San Diego taxpayers are drowning in a fiscal swamp of backlogged maintenance work needed for their public facilities.
We now know the price tag -- almost $4 billion.
How does the city pay for all that, while fantasizing about a new stadium and expanded convention center?
For several years, the cost of fixing and upgrading San Diego's infrastructure has been pegged at $2 billion. The latest numbers indicate it's nearly double that, and there’s a funding gap alone that approaches $2 billion.
Critics have long faulted the city for being distracted by "bread and circuses" and skimping on the "meat, potatoes and vegetables" of sound, functioning facilities: streets, sidewalks, water and sewer systems, police and fire stations, parks and public buildings.
They say that work needs big bucks -- and soon.
So much municipal property is degrading, it's never fully been quantified, until now.
"This is the first time the city has ever put together a strategic, comprehensive look at infrastructure – ever,” said San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey, who chairs the council’s Infrastructure Committee. “And this is something other cities do. Big cities do it. Medium-size, small cities do this. The is the first time San Diego's ever done this."
But while Kersey and other city leaders explore "public-private partnerships" and "enhanced infrastructure finance districts" to take a nine-figure bond issue to the 2016 ballot, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is looking at that same year to sell voters on a new stadium for the Chargers.
Will they go for both propositions?
"If we do not resolve our critical, basic needs,” said Councilman David Alvarez, “I don't see how anything else gets funded in the city."
How much can Chargers owner Dean Spanos and his associates, including the NFL, help with "anything else” – and to what extent will that sway voters toward his stadium proposal?
We posed those questions Thursday in a downtown interview with an Encanto resident who identified himself only as “D.J.”.
“(Spanos) has got a billion dollars, he doesn't care if it's Chargers fans, Raiders fans, Patriots fans -- we're already in the stadium,” D.J. told us.
“As long as they're selling beer and the seats are full -- right?” he continued. “The city isn't making that much of a profit off the Chargers selling out, so – infrastructure all the way.”
It’s a balancing act that oddsmakers might be inclined to book as a long shot.
But Councilman Todd Gloria offers this cautious assessment: "We're a big city. We're a world class city. I think we can handle most of the challenges and find solutions. But time's wasting. And we need to have a clear signal from every city leader that they understand not only this is a problem, but they're willing to take on the hard solutions that are necessary to fix them."
Craig Gustafson, a spokesman for Faulconer, said the mayor is already taking action on fixing city streets, and will soon unveil "a series of reforms" to expedite other infrastructure projects.
Gustafson added that Faulconer is challenging council members for specifics as to what their proposed bond issue will cover.