaio.
Leaders of "No on D" say there are countless services and departments other than public safety where cuts can and should be made, but haven't been.
"The notion that council members will cut police and fire and lifeguards is almost as ludicrous as their claims that they're going to reform city government and pensions," DeMaio said.
On Thursday, directors of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce meet to decide what position to take on Prop. D. The board will hear a pitch to endorse it from Mayor Sanders, and from Councilman Kevin Faulconer, in opposition.