At Councilman Kevin Faulconer's urging, the mayor and council members reintroduced Rogelio "Yogi" Najera's salary into the fiscal year 2007 budget, which was approved in full by the council on May 30. The spending plan will take effect July 1.
Faulconer said he took notice of the issue last September after witnessing Ocean Beach residents raise $46,000 to pay Najera's salary through the end of this month, after it was eliminated in a 2005 round of budget cuts.
Shortly after Faulconer was elected to the City Council in January, community members asked for his help in reinstating Najera's pay for the coming year.
When it came time for council members to review the mayor's proposed budget and suggest modifications one month ago, Faulconer recommended that the city recognize the will of the community and restore funding for Robb Field staff.
"It helped me when I talked to the mayor to say, "˜This community has given their hard earned dollars to help during tough times,'" Faulconer said.
Najera, who has worked for the city for 26 years and at Robb Field for the past 10, said he greatly appreciates both past and present efforts.
"The fact that people gave their money last year was overwhelming," Najera said. "That's pretty much the best compliment you can get."
Najera's job admittedly becomes more difficult with every cut to hours and manpower. As one of only two full-time staff members, Najera juggles multiple responsibilities, sometimes overseeing numerous fields and courts, the skate park and Dusty Rhodes Park at once.
The facility shares its five part-time staffers and three-person maintenance crew "“ down from five in past years "“ with other area parks and recreation centers. And despite being one of the city's largest regional parks, drawing thousands of people on any given weekend, Robb Field frequently has only one person on duty.
"Often times in the evening hours we are single staffed," Najera said.
The fact that San Diego is $1.5 billion in the hole lends itself to these sorts of problems, Faulconer said. And until the city's finances achieve a good bill of health, Najera faces the prospect of losing his job with each new budget cycle.
But the valued employee is committed to finishing his career with the city in Ocean Beach, and does not lament his uncertain future, instead focusing on the present.
"I basically looked at it from the standpoint that I was being given a great opportunity to work another year," he said. "I feel so blessed and so honored to work for such a wonderful community that continues to fight for whatever they believe in."