The seal cam has exposed more than just seals, it shows us how the Mayor Bob Filner administration plans to operate.
When the seal cam was revealed in January, the camera, installation and operation were paid for by a nonprofit with no mention that the city would be on the hook for any future funding. In his first budget, the Mayor slides in $50,000 of taxpayers’ funds to start its operation. Fifty thousand dollars may not seem like a lot of money, but $50,000 here and there starts adding up. More importantly, the Mayor appears to be developing a pattern of presenting things as having no cost to the taxpayers or as a one-time expenditure. Once approved and in place, the city is hit with funding the item (e.g. seal cam).
Need another example? Look at another item in Filner’s budget. He wants to give 1,000-targeted San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) students free bus and trolley passes at a price tag of $400,000. The good news is the City of San Diego is only ponying up $200,000, with SDUSD putting in $150,000 and San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) the final $50,000. All funded by you the taxpayer.
The supposed need for these passes are many – truancy, gangs, predators, etc., whatever boogeyman elicits your support. It appears these concerns only exist for the students of San Diego, Lincoln, Crawford and Hoover High Schools. Each school would get 250 free transit passes.
Let’s point out that all bus and trolley passes are already subsidized by the taxpayer at a tune of about 55 percent (see page 17 of the MTS budget).
But wait, it gets better. Youth (6-18) get their pass at 50 percent off the standard rate. So for $36 a month a youth can ride the bus or trolley anywhere in the county.
But getting a taxpayer subsidized bus pass for that cheap is not good enough for Mayor Filner. He wants them to be free.
You may be wondering, how does this relate to the seal cam? Remember when the seal cam was first presented there was no mention of the city funding any portion. Now Mayor Filner wants the city to fund $50,000 to cover the operating costs. At the same time he is asking the city to allocated $200,000 for the bus pass giveaway this year. Yet, mayoral staffer Francisco Estrada told the Council that this was a one-time deal.
The organizer of Mid-City CAN, the organization promoting the bus passes, has repeatedly told the Council that this is a “pilot program.” They hope to find other sources of funding for it next year.
If this giveaway is approved but Mid-City CAN does not find alterative funding, where do you think they will go for the next round? If you guess the City of San Diego, give yourself a pat on the back. But then again, why stop at 1,000 passes, surely there is a larger need. So even if alternative funding is found, you can bet the program will be so successful at giving away free bus passes (hard to fail at that) that the city would be foolish not to continue supporting a worthy program.
One thing is certain – either way you are paying for it.
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See the first column post for Eyes on the Bully’s Pulpit. The information in these columns is put together by Greg Larkin, often based on anonymous but verified and/or credible information provided by those close to the happenings at San Diego City Hall (as noted in the first column).