Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Carl DeMaio in Mission Hills

Jerry Stratton, February 6, 2012

Proposition D: “No reform. No commitment.”

I was worried I’d be one of at best a handful of people attending Carl DeMaio’s living room community coffee yesterday. The event only came up on Facebook a few days ago, and the location wasn’t in the announcement: it only came up in response to a comment an hour or two before the event. Despite that, the living room was full and people were standing in the hall.

So I’m guessing he’s as popular as the polls say he is. In September, the most recent poll I could find, 10 News interviewed him for their article on their September 2011 poll that tied him with Filner:

In 10News’ June poll, DeMaio was also in the lead. On Tuesday, he told 10News he’s not concerned about the polls or any of his opponents.

“I’m not really seeing us running against any of these other individuals. I’m running against City Hall,” DeMaio said.

That remains his strategy, judging from what he said today. He was relentless in his push for fiscal reform. While he touched on immigration and the homeless, he mostly discussed these in terms of their financial effect on San Diego—and thus on San Diego’s roads and services—as well. I was very impressed with his answers to these questions. They combined a drive to do right by people with an overall vision of increasing opportunity, reducing crime, and improving public services.

DeMaio also endorsed three candidates for city council: Ray Ellis in district 1, Mark Kersey in district 5, and Scott Sherman in district 7.

On proposition C for managed competition and the print shop in the basement of City Hall.

The last time I saw DeMaio, I was impressed enough to download his Roadmap to Recovery to my iPad. I finally finished it last night, and it’s an impressive document.

What DeMaio basically wants to do is avoid a San Diego bankruptcy by reforming San Diego’s balance sheet—with city voters acting as the bankruptcy judge. His roadmap has been broken into steps that are being brought to the city through the proposition process. This year, we’ll have comprehensive pension reform on the ballot—it was just added to the ballot, by way of 115,991 signatures, a few days ago.

As the recovery takes hold, the roadmap prioritizes infrastructure and services. It freezes the city’s budget at the 2011 level for five years; if there are surpluses, half go to paying off the debt1 and half to infrastructure and service restoration.

His goal is to keep San Diego from bankruptcy and all of the disruptions that would mean, as well as to end the continued reduction in basic services as out-of-control city debt payments crowd out necessary repairs and ongoing services.

High-speed rail: “How many roads, bus routes, and trolleys can be sustained in 99 billion dollars?”

The bulk of the reforms go to pensions. We have an out of control pension system that gives politicians pensions in their thirties2, and gives some administrators nearly double what their current replacement in the same position makes. San Diego has a defined benefit plan rather than defined contributions, and is subject to the same major weakness that all defined benefit plans have: the temptation to reduce payments into the plan to the point that payments in bear no resemblance to future payouts. The city makes lowball payments in and acts surprised when there isn’t enough money to take out.

As you might expect, the politicians who make the laws receive very generous retirements.

A lot of the open government reforms he’s pushing are just plain common sense. City contracts should be public, so that the voters can know that cronyism is or hopefully is not a practice here, and that contracts are being met.

These are real reforms, and important reforms, and DeMaio has already shown the skill needed to get them passed when they need to be passed (Prop C), and to fight them when they need to be fought (Prop D). Of the two front-runners he is clearly the best choice for San Diego Mayor.

In response to California 2012: 2012 is going to be a very important election for San Diego. Do we continue to reform the city’s financial state, or do we resume the path to insolvency?

  1. Which, by reducing interest payments, would presumably mean even more surpluses the next year.

  2. City council members who, according to DeMaio, “retired” because of felonies.

  1. <- Nobody loves Dianne
  2. Elizabeth Emken interview ->