Thursday, November 19, 2009

Open Government & Transparency

The mayor is at it again! On Tuesday, twelve prominent (if you consider "former" whatever's prominent) well connected, downtown money elite individuals, delivered a "draft" report to the mayor with solutions for fixing the city's budget deficit. The Voice of San Diego attempted to get a copy of the report from the mayor only to be told he did not have a copy to give them. To make this clear, the Voice of San Diego made a public records request for the report and was told the mayor's office did not keep a copy (I find this unbelievable).

In an article titled, "Private Task Force Delivers Report on Finances to Mayor" Liam Dillon of the Voice of San Diego, identified the members of the task force and attempted to shed light on the information being presented. In a prior post here, "The mayor's Legacy" I discussed the mayor's "Civic Leadership 2009-2012" an action team of "civic" leaders picked by the mayor to provide him policy suggestions and help push his agenda. I spoke about the various topics being discussed by these handpicked individuals, all behind closed doors and out of the public's view.

The names of those on the mayor's "Fiscal Task Force" are interesting to say the least. Vince Mudd, owner of Office Interiors; Neil Derrough, former Executive for CBS; Pete Garcia, former Executive with University Mechanical and Engineering Contractors; Mark Koop, Executive for Quan Investment; Marshall Merrifield, Founder of Clark Security Products; Bill Roper, former Executive of Verisign Inc; Dan Shea, Owner of Donovan's Steak & Chop House; Susan Snow, Executive with Odyssey Capital Group; Mark Stephens, Managing Partner with Ernst and Young; Bob Tjosvold, former Executive with Bank of America; Dick Vortman, former Executive with National Steel and Shipbuilding Co; and Barbara Warden, former San Diego City Council member.

Reading between the lines, it appears the mayor and his committee is at odds with who "owns" the report. Vince Mudd is the chairman of this Fiscal Task Force and said the report will be "comprehensive and free from any mayoral vetoes over its content." Sounds as if the mayor was not happy with the report and wanted changes. Mudd continued, "The concept of the report is looking at the fiscal situation as a whole from a real honest perspective, one that's not filtered in any way through a political lens." So help me mayor, the report looks at the fiscal situation of the city from a "real honest perspective" and because it was not in a manner that would be politically correct or in keeping with your agenda, you told this secret committee to take the report back?

Rachel Laing said the mayor created the "Civic Leadership Team" to push his (the mayor) agenda, not to promote the agendas of others. Laing is quoted in the Voice of San Diego article, "When you know it's going to change and you get your marching orders for change, then there is no reason to keep one." Even more light is being shined on this secret committee and their report. Laing is telling us clearly the mayor was not happy with the report and wanted changes. Laing continues, "If there's something in the report that's not accurate or not in keeping with the mayor's agenda then we don't want that out there." Trouble is brewing in Emerald City. Vince Mudd did not share Laing's views. Mudd said, "When the report comes out, I have a tremendously high level of confidence that the mayor is going to want to see what's in it, and there's going to be things in it that the mayor's not going to like it."

The bigger issue with all of this is the secret meetings and the public's business being kept from the public. The "Civic Leadership Team" put together by the mayor will no doubt be called an "ad hock committee" to avoid the need to follow the Brown Act. It is these exact types of actions that caused the California State Legislature to enact Government Code Section 54950-54962, known as the "Brown Act." In enacting this law, the legislature declared public commissions, boards and councils as well as other public agencies in the State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It was the intent of the legislature, actions be taken openly and the deliberations be conducted openly (in public). The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to those who serve them. The people, in delegating authority do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

The secrecy of these meetings, reports, discussions and actions, if not illegal are in the very least, appalling and destructive. "Open government and Transparency" is simply political double speak, lacking any semblance of reality relative to the mayor and his administration. The repeated lies, denials, and secrecy of the mayor have caused the council to keeps its distance and caused employee groups to distrust anything presented by him or his administration. Trust is easy to destroy and virtually impossible to restore. The mayor does not have time to restore the trust he never had. The only thing transparent in the mayor's administration is the mayor himself.


Pissed off Detective said...

The mayor is clearly an egotist. He was no different when he was chief. Committee after committee and no decisions. He would make these committees to provide cover for what he wanted to do and if the committee came to a different decision he would either shelve the decision or start a new committee until he got the answer he wanted. THEN if things did not go over well he blamed those on the committee. We are in trouble.

Doug C. said...

No doubt the people with a brain want to raise taxes and fees to increase revenue and our idiot mayor is opposed to this idea. He simply wants to cut to the bone and fulfill a political promise and keep his good standing with the Republican Party in California.

How do we get this and your other posts out for people to read? People need to know this stuff!

Anonymous said...

Well with a DRAFT of the Mayor Special Committee now leaked... the truth is becoming clearer:

Andrea Tevlin, City Council’’s Independent Budget Analyst, has reviewed these projections and
concurs that the basis and assumptions for deriving these projections were sound; in fact, she states that these projections may be optimistic and do not fully take into account certain items that could make the actual results worse. The IBA forecasts a potential worst-case scenario that may result in a FY2011 shortfall of not $179 million but instead it could be as large as $230 million.

So even with the cuts proposed for January 1 we're are nearly 50 Million Dollars more out of balance that Sanders is willing to admit.

Anonymous said...


The City raises the least General Revenues per household, as percentage of household
income, of any of the ten largest cities in California.

􀂃 The City provides some services selectively to some residents with no cost recovery to
the General Fund while charging other residents and businesses for the same service.

Examples include:
􀂃 Residential trash collection
􀂃 Storm water compliance

Anonymous said...

The Panel's DRAFT recommendations:

1. First and foremost the City must find a way to reduce its unit cost of labor to affordable levels more comparable to that in the private sector. It is unacceptable
and unsustainable for citizens to have to reduce service levels to finance an excessive City worker benefit structure. This will take aggressive and innovative
2. The Mayor and Council must have the political will to immediately declare a Fiscal State of Emergency and freeze all spending at 2009 levels.
3. Immediately eliminate the current 800 vacant positions from the budget. The presence of these vacant positions, while allowing for some operational flexibility, is problematic and could serve as a departmental expense ““slush fund””.
4. The City must immediately reduce, at a minimum, the quantity and/or quality of services that it provides to its citizens by eliminating sufficient cost to equal $179 million deficit in the 2011 budget.
5. The City must immediately implement the voter approved Managed Competition Ordinance and begin to deliver the remaining services in a competitive and cost effective manner either by City workers or by the private sector; whoever can provide the services at the lowest cost to the citizens. This is a structural change already
mandated by the voters and must be pursued with the utmost urgency.
6. Formally adopt the concept of a two year budget cycle in order to eliminate the failed practice of pushing current year liabilities into the next year as a way to avoid properly resolving the current year fiscal shortfall.
7. The City should adopt the concept of ‘‘Poison Pill’’2 to enforce a new fiscal management process. This will require an immediate pre approved formula for
meeting future revenue shortfalls should the Mayor and City Counsel be unable to structurally solve the problem using normal procedures.
8. If the City Council is unable to make the required structural cuts that will balance the 2011 budget without accounting gimmicks, a ““Citizen’’s Initiative”” should be placed on the ballot that forces a permanent reduction of City staff, by 1,500 people –– which should yield a structural reduction of more than $100 million once other long-term liabilities are included.
9. The City should immediately implement a plan to promote business expansion and growth in the City of San Diego. We compete with other cities for business expansion and must not lose our focus. The continued loss of business-related revenue will
deal a major blow to the City’’s economic prospects. Importantly, superior fiscal management of the City’’s resources will go a long way to improving our ability to
attract new businesses and the attendant taxpaying employees.
10. Once permanent fiscal disciplines have been implemented and exhausted, the City should seek voter approval to create new fees and/or taxes to support delivery of the remaining service levels that the citizens deem to be essential core services starting with Storm Water Compliance and Trash Collection.
11. Establish a civic fact based dialogue with citizens from all walks of life to establish a
common vision of what services voters want and how much are they willing to pay for them.
12. Failing all of the above, the City should consider seeking injunctive relief by filing for
Chapter 9 Bankruptcy protection to allow the City to put its long-term fiscal house in order. Importantly, it would not be inappropriate to start laying the groundwork for
this process now. The City still has modest maneuverability at this stage making Chapter 9 a less onerous and painful solution for structural change than if it is
postponed to the last minute.

Anonymous said...

Notice...even though this panel acknowledges "...raises the least General Revenues per household, as percentage of household income, of any of the ten largest cities in California." It says with duality:
"7. General Tax and Fee Increases are considered only as a last resort As a general principle, general tax and fee increases should be set as low as possible while at the same time be sufficient to pay for the services needed to provide for an acceptable or even desired level of service to the public. The City does have a responsibility to attract and retain businesses in San Diego while providing a superior environment for its citizens to live and work, however its tax and fee policy should not be so high as to drive businesses or citizens out of the City of San Diego."
It's interesting and, of course, self serving, that business leaders the authors of this report would make such statements i.e. we have the lowest revenue streams but don't tax us anymore.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me where in the City Charter does it say: The City does have a responsibility to attract and retain businesses...."

Anonymous said...

Your benefit are once again under substantial attack... Aren't your wonder what Lansdowne will say a week from Monday since there is NO ROT this week....

The City must find a way to reduce what has heretofore been deemed ““vested retirement
benefits””. The City must make a firm decision on whether it wants to and, importantly, can afford
to grant retiree health benefits. If such benefits are to continue the City must immediately
commence fully funding the actuarially required annual amount. If the City decides it cannot
afford such (as the Task Force believes to be the case) then the City must formally announce to
its employees that the benefit has been eliminated. It is the Task Force’’s recommendation that
the benefit be eliminated after an appropriate notice period.