Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Councilman Kevin Faulconer Op-Ed

I am proud to have been at the forefront of solving the financial scandals that dogged the city of San Diego for nearly a decade. Now, our city faces a new challenge. The mayor and City Council must return tax dollars to our neighborhoods by continuing to reform City Hall.
That is why it’s disappointing that Mayor Bob Filner’s first proposed budget shortchanges core neighborhood services, including street repair, and seeks to repeat the financial mistakes of City Hall’s troubled past.
The city’s finances affect every service it provides: public safety, clean drinking water, paved streets and much more. A financially sound city can provide these services. A mismanaged city cannot. Instead of continuing with fiscal discipline, accountability and voter-approved reforms, the mayor’s proposed budget contains major flaws that, combined and left unchecked, will impede the city’s turnaround.
First, the mayor’s proposed budget purposefully delays road repairs. In a city where potholes seem as common as sand on the beach, it’s unthinkable that City Hall would postpone projects to fix our streets. Yet Mayor Filner wants to decrease road maintenance by millions of dollars and shelve $81 million in additional infrastructure funding already approved by the City Council as part of a bipartisan and comprehensive plan to fix the city’s deteriorating assets. More than half of the funding would have been used to resurface roads. That’s 84 miles of streets that will go unpaved.
Our city cannot afford, and we cannot accept, more crumbling roads. This inaction and continued negligence of San Diego’s roads will create more potholes and make it increasingly difficult to catch up on repairs our neighborhoods need.
Second, the budget is precariously balanced by raiding the city’s savings accounts. This violates the good government budget principles Mayor Filner and the City Council agreed to in 2012.
The past decade taught us that ramping up government spending without long-term funding is a recipe for trouble. Yet his proposed budget creates new ongoing expenses – such as hiring more workers – by cashing out one-time revenue sources in city reserves, such as the San Diego Gas & Electric 2007 wildfire settlement. I have a different view than the mayor. I believe we should use competition and accountability to successfully move our city forward.
Here is an example. Most of us agree that competition works. San Diego voters amended the City Charter to give city leaders the power to bring private sector competition to City Hall.
Unfortunately, the Filner administration has completely stopped new competitions for city functions such as trash collection – ignoring the will of the voters and costing San Diego millions of dollars every year.
We’ve just scratched the surface of what these competitions could save the city. Through competition, city employees have identified over $12 million in annual savings by cutting waste. We must continue using this proven method and keep City Hall accountable to the will of the voters.
This is why I will ask the City Council to cast a vote reaffirming its commitment to the managed competition program so there is no question who supports reducing the taxpayer’s bill – and who doesn’t. No budget is justifiable unless city leaders consider all reasonable ways to deliver services more efficiently and in a cost-effective manner.
Let’s repair our roads. Let’s responsibly fund public safety. Let’s balance the budget not through short-term games, but through permanently cutting government waste. As the public reviews the budget over the coming months, I invite the mayor and City Council to join me and support these principles.
Fixing our city’s high-profile problems has been a tremendous challenge, but it created the benefit of requiring a level of collaboration that is all too uncommon in politics. Let’s continue San Diego’s revival and create a city government of which we can all be proud. We can’t afford to stop now.

The previous commentary may not reflect the overall feelings of the entire Clairemont Town Council. However, we support everyone's opportunity to have their voice be heard on any issue or topic as it pertains to the well-being of our Clairemont community.

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