OCEAN BEACH, CA. It was a hot Monday night in the gym of the Ocean Beach Rec Center. It was time for Mayor Jerry Sanders presentation of his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2010. Patty and I had wanted to attend. Not that we’re accountants or really understand the City Budget, but we wanted to witness the event and see OB in action. Once in our seats, I thought geez, we walked in just a few minutes late, and it had already started. No “OB Time” here.
But there it was – there was the turn-out, or lack thereof. Sadly, or maybe by plan, the turnout of Ocean Beach residents was dismally obvious, once we took our seats in the cavernous room. I counted the heads and the suits – and figured out that city staff outnumbered local residents.
I’m not sure what the reasons were for the dismal turnout – yes, it was a hot day and night, there was very little PR for the event – although the OB Rag blog had run an article -, no announcement that I saw in the Union Tribune today, and no community organization really made it a priority to turn out the community.
I didn’t see any merchants or any leaders of our ‘civic organizations’ – no one from the Planning Board except George Murphy, no OBMA reps, no Town Council presence, although there was Pat James from the OB Historical Society.
This was not about the budget – this was about PR.
If the room was packed, it might have been chaotic, noisy, boisterous, you know how OBceans get rowdy when they’re at a town hall meeting over a hot issue. But this was definitely not a town hall meeting.
Maybe the small turn-out was planned. The Mayor is doing eight of these community budget briefings – presumably one in each district. Now he gets to say he held one in Ocean Beach.
It’s really an open question, then, whether the 15,000 OBceans who live here knew about the event or if they knew whether they cared about it. This is really dry stuff, and it’s explained in a bureaucratic language that dulls the brain, and you’re made to think ‘I really don’t understand what they’re saying.”
This post is also not about the budget. If you want to see the actual proposal, go to www.sandiego.gov
We listened to the Mayor give a run-up and later answer questions, but Mary Lewis, his Chief Financial Officer, gave the briefing and read off the power point slides for her presentation. Plus we all had our hand-outs, which we could refer to in case we missed a slide. There were no questions taken during this whole part of the presentation. The Mayor explained that he has learned his lesson of handing over the mic to someone in the audience – then it becomes “their forum and not my forum”. We could hand in questions on blue cards, though, so I handed two in.
The Mayor had brought a whole bunch of managers and mid-managers – there was a police captain, the head of the Library department – but I’m not sure why, exactly, because none of them spoke, and Sanders really didn’t refer to any of them. Well, okay, he referred to the police captain on a question of at what rank police officers become salaried (lieutenant) – in response to one of my questions. I felt sorry for the city staff, the mayor’s aides, Faulconer’s aide – he himself was lucky not to be there – the department people, the Rec Center staff. They had pained smiles on their faces. It was a hot night.
It was all a little embarrassing – the whole scene. The mayor speaking in front of a pitifully small crowd, the pitiful turnout from a community that is supposed to be on top of things, a community that cares, the unused heavy-weight City staff, the quick gloss over of the budget – no pausing for more indepth discussion or explanation, the hard metal chairs, the absence of the civic leaders of the community. I mean they’re talking millions, hundreds of millions. Where is our collective concern over the course of the City’s business? Where is the interest in how and where our City takes in and spends money?
Maybe it was all by plan. Although it was announced at the Mayor’s press conference in front of the OB Library last week.
It was announced that the new budget included funds for the Ocean Beach Community Plan Update. Hmmm. The City is always trying to update OB’s community Plan. The Mayor also did continue to praise the unions and the employees of the City. He was able to obtain $30 million in concessions from them – $30 MILLION! That was nearly half the shortfall of $62 million. Yea City workers! Thank you.
A couple more residents showed up – that made it even: 20 to 20.