San Diego a "Strong City?"

San Diego may be be one of the next cities featured on Strong Cities | Strong State, a website “designed to communicate the importance of local government in California residents’ everyday lives.”

Records show that the city sent $100,476 from the general fund last year to the League of California Cities, who administers the site along with the California City Management Foundation. The expenditure was listed on a lobbying disclosure report under “other payments to influence legislative or administrative action.”

The League, on its own site, lists three primary areas of focus for 2012 – “Support[ing] Sustainable and Secure Public Employee Pensions and Benefits” along with “Promot[ing] Local Control for Strong Cities” and “Build[ing] Strong Partnerships for a Stronger Golden State.” All of these point to a focus on shifting power away from state law and giving greater control to municipalities in areas such as labor negotiation and expansion of public/private partnerships.

The group was also a major proponent of 2010’s successful Proposition 22, which was intended to protect funds allocated to local governments from seizure by the state. Proponents noted that in 2009 the state legislature raided about $5 billion in such funds, which are now protected. Opponents, such as the California Teachers Association, said the law would have protected redevelopment agencies (which have since been struck down by the California Supreme Court) while endangering state-funded services such as public education.

Several local municipalities are already featured on “Strong Cities,” including Carlsbad, La Mesa, Encinitas, Del Mar, and Vista. City profiles are accompanied by “success stories” chosen to showcase “innovation and experience of local officials in delivering vital services at a time when this expertise is vitally needed by state leaders struggling with fundamental issues of governance.”

Examples include a public auction held by Del Mar that netted $4.4 million for a city-owned residential parcel described as “one of the most exclusive buildable lots” in the city. On La Mesa’s page, the city is lauded for combining its fire department operations with the nearby cities of Lemon Grove and El Cajon rather than maintaining an independent department.

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Great report. Where else is San Diego going to be showcased as a success story for "delivering critical municipal services" or be lauded for being a place with elected officials who "elevate the quality [of] life of its residents."

Nowhere. Only on a website that charges $100,000. Out of the General Fund.

I live in Vista, and the city has been run by a pack of clowns for just about as long as I've been here--a long time. In recent years the neighboring cities found the funds to build new city halls, adequate fire stations, and have excellent parks and recreation facilities with no special levies or taxes. Here in Vista those things were lacking, and the slow response times for fire and emergency equipment were becoming a source of shame. So, the "clowncil" managed to put a 1/2% sales tax override measure on the ballot and got it passed about 5 years ago. It was to pay for capital expenditures and would phase out in 2037, which to me meant paying it for the rest of my life. The proponents had a package of goodies for various constituencies. The civic booster crowd would get a new and very fancy city hall. The public safety-oriented folks got two new fire stations. The culture crowd would get a new stagehouse at the Moonlight Ampitheatre (that one especially interested the older crowd.)

And so all those things were built and placed in service. But according to a piece in today's U-T the sales tax revenue is not servicing and probably cannot service the debt the city carries to pay for all those goodies, and it soon will have to dip into the general fund. Surprise, surprise, Sgt. Carter! Who'd a thunk it? Well, I did. And if many other Vistans reacted as I did, it is easy to explain. I resent the added tax, and to avoid it, I make sure major purchases are made in a nearby city that doesn't have the added levy. That's easy to do, because the major retail centers are elsewhere, as in Carlsbad, San Marcos and Escondido. When I avoid Vista retailers, Vista not only doesn't get my tax override, it doesn't get its usual part either. And I have no intention of changing my approach to spending. Unfortunately, when I buy a vehicle, regardless of where I buy it in the state, they get their extra half-percent, but the city in which the sale was made gets the basic part. Hey clowns, you thought you outsmarted us, but you didn't. Your sales tax take from me is now smaller than it was before.

This is a "strong" city? A city that cannot pay for its capital spending spree? Yeah, right!

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