Dave Maass asked me earlier about what I thought the Tea Party would be watching locally in 2011. As the unofficial chief ideologist, I thought the question deserved an answer. (By the way, no one selected me, in a decentralized organization, people just do the job that needs to get done. Shared vision is the glue that keeps the Tea Party together, not a party organization.) Here is what we will be watching:
City Hall. Will the politicians at City Hall vote themselves new digs, without a vote of the people? Will they have the audacity to put it on the ballot, where I predict flaming defeat? This will be a litmus test for the new and more evenly balanced council. Rumors that this boondoggle might move ahead are in print.
Pensions. Despite a small bit of good news from this morning’s paper, the pension problem is the main fiscal problem facing the City of San Diego. Regardless of the faux-fabulous headline: BUDGET GAP SHRINKS, the actual fact is that the city has 67.1% of the funding needed to close a $2.14 billion gap (technically, the unfunded actuarial liability), up from 66.5%, hardly cause for rejoicing, or even a headline for that matter. My headline would have been: Tiny Progress on Pension Funding. During the November campaign, Howard Wayne performed a public service by explaining that the employees are not contributing to their own pensions to the extent allowed by law and that increasing these required contributions would be an ethical and legal way to close the gap. Even though I endorsed Lorie Zapf, I want to give credit when Democrats positively contribute to the dialog. Carl DeMaio has been doing a good job of pointing out other ways that the city can deal with this funding crisis, with ideas like freezing pay increases and not calculating certain benefits as part of base salary. Perhaps this sounds a bit arcane, but this is the hard work that needs to be done to legally and ethically meet the city’s pension obligations without increasing taxes. But the other key component is the number of employees. This brings us to another key issue.
Managed Competition. The issue of managed competition makes my blood boil, because it is a proven way to reduce the costs of city services, but it has been obstructed by left leaning council members since 2006. Often times, even when the city department wins the competition, the taxpayers still end up winners because to win the competition, that department streamlines its own operations. Today’s U-T offers a glimmer of hope in this area, with Mayor Sanders announcing details of competing street sweeping and public utilities. The article only identified 134 full time employees impacted. Certainly a start, but much more needs to be done. We will be watching.
Lorie Zapf. Someone we will be watching is new council member, Lorie Zapf. (Disclosure: I live in District 6.) Lorie campaigned on reigning in non-essential spending, including dealing with the pension problem, to focus on public safety. She has largely disappeared from the radar following her election, although she did do a phone interview with LaDona Harvey on KOGO. The rumor around her possible support for a new City Hall is driving me nuts because it is so plainly contrary to her stated campaign positions. I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer, even though staffer Brian Pepin left me a voice message. This, from an initial inquiry before Christmas. My honest concern is that Lorie is beholden to business interests who helped get her elected. Nothing wrong with business, per se, but here in San Diego, they tend to team up with government in sweetheart deals not in the public interest. Speaking of potential deals,
Charger Stadium. I am a Charger fan, but I don’t want the city subsidizing their stadium, nor the Padres, for that matter. Professional sports are businesses that should make a profit, period. It is not up to us, as taxpayers, to make them profitable. We will be watching the city council’s actions. The shenanigans of our Republican mayor don’t leave me confident that we can just trust the government on this one. So who will be the new mayor after the 2012 elections?
Carl DeMaio is a council member whom we will be watching. I have really loved much of what he has done over the last year, see the link. However, I have heard some private grumblings among Tea Party activists about him, so I will be digging deeper.
That’s it, there are certainly other things to keep an eye on, but B-Daddy’s Book of Management, Rule #2 is “The commodity in shortest supply is management attention.” It behooves us to keep our eyes on the most important issues.
Cross posted to the The Liberator Today.