“Yes” on Prop D – or your library and Rec Center will be permanently closed!

by on October 7, 2010 · 10 comments

in Economy, Election, San Diego

Ocean Beach Library - saved along with 6 other branches.

Two years ago the OB Library was saved from budget cuts. Will it survive the next round? Prop D proponents say it will be saved if it passes.

That is pretty much the choice we face in voting thumbs up or down on a five year one half percent sales tax increase on Prop. D in November. Also throw in reduced Fire and Police services, which also concerns us, if D doesn’t pass.

Last month Mayor Sanders announced that the City was facing a $72Million budget deficit in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011. As you all know, yearly and sometimes twice a year budget reductions have been going on for a long time- four years in fact. Sanders was unable to close some of our branch libraries and recreation centers two years ago because of the public outcry, but hours and services have been reduced significantly.

Jay Goldstone, the City’s Chief Operating Officer informed the City Council recently that the only thing left is to close some facilities-permanently. It has been noted that “While Mayor Jerry Sanders is seeking 7 percent reductions in police and fire spending, he wants 24 percent cuts in library and park and recreation programs.”  Will this be the final curtain for the OB Library, among others?

Donna Frye sales taxSo yes, folks, the sky is falling-again. But a funny thing happened on the way to placing a five year half cent sales tax increase on the ballot. Sanders was on board with the initial proposition, but Donna Frye ended up being the wild card on the final City Council vote, only supporting the tax if it were linked to reforms. Remember when Frye was running for mayor and she was asked if she would consider raising taxes? Her honest response- that she would entertain that possibility- probably cost her the election. Sanders of course found new taxes unthinkable at the time. It was a touché moment for Frye when she voted against a tax which the mayor supported.

That touché moment opened a Pandora’s box in which the usual stuff flew out from the business community, taxpayers association, libertarians, the U-T and of course Carl DeMaio and Kevin Faulconer. If the increases weren’t tied into “reforms,” they maintained, it could only be viewed as a tax to pay for City employee pensions. So Rome is burning and there was and still is a great deal of fiddling going on…

What would have been a straightforward ballot measure to increase the City revenues- albeit in the form of a regressive tax- has become a protracted discussion about reforms, efficiencies and triggers. The sales tax will not be implemented until certain triggers are met regarding outsourcing city functions, reducing pension liabilities, reducing spending by $73M in each of the five years of the tax, implementing a spending freeze and restrictions on the use of future surpluses.

Sanders Prop DIt is no secret that Sanders and the business interests have been BFF’s for a long time. He appointed a kitchen cabinet comprised of those interests last year, but evidently the relationship went south when the BFF’s brought up municipal bankruptcy as a fiscal option. Sanders and the majority of the City Council want D to pass and they need more buy in from the business community. Our elected representatives responded to this need by “outsourcing” their decision making powers and responsibilities to those business interests.

The problem here is that I am convinced that those interests simply aren’t into government and good governance. Period. If they were, there would be a prohibition against the City throwing tax dollars to private sports teams or cruise lines or other private interests, as part of the required reform measures. Taxpayers are still on the hook for $10M every year to pay for the debt service on Petco Park. You don’t hear much about that, do you?

Nor do you hear any analysis of City salaries and benefits made within the context of the tremendous income equity gap occurring in this country and which our City government payroll now mirrors. We should be talking about the gap between the highest City wage earners- who are the only ones that the public hears about- and the lowest, as well as the loss of middle income jobs within the City. And we should be committed to reducing that gap, not as retribution against the whole workforce, but rather as an admission that the continued growth of income among the highest wage earners and the wealthiest is creating an underclass of the working poor. That mindless growth is not a formula for stimulating the economy nor for maintaining a democracy.

But most of all, the current analysis does not address the gap between city service expectations and the cost of delivering those services to the citizens.

We are one cheap city when it comes to ponying up for services which we value across the board, from District 1 with a median household income of $108,561 to my own District 3 with a median household income of $48, 272. We need to be looking at a stable revenue source that will be there after Prop D sunsets, in five years. The obvious source is a monthly trash fees for single family residences, but now that the Miramar Landfill is up for outsourcing, who knows how that will affect this potential revenue source.

To resolve that revenue gap by outsourcing public services to the private sector instead, at a supposedly lower taxpayer cost, assures new, stable income streams to the business interests while also diminishing any effort to raise their taxes. This is a win-win for only one section of our city, and it is a drastic, ill advised approach to solving the structural deficit.

When I read the comments of those opposed to D and of those interests currently in charge of the reform criteria I must question whether “reform” is really the issue. There is a patently anti-government effort afoot. It is a lie to say this effort is put forth in good faith. Reducing costs and improving efficiencies are one thing. Starving government to death is quite another. The demand for an additional $73M in cuts, every year for the next five years is depraved. By putting our elected representatives and city workforce on the defensive, this movement stands to single-handedly redefine what constitutes the public good and public core services without any honest debate that includes us, the citizens who will be affected most.

I will be voting “YES” on Prop. D. And I will be holding my nose while I do it.

Editor: Note about the writer: Anna Daniels was employed by the City of San Diego for 26 years, working most of those years serving the public at the Central Library information desk.  She currently receive a city pension.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar RB October 7, 2010 at 11:13 am

They cut libraries, police, and fire first because these are the services people want.

San Diego’s pension payments require about 16 percent of its $1 billion budget each year. No organization, private or public, can operate with this $2.6 billion pension liability. Where else can people retire at 35 without any years of vesting other than the San Diego City Council?

The regressive sales tax will extracts money form the poor for pensions, many in excess of $100,000 per year.


avatar annagrace October 7, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I know we are not much into nuanced debate on this topic, but here’s a different perspective from the Municipal Employees Union (MEA):
“The city’s current unfunded obligations are a product of deliberate choices elected officials have made over the past three decades: choices to fund high-profile building projects rather than pre-fund promised benefits; choices to promise enhanced retirement benefits rather than increased salaries in order to avoid straining annual budgets; and choices not to raise revenues or cut services but instead to “rob Peter to pay Paul” every year to balance the budget.

The reality is that the average city employee is just another taxpaying member of our community’s hardworking but diminishing middle class. While the civil (and sometimes not so civil) discourse continues as to how to strengthen our fiscal future, the city’s past deliberate choices must be honestly acknowledged, and the temptation to demonize and blame city employees for the choices made by others must be resisted.”

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/oct/07/no-in-defense-of-overcompensated-employees/


avatar RB October 7, 2010 at 4:43 pm

You are correct that the average and lower paid employees were not a part of the pension plot. And you are correct elected officials (starting with Golding/McGory) misdirected funds. But none of this could have happened without the unions and the pension board also conspiring with the misdirection of funds. The unions who represent the average city employee knew of the misdirections of funds and three union leaders were on the pension board. The real criminals were those on the pension board. The pension board had a fiduciary responsibility ( the highest financial responsibility) to protect employees pensions from the misdirection of funds. They let self interest and pension perks for themselves undermined the long term protection of the pension plan for the average employee.

Legally, I don’t believe any employee pension up to now can be c


avatar annagrace October 7, 2010 at 5:22 pm

RB- there is a great deal of culpability to spread around. I reject completely that the culpability rests predominantly with the unions. The lesson learned is that no entity or entities within our City government should ever, ever, underfund their pension obligation. For any reason. So why does that not appear in the current language of “reform?”


avatar RB October 7, 2010 at 6:30 pm

The largest culpability rests predominantly with the pension board not the union. I am sorry if I was unclear. The unions had the least amount of responsibility….they were just unwise to trust the city leaders. The pension board’s major job is to protect the pension. The three union leaders on the board, not the whole union, received illegal pension perks in return for allowing the misdirection of funds. Their culpability primarily comes from being on the board. But these union leaders who traded their brothers and sisters in the union down the river so the city would increase their individual pensions are not to ever be trusted.


avatar JPinSD October 7, 2010 at 11:46 am

Like I said before. Vote NO…San Diego voters will not be allowed to choose how any new tax moneys will be spent. Why can’t they guarantee that this money will help restore emergency and critical city services? Nothing will change, they will just keep asking for more and more….


avatar annagrace October 7, 2010 at 3:36 pm

JPinSD- San Diego voters elect council people who have legislative authority over the budget. Under our strong mayor system, the mayor presents a budget and then the council responds. SD voters actually do weigh in on the budget process, as it relates to general fund services, when they attend lengthy council meetings to provide public testimony or send emails to their elected officials.

So how exactly do you want those new tax dollars to be spent?


avatar Dickie October 11, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I am sending in a contribution from a neighbor of mine, a long time library worker, and still very active in library issues in Shasta County since her retirement. She is reporting about the experience here in Shasta County(where you might remember the libraries were voted out about 20 years ago) and a sifferent take on the privatization issue:

“Shasta County has had a very troubled past regarding the library system. We infamously closed all the branches (13) in 1988. Nearly a year later, 3 were reopened (because they were owned by the county). In 2004 there were 2 groups in Redding raising money to apply to matching bond funds from the state (California). The request was granted in the second round of applications. The new library building was to be built in Redding and owned by the City of Redding. Negotiations between the city and county resulted in Shasta Public Libraries. One in Redding (owned by the city), one in Anderson and one in Burney (both owned by Shasta County). The county committed to funding all the libraries for several years, but wanted nothing to do with running them. Funding for all 3 branches comes from county, city and state funds with occasional grants and donations as well. The City of Redding also did not want the responsibility of running the system, so LSSI was hired.
This is not a privatizing set up. It is still a public library, funded by public funds and open to inspection and involvement by the public.
We are still governed by California library rules for a free system. The same rules for Shasta County were adopted, and no one has access to your information unless they present a legal warrant.
I am very curious after reading comments from the blog and NYTimes where people are getting their information. Below is a link to a newspaper article from Oregon in 2007. I do not know their situation at this time, but our story has had a very good outcome. Our registration has quadrupled and our circulation is soaring. Usage in the libraries is amazing. Volunteerism was so essential in the past and now people like to be a part of the positive effects our new system has. I truly believe if you polled users about returning to what we had before, not one person would agree to go back.

Connie Cleckler
25 years branch manager
past president FOIL (Friends of the Intermountain Libraries)
current member LAC (Library Advisory Committee)



avatar annagrace October 11, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Dickie- I am always happy to read your posts! To be honest with you, Connie’s comments made the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up. As someone who worked in our city library system for 26 years, my first response is ” Why didn’t the citizens of Redding/Shasta knock the snot out of the politicians who refused to support their library system as a core public service and a reflection of what we know as the public good?”

LSSI is a private entity which on one hand is dismissive of municipal workers, and then turns around and hires them back with either lower wages and or benefits because they really do not have a clue how to run libraries and are dependent upon the very people that they criticize. Do you love irony? How about all those volunteers who enhance LSSI’s private bottom line? Gee- maybe I should volunteer at McDonald’s!

Please ask Connie Cleckler to tell us how much the principals of LSSI make. Citizens here are incensed over the salary and benefits of our City Librarian. I could not find anything about the salaries and benefits of the LSII board, CEO and owner- because they are a private company. Fancy that! And I even called my library for help!

I am unconvinced that nothing changes- and in fact things get better- when a private company is brought in to run our libraries. Shame on us for demanding so little.


avatar Connie Cleckler October 13, 2010 at 9:44 am

annagrace-” Why didn’t the citizens of Redding/Shasta knock the snot out of the politicians who refused to support their library system as a core public service and a reflection of what we know as the public good?”….gee, what a great idea…oh wait, we tried that. Then how about generating funds to keep us open? From 1988 to 1993, three measures with sunset clauses were on the ballots, two with dedicated funding. Not even one garnered a simple majority.

I do not know what salaries LSSI owners make. I’ve never even wondered. My concern is what they are spending to keep our libraries open with optimum hours, new materials, children and adult programs and staff to help the patrons. It was hardly a Sophie’s Choice matter….close libraries or put the patrons first with service and hours, and I do not believe the employees consider themselves sweatshop victims.

You are right for “Shame on us for demanding so little”, but I really don’t think you have a clue to our situation or even bothered to read about it. The entire population of Shasta County is 192,000. “In an ideal world…” If you have some genuine suggestions that will satisfy your concerns and keep our libraries open, please share them.

I wish you the very best of luck passing your Prop. D.


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