Friday, April 8, 2011

A musical interlude

The times they are a-changin.  It’s true that San Diego has always been a business-oriented town, dominated by special-interest players with a pragmatic and easy-to-recognize objective -- maximizing private profits (often at public expense).
But new ingredients have been introduced into San Diego’s political stew, making it more opaque and slimy in texture.  The objective is no longer just a matter of private moneymaking.  Lately, opportunism and political ideology have become equal partners.

This political ideology is called shrink government It's not about reducing public costs or risks.  It's about severing the democratic contract between people and their government.  That's the dogma behind recent pressure to hand over Balboa Park to a private corporation, sell off our library system, privatize city functions, outsource our water department, and eliminate good benefits for city workers.
It’s bad enough that three generations of city officials are responsible for creating, maintaining, and defending a chaotic pension system in San Diego.  And it’s bad enough that this chaotic system is wreaking havoc on city finances and the public well-being.

But bad enough doesn’t seem to be bad enough for some of San Diego’s top officials and business operatives, who are holding  press conferences promoting bogus “solutions” they claim will take care of the city’s pension problems and financial black hole.
Mayor Sanders/Councilmember Faulconer/Councilmember deMaio/SD Taxpayers Association/Lincoln Club are promoting yet another shrink government ploy, a pension proposal for the 2012 ballot to wipe out reliable retirements for incoming city employees (excluding police).
Their proposal does pretty much nothing, nada, to remedy the $2B pension deficit that hangs like an albatross around the city’s drooping neck.  In fact, it's a double negative for the city.  But they seem willing to scoop the San Diego public out of the frying pan and plop us directly into the fire

Who let the dogs out?  What's being unleashed in our city is rooted in a  shrink government ideology and has little to do with what’s good for the public.  The sorry state of city finances and the city's history of reprehensible pension-related decisions are false justifications, smokescreens, for the shakedown taking place in San Diego.
It sheds new light on the boasts coming out of City Hall about San Diego becoming a “national battleground,” a test case for new strategies to get government out of the business of taking care of public needs.  Is that what we want to do in our city, transfer control over public business out of public hands and into the hands of private enterprise? 

It's worth a try to work it on out.  It still may be possible to fix the existing pension system if we launch the job now.  No need for a million-dollar campaign to sell inferior pension options to voters.  No need for a year's worth of paid signature-gatherers hawking a misleading petition outside Vons and Target.
Just an infusion of new energy, political backbone, and some financial restructuring tools (municipal bankruptcy -- that unspeakable term again) could deliver meaningful relief from the overwhelming financial burden of a decade of poorly-regulated pension practices AND create a reformed, controlled, and respectful public retirement system -- a double positive for the city.

We can choose a positive future for our long as we keep a wary eye on political missionaries with ambitions to turn San Diego into a battleground to advance their ideological causes.