Mayoral candidates debate views at La Jolla Rotary
by Mariko Lamb
Sep 05, 2012 | 4930 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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The La Jolla Rotary hosted mayoral candidates Bob Filner and Carl DeMaio at its weekly luncheon on Sept. 4 for a debate facilitated by program chair Pat Stouffer. The candidates discussed key issues including pension reform, quality of life programs, city finances and more. In case you missed it, here is an abbreviated version of the Q&A-style debate.

Pat Stouffer: Proposition B will be tied up in the courts for quite some time. What measures will you take in the meantime to resolve the city’s financial problems?

Bob Filner: I would put a cap on six figure pensions … More importantly, we will negotiate a five-year pensionable pay freeze for the city of San Diego regardless of whether Proposition B has been validated by the courts.

Carl DeMaio: Prop. B is not tied up in courts. The unions have filed a number of frivolous lawsuits and they have not succeeded in getting any judge to say that we cannot implement it. In fact, this city council and the mayor have come together and hit the ground running implementing Prop. B since the election … I’ve built a council coalition to implement the first stage, which is the interim 401(k) and we were also able to build a council coalition of four votes to mandate the five-year pay freeze.

PS: Cities are increasingly judged on quality-of-life assets. Assuming San Diego eventually has some discretionary funds, how will you determine funding for quality of life issues, such as the arts?

CD: As we increase our hotel tax revenues over the next eight years, we will also double the funding for arts, culture and science programs … My position in support of these programs is clear, which is why I authored the Roadmap to Recovery, which balances our budget and puts money back into these important programs.

BF: There are special interests that govern city hall. Mr. DeMaio is a candidate of those special interests — the developers, the builders, the lobbyists. Those are the people who have prevented our neighborhoods from having the quality of life raised. If you want quality of life raised, you have to vote Bob Filner for mayor because I am the only one free from those constraints.

PS: The budget money affects all forward motion in a city like San Diego. The maintenance, repair and upgrading of roads and infrastructure have been under-funded for several years. Will we ever be able to catch up?

BF: If we change who has control of city hall. I don’t care if you’re a wealthier community like La Jolla or downtown, the special interests have seen you and the property as an asset for their own private profit. They have not looked at your parking, traffic, beach maintenance or post office. There is a reason why we don’t have these things, and it’s because the budget and priorities are not geared toward neighborhoods.

CD: Our 249-page, comprehensive, step-by-step [Roadmap to Recovery] budget was the first budget offered by a council member that actually balances … We presented a thoughtful and balanced approach to reforming city finances that restores programs and over five years allows us to catch up on our road repairs — $497 million in additional funding without a tax increase dedicated to community and neighborhood infrastructure.

PS: Managed competition now has a role in the city budget. The first four bids were won by existing city departments. If private enterprise runs over budget, the contractor is obligated to eat the deficit. What about the city? How do you propose to protect taxpayers in a managed contract bid?

CD: In 2012, we followed [Prop. C] up with the Fair and Open Competition Measure to go along with managed competition and require that all contracts be posted online. This is important because it puts the voter mandate behind the concept that we should be opening city services up to transparency and competition on a regular basis … In my administration, we are going to require that anyone who wins these bids — whether they are employees or contractors — that they shall enter into a fixed-price, performance-based contract with all the terms being transparently disclosed online for the public to search and see.

BF: When a private bidder can pay low wages, no benefits, can avoid liability that the city has to have, that’s where the unfairness comes — when you have outside bidders who can, in fact, not pay a livable wage. I’m going to oppose that kind of competition. I’m not going to say because someone can make a private profit by skimming off easy-to-provide services and pay no wages and assume no liability, we give those people that contract.

PS: Unions have been a popular target for the city’s budget problems, yet each of these contracts has been negotiated and approved by the city council and mayor and vetted by the City Attorney’s office — all people who benefit from the terms of those contracts. Isn’t it a bit disingenuous to blame employees for decisions made by management when the budget goes south?

BF: No question. The employees have given back again and again over the past six years during this pension problem. We have increased their payments, we have increased their health care, we have taken off all the bells and whistles and they have not seen a pay increase.

CD: We should not blame our employees. I’m a businessman and I know that we need to have an environment, a workplace, where our employees feel safe, awarded, supported, which is why one of the most important things we can do is make sure we avoid bankruptcy in our city. That they know their job is secure, and when we make a commitment to them on retirement, that we can actually fulfill that commitment.

PS: Does San Diego need a new football stadium? Where should it be, who should pay for it and why?

CD: I’m open to the idea of a multi-use facility for special events — perhaps combine the sports arena, additional meeting space to bring events in from out of town — but we do not have money in the city’s budget to contribute anything to that project. I’m willing to sit at the table and bring people together, I’m willing to look into public-private partnerships, I’m willing to be a convener and get people together behind a plan that works, but I’ll never support a plan for the city to build a stadium for a billionaire.

BF: What we have had with our sports teams — and it’s because of the monopoly major leagues have over us — is extortion. We have paid a heavy price to keep the teams here, so no more extortion from this man. I love the Chargers. I would like to keep them. I hope we can keep them. I see ways in which the city can benefit, in which the city can have an investment paid back.

PS: How do you see San Diego in five years?

BF: I hope we see a city with a vibrant economy that’s building middle class jobs that’s based on expansion of our port, that sees a vibrant economy based on alternative energy in our green and blue economy. I hope we have a city where our neighborhoods have reached far more prominence and quality of life issues addressed, and we have a livable, walkable, pedestrian-friendly city, where the arts and culture are not only appreciated, but far more supported, where our educational system is seen as second to none. Where tourists come to not only to see our great weather, but also our great environmental assets and our incredible diversity in different neighborhoods and ethnic groups in the city.

CD: We’ll accomplish what I call the three “P”s — pensions, potholes and prosperity. By pensions, I mean the larger fiscal-reform agenda. We have to complete that so that we have financial health that’s restored and we get past this pension crisis … We’ll use the savings to get back what we lost — our after-school programs, library hours, park and rec, police and fire personnel. We will then pivot to potholes — neighborhood infrastructure that we have neglected for more than a decade … Moving on, we’ll go to prosperity. We will create jobs, middle class jobs that will give you enough to send your kids to college or to buy your first house and retire comfortably.

PS: Each of you represents extremes of your party. How will you build consensus in a centrist political arena?

CD: People can try to apply labels, but at the end of the day, what I’m fighting for are the issues that unite, rather than divide. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done and it’s because we’ve listened, exchanged ideas, brought sides together and then insisted on action, bringing results.

BF: The person who has tried to bring things together — as chairman of a major committee in the United States Congress, deputy mayor of the eighth largest city in the nation, president of the second largest school district in the state — is me. How does that happen? Because I can bring people together and get things done.

Next month at its Oct. 2 meeting, the La Jolla Rotary will host special guests District 1 City Council candidates Sherri Lightner and Ray Ellis.
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