Morale Check: San Diego City Workers

The financial fallout is taking quite a toll

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The campaign surrounding Prop. D, and the rejection from voters, were heavy psychic blows.

    It's hard to swallow, but many contend. The glory days of San Diego being promoted and often perceived as 'America's Finest City' are long past. Especially for municipal workers.

    The city has been financially stressed for nearly seven years and the fallout is taking quite a toll on employee morale.

    It raises all the issues that other public and private-sector organizations face in this economy. But when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent, San Diego is especially challenged.

    Morale Check of San Diego City Workers

    [DGO] Morale Check of San Diego City Workers
    The campaign surrounding Prop. D, and the rejection from voters, were heavy psychic blows.

    The campaign surrounding Proposition D, and the voters' rejection of that half-cent sales tax hike, were heavy psychic blows.

    "Public employees in the city of San Diego have been made into the scapegoat -- I think, unfairly, grossly unfairly -- made into the scapegoat of what's wrong with the local political scene and it's not a fun place to be," Political Consultant Larry Remer said.

    It hasn't been for years. Hundreds of positions and people, out the door. Pay cuts, pay freezes. Expectations to do more and more with less and less. Who in the job market has heard the city San Diego is a great place to work now?

    "What you're going to get is desperate people who need a job because they're out of work. You're not going to get high-quality people -- and that's what the city of San Diego needs. You want people who are going to be here for the long run," said AFSCME Local 127 President Joan Raymond.

    Three budget cycles ago, there was an exodus of police officers who saw the handwriting of pay cuts and retirement setbacks on the wall. Now that further pension reform is on the table, retention as well as recruitment could become more problematic.

    "And if they put a point at which you can't get health care any longer, people are going to leave when that deadline hits," said SDSD School of Public Affairs Prof. Glen Sparrow, Ph.D.

    In two years, San Diego will have a new mayor and the process of making the city work while political jockeying reigns could take a morale toll of its own.

    "You're either going to have to hunker down and endure -- especially in a mayoral election season -- a lot of being thundered on by the politicians,” said Mesa College Political Science Professor Carl Luna, Ph.D. “Or you're going to look for greener pastures."

    Untold numbers of city workers could be 'turned out to pastures' -- greener or not -- if their departments lose so-called 'managed’ competitions with private contractors.

    San Diego has been a leader in municipal outsourcing. But in the current climate, that won't be a morale boost.