Thursday, January 27, 2011

GOP headquarters abandoned, left in 'mind-boggling' disarray, landlord says

Jan 26, 2011
Whine and chocolates
GOP headquarters abandoned, left in 'mind-boggling' disarray, landlord says
By John R. Lamb
City Beat

“No one wants to quit when he’s losing and no one wants to quit when he’s winning.” —Richard Strauss

These are shaky times for our beloved friends over at San Diego Republican headquarters, wherever that might be now...

“You wouldn’t believe what they ditched in the trash bin!” said Antoine Georges, who’s owned the building for 20 years. “Thousands of things. Office supplies, staplers— maybe 30 or 40 staplers, the big kind for campaign work—pots and pans, boxes and boxes of stuff, even brand-new live plants! It was just mind-boggling.”

A lively 62-year-old Lebanese man who considers himself fiscally conservative but socially liberal (he says he’s friends with Republican Congressmember Darrell Issa and a cousin of Ralph Nader), Georges told Spin Cycle that he had grown suspicious of his tenants in Suite 107 for some time.

He’d heard rumors that the tenant had wanted to break the lease. Georges said the head honcho of the local GOP, Tony Krvaric, had asked him on several occasions if he’d consider donating the rent as a party gift. Georges said he declined.

Rent checks of roughly $4,500, he said, started coming later and later in the month. The December lease payment, for example, while due Dec. 1, arrived more than three weeks late on Christmas Eve.
Related content
Lovable loserTea leaves 1, Fig leaf 0
Related to:San Diego Republican headquartersRepublican Party of San Diego CountyTony Krvaric

But the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, activity in the suite seemed to pick up, despite it being a typically down time for campaign events. Over previous weeks, Georges said the local GOP “made up some story” that they were going to remodel the 2,700-square-foot office space. Soon, trucks would show up to haul away office materials, Georges said.

Georges said a truck associated with a paper-shredding company appeared one day and hauled off what he described as “20 or 30 boxes of files.” Added Georges: “I have no idea what was in the boxes. I just know there were a lot of them.”

The final move came just before New Year’s Day, when a GOP employee removed a Republican sign that had been bolted to a wall, placed it in a truck and drove off.

A few days later, Georges said he got a letter from Krvaric, claiming the landlord had breached the lease and that the GOP would like its security deposit back.

Georges laughed. “The place is trashed!” he said. “It needs new carpet. The walls need to be repaired because they literally glued campaign signs to the wallpaper. And they still left a bunch of stuff behind! Empty file cabinets, furniture. And they never returned the keys, so now I have to have all the locks changed.”...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Governor's Retort: Cities have an obligation to help fund schools

Click on this link to get the original article with lots of wonderful links: Morning Report: The Governor's Retort
January 25, 2011
Voice of San Diego
by Andrew Donohue

The San Diego leaders fighting Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to kill redevelopment have a simple, digestible argument: Sacramento should get its grubby hands off of our local money and solve its own problems.

Looks like Brown, though, might have just one-upped them.

He's framing the debate in a different way: His plan takes $1 billion away from redevelopment and gives it to the state's ailing schools. Scott Lewis takes that a step further and shows how education was originally supposed to be the very check and balance against redevelopment abuse, but Prop. 13 did away with that.

People like Mayor Jerry Sanders and Councilman Kevin Faulconer have big dreams for San Diego's redevelopment money - things like Convention Center expansions and football stadiums - and are fighting hard against the governor.

"But Brown has now illustrated better than ever before that the money for these dreams comes from education more than anything," Lewis writes. "The state will continue to plow money into education but it's time for downtown and other redevelopment areas to do their part.".

And the Blight Beat Goes On

• Faulconer got six of his colleagues to join him in waving their fists at the governor on Monday night, though they have yet to engage in the last-second redevelopment binges that other cities have enjoyed.

• Our Liam Dillon, meanwhile, is waving his fist right back at the city's downtown redevelopment agency. He's begun our latest public records battle — Blight Watch.

That agency, the Centre City Development Corp., has refused to turn over documents that go to the very core of the agency's continued existence. Agencies have 10 days to turn over documents after a public records request except in extraordinary circumstances. It's been than seven weeks and all we're hearing is that "it's complicated."

We'll be dialing up the pressure this week to ensure that the public records do indeed become public.

• There's another aspect of redevelopment suddenly getting attention now that it's in jeopardy: affordable housing.

One CCDC official recently made the bold claim that his agency had created more affordable housing units than all of Los Angeles' redevelopment areas combined. We fact checked it and here's what we found: A big fat "false."...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Downtown Blight Out

A Downtown Blight Out
Voice of San Diego
January 16, 2011
by Liam Dillon

San Diego's downtown redevelopment agency and a consultant have not released their proof that downtown remains rundown despite a promise to do so more than five weeks ago and requirements in state public records laws to release the information within 10 days.

The documents in question are central to the legitimacy of late-night state legislation that removed a key limit on downtown redevelopment.

Under the legislation, the Centre City Development Corp. will grab a substantial share of billions of dollars in future downtown property taxes for public improvements and development subsides.

Downtown, backers of the legislation argue, continues to require those taxpayer subsidies for redevelopment's purpose: improving rundown neighborhoods.

But the state move meant that CCDC no longer had to prove that downtown was rundown, a public process that it had begun to undertake. Central in that effort was a $500,000 study that CCDC canceled after the controversial legislation passed.

The study and the information behind it are key to understanding if boosters would have been able to justify the need for downtown's continued tax subsidies through the standard process.

In its unfinished state, the study asserts that downtown remains rundown. But the document, written by lead consultant Keyser Marston Associates, had yet to include evidence to back up those findings beyond simple crime statistics...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Googins, Faigin battle for first city attorney in Chula Vista

Googins, Faigin face tough battle for first city attorney
By Khari Johnson, SDNN
June 8, 2010

Up to now, the city attorney in Chula Vista was appointed by the city council but Proposition Q — a 2008 ballot measure — changed city charter to make it an elected position and Chula Vistans will go to the polls Tuesday to choose between Glen Googins and Robert Faigin as their first elected city attorney.

With a salary of more than $200,000, the city attorney will be the highest paid position in Chula Vista city government.

Both Googins and Faigin promise to follow the rule of law, claim to be independent and accuse his opponent of being beholden to special interests trying to influence City Hall.

They see the position as an advisor, not policy maker, and share concerns expressed by members of the City Council and Proposition Q opponents that the office has the potential to become politicized and impact legal advice offered to the council and city departments.

But that’s also why both claim he should be elected, not his opponent.

“Obviously, now theoretically they’re more responsible to the people than the city council members,” said current City Attorney Bart Miesfeld, “but day to day responsibilities won’t change,” said

Faigin, a resident of Lakeside, has been the county sheriff’s chief counsel since 2002 and decided to run after members of the South County sheriff’s office told him no qualified candidates sought the position.

Googins opened his private practice handling real estate and development issues in 2004 after 11 years of similar work in the city attorney’s office. Disagreements with then City Attorney Ann Moore led Googins to resign, in the process receiving a $175,000 severance package.

Joseph Casas, the candidate endorsed by the San Diego County Democratic Party, dropped out of the race in March and is currently representing Police Chief David Bejarano against accusations of fraud by a former business partner.

“The downside to turning it into an elected position is that instantly the developers, Corky McMillan, all of those people start pumping money into campaigns because they want to influence city politics,” Faigin said.

By the May 27 financial filing deadline, Googins had raised $33,000 from 100 donors, including teachers, border patrol agents and city residents, but also several lawyers, real estate developers. In addition he raised nearly $1,000 from executives from The Corky McMillin Companies, including company president and CEO Mark McMillin.

Googins endorsers include the Chula Vista Police Officer and Firefighter Associations, former City Attorney John Kaheny, state assemblymember Mary Salas, County Supervisor Greg Cox and The Republican Party of San Diego County, though it is a non-partisan race.

About one-third of donors to Googin’s campaign are Chula Vista residents.

“I’m not promising anyone anything,” Googins said. “Just because I’ve represented developers doesn’t mean I’m going to favor any developers. When I’m with the city, the city’s my client.”...

Sidelining of Chula Vista councilwoman questioned

Sidelining of Chula Vista councilwoman questioned
City attorney says she has a conflict on police contracts because her adult son is a lieutenant
By Tanya Sierra
January 13, 2011

New Chula Vista Councilwoman Patricia Aguilar has a son on the police force, a relationship that has become a city issue amid tense labor negotiations.

Aguilar has been asked by the city’s attorney to stay on the sidelines for decisions involving the police union as her son is Lt. Phil Collum, 40, even though the two do not share a home or finances.

The city wants police to contribute nine percent of their salary to their pensions and forgo a six percent previously-agreed-upon raise. The move would save $2.5 million annually amid a budget crunch.

The city might have to lay off 24 low-seniority cops if police don’t give in. Most of the city’s other employees have agreed to contribute to their own pensions and adjust their pay.

Critics are concerned there may be political motivations for the legal advice concerning contract negotiations.

“I can understand how management would be concerned but the attorney should not be jaded by that kind of perspective,” Councilman Steve Castaneda said. “To come to that sort of harsh and extreme decision to disqualify an elected City Council member on facts that don’t seem to be germane to this situation, I think it is problematic.”

Three members of the council have reservations about the city attorney’s legal advice — Aguilar, Castaneda and Councilman Rudy Ramirez.

Ramirez notes that his brother is on the police force, and that’s never been deemed a legal or ethical issue because the two don’t live together or mix finances.

“I asked, ‘If Pat has a conflict, then why not me?’ and I was told that there was no conflict for me because he was my brother as opposed to being my son,” Ramirez said. “You don’t negotiate by concocting some legal position to affect the negotiations. Especially a labor negotiation where we’re going to have to live together and work together.”

City Attorney Glen Googins, also elected in November, issued the advice letter suggesting Aguilar abstain on police labor issues.

Googins acknowledges that Aguilar has no conflict under the state’s Government Code, but he relies instead on a 2009 Attorney General’s opinion that outlines slightly different rules under common law. That doctrine has a broader prohibition against participation in government decisions that might affect personal interests.

The 2009 opinion found a conflict of interest for a redevelopment agency board member whose son had a corporation seeking a contract with his mother’s agency. That mother and son shared an apartment.

Aguilar, who has so far abided by Googins’ recommendation, said her circumstances are different from those in the Attorney General’s opinion because she doesn’t live with her son and they don’t mix finances. Also, she noted, he is not a direct party to a city contract she would have to approve.

“In my case, my son is affected by the issue of contract negotiation only as a part of a larger class of people affected,” she said. “One is a very direct and the other is not.”

Googins, who ran on a campaign of government transparency, refused to release his legal opinion. Googins promised voters he would make his legal opinions public. But in this case, he said, he was not releasing the document because he has not developed a protocol by which to do that.

The Watchdog obtained the advice letter through another source. It notes that Lt. Collum is a board member for the police union.

“As a board member, he is in a position to influence whether or not negotiations will occur and what direction those negotiations should take,” the opinion says.

Googins would not discuss the opinion, saying it was legal advice between him and his client...

Board reform didn’t pan out for Schwarzenegger

Board reform didn’t pan out for Schwarzenegger
He appointed people to the very state panels that he had sought to eliminate
By Matthew T. Hall
January 15, 2011

Arnold Schwarzenegger stormed into the governor’s office in late 2003 intending to “blow up the boxes” of state government and soon targeted 88 boards and commissions for termination.

He left this month, having eliminated only a few, and one of his last acts involved naming a series of political allies to commission seats with six-figure salaries, including several boards that he wanted abolished.

“Clearly, it was against what he said at the beginning,” said Joel Fox, former president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and an ally in Schwarzenegger’s reform efforts. “I’m disappointed he didn’t follow through and set the example at the end.”

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear blamed the Legislature for blocking reforms. He said the call to eliminate certain boards was meant to streamline government, not save money, because much of the funding originates outside the state’s discretionary general fund.

He said all of Schwarzenegger’s appointments put “inherently qualified” people on boards that remain relevant.

“They serve a purpose so we have to keep them functioning as long as they exist,” he said.

California’s governor appoints 63 people to 12 boards and commissions that pay from $111,845 to $132,179 a year, according to a review by The Watchdog. They are collectively paid almost $8 million a year.

By month’s end, the list will have 18 vacancies for newly sworn-in Gov. Jerry Brown to fill. A Brown spokeswoman said the governor is closely considering each choice while looking for ways to cut costs.

In his final week, Schwarzenegger drew criticism by appointing six people to positions with six-figure salaries, three to boards he had tried to eliminate.

Two were to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, which pays members $128,000 a year to settle state unemployment insurance disputes. While each member handles hundreds of appeals a month, the board has met 44 times since 2008, or little more than monthly.

Schwarzenegger appointed departing Sens. Dennis Hollingsworth of San Diego and Ray Ashburn of Bakersfield to the unemployment board, and Vicki Marti of Fairfax to the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board.

He also named Kari Miner, a Sacramento interior decorator and the wife of former Schwarzenegger aide Paul Miner, to the Public Employment Relations Board, which oversees collective bargaining for state public employee unions.

Paul Miner was the point person for Schwarzenegger’s proposal to eliminate hundreds of appointed positions and more broadly reorganize state government.

“No one paid by the state should make $100,000 a year for only meeting twice a month,” Schwarzenegger said in his 2005 State of the State address.

Schwarzenegger’s California Performance Review Commission, which included Fox, proposed scrapping 117 of the state’s 339 boards and commissions.

The governor’s follow-up effort was roundly criticized and abandoned within a month. Later, the state did eliminate a waste board and consolidated boards dealing with geologists and hearing aids...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Nathan and Mindy Fletcher Attend to Rail Transportation

Nathan and Mindy Fletcher Attend to Rail Transportation
By Matt Potter
Jan. 12, 2011
San Diego Reader

As the ultimate status of San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders continues to intrigue political onlookers, yet another rumored candidate to replace him has come to the forefront. GOP assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (whose official campaign biography, posted on his website, says that “before his election to the Legislature he served honorably in the military, the community and the political arena”) is said by some city hall insiders to have the inside track to collect the big money expected by some to come into the race from corporations seeking to benefit from a possible City bankruptcy and an ensuing orgy of outsourcing and asset sales. Fletcher’s bio, which also appears virtually verbatim on Wikipedia, touts his service as a Marine in Iraq and eastern Africa, where he was a “Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Specialist.” Regarding his wife Mindy, it notes that the two “are members of Community Bible Church and proud parents of their son Zach.”

Nowhere does it mention that Nathan is the co-owner of a public affairs company, Arrow Advisers, and that Mindy, a hardened political pro who was an ex–PR aide to George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger, now is employed in Sacramento as a senior advisor by the lobbying outfit Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. Fletcher’s most recent personal financial disclosure report, filed last March, says that in 2009 Mindy — whose hiring was announced November 17, 2008, shortly after her husband was elected to the assembly’s 75th District seat — was paid between $10,000 and $100,000. According to its most recent disclosure filing with the secretary of state, Ogilvy, a branch of the big national PR and lobbying firm, grossed $57,800 in fees for its Sacramento lobbying activities during the third quarter of last year, the most recent period on record.

Clients included the American Chemistry Council ($5800), the investment firm the Blackstone Group ($30,000), and California Strategies & Advocacy LLC, working on behalf of the Centinela Valley Union High School District ($6000). Previous Ogilvy lobbying clients have included Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and California Strategies working on behalf of the Los Angeles Turf Club.

California Strategies & Advocacy is a sister firm of California Strategies, run by Bob White, longtime top aide to Pete Wilson when he was San Diego mayor, senator, and governor. A partner in the firm, which has performed consulting work for the City-controlled Centre City Development Corporation and Mayor Sanders regarding a new city hall, is Ben Haddad, another ex–Wilson aide and former staffer to Mayor Susan Golding. Last fall, Fletcher authored a controversial bill signed by then–Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that lifted the cap on spending by San Diego’s redevelopment agency, a move widely seen as intended to assist Sanders and his allies in the downtown establishment build a new taxpayer-financed stadium for the Chargers.

Also of interest is the fact that Ogilvy’s most recent client is the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the troubled state agency tasked with building a taxpayer-subsidized bullet train across the length of the state. In November 2009, the authority gave the firm a $9 million contract to lobby for the project through 2014. Fletcher has been vice chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Rail Transportation.

Fletcher reported that his Arrow Advisers, which has a mailing address in University City, had a fair market value of between $10,000 and $100,000. He listed one client, United Friends of the Children, as being the source of income greater than $10,000. The board of that Los Angeles–based charity includes L.A. Democratic mayor Anthony Villaraigosa. Both Fletcher and his wife contributed to Jerry Sanders’s 2007 reelection bid. He was listed as partner in Arrow; she was listed as president of the firm. Neither Fletcher nor his wife responded to questions left regarding the disclosures...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The county board of supervisors hasn't had a new member since 1995

We have some off-the-wall school board members out here in East County (I'm thinking of Jim Kelly), but we have a fine representative on the County Board of Supervisors. I think Dianne Jacob is the most conscientious supervisor on the board.

On the other hand, I think Greg Cox is just one small step above Bill Horn. Why do candidates like these keep getting reelected?

Mary Salas, why don't you run?

Randy Dotinga at Voice of San Diego notes:

"...The county board of supervisors hasn't had a new member since 1995, and if three board members have their way, it'll stay like that for at least a few more years. The U-T says incumbents Pam Slater-Price, Dianne Jacob and Greg Cox are all sending signals that they'll run again in 2012..."

County supervisor races continue to take shape
By Christopher Cadelago
January 10, 2011

Supervisor Pam Slater-Price has signaled her intention to seek re-election in 2012, joining an early slate of candidates that includes two board colleagues and a pair of familiar faces.

Slater-Price, who represents the county's District 3, was first elected in 1992. Steve Danon, chief of staff to Rep. Brian Bilbray, is also vying for the seat and has been actively running for several months.

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters office has also received initial paperwork from Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents the county’s District 2, and Santee’s Rudy Reyes.

Reyes mounted an unsuccessful campaign against Jacob in 2008 and lost bids for the Santee City Council in 2008 and 2010.

Supervisor Greg Cox, who represents the county's District 1, has made it clear he would run again. Jacob was first elected in 1992 and Cox joined the board of supervisors in 1995.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Privilege of Not Proving Your Point Publicly

January 9, 2011
The Privilege of Not Proving Your Point Publicly
Posted on January 9, 2011
by Liam Dillon
Voice of San Diego

San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio argues his major pension reform proposal is legal. He says he's got a legal opinion to back it up. But you aren't allowed to see it.

Former head of the city's downtown redevelopment agency Fred Maas believes there are legal problems with requiring the agency to pay off the previous expansion of the city's Convention Center. Maas says there's a legal opinion to back it up. But you aren't allowed to see this one, either.

"I wish it was available," Maas said.

Both opinions are hidden under a veil of secrecy called attorney-client privilege, a legal protection that can keep lawyers' advice private. The idea is to keep legal strategies and opinions confidential so that a client, in this case the city, isn't disadvantaged in litigation.

But circumstances over the past few months have raised potential inconsistencies in how the city uses its legal privilege. It has allowed city leaders like DeMaio and Maas to make their case without having to show the nuance, risk and complexity that often accompany these types of discussions.

The result is that a key element of public debate on significant topics is left out. The proof.

"The public is certainly entitled to be skeptical of their claim that the opinion supports their position," said Terry Francke, head of public records watchdog Californians Aware.

Both situations would benefit from more scrutiny.

DeMaio has an idea to reduce the city's $2.1 billion pension debt. He calls the concept "pensionable pay" and it's central to his financial recovery plan. DeMaio's plan relies on the city excluding specialty pay, such as extra pay for speaking more than one language, from current employees' pension calculations. Doing so would reduce the city's pension debt without affecting employees' take-home pay.

The councilman, who did not respond to a request for an interview, has insisted this idea is legal. He cited a privileged opinion from the city's outside labor counsel as backup.

"We also have written legal opinion from Mayor's own labor counsel Tim Davis confirming this," DeMaio wrote on Twitter last month.

But others argue DeMaio's idea is analogous to a California Supreme Court decision that said a similar move was illegal. Further, 10 years ago the city settled a lawsuit brought by retirees that argued the city was improperly excluding some specialty pay items from pension calculations.

The lawsuit was based on the same principles that DeMaio's plan hopes to follow, said Michael Conger, the retirees' attorney in that case. Conger believes the settlement means you can't do what DeMaio is proposing.

"When parties resolve a dispute, you can't come back 10 years later and say, 'Did not,'" Conger said.

DeMaio also has been on the other side of the debate. He, along with three other council members, want the downtown redevelopment agency to take over the Convention Center bond debt. Doing so would free up $9.2 million annually to pay for general city services, such as police and fire.

A publicly available November opinion from City Attorney Jan Goldsmith asserts the council can shift the Convention Center debt to the downtown agency, the Centre City Development Corp., if the council makes certain legal findings.

But there's another opinion on the Convention Center debt that's private.

"There's a contrary opinion by our own legal counsel that disagreed with [Goldsmith's]," Maas said.

Goldsmith's opinion on the Convention Center includes many caveats. The city would have to determine that the expanded center benefits downtown and there's no other way to pay for it. The Convention Center expansion was finished more than nine years ago and the city has been paying the bond debt out of its day-to-day budget. Goldsmith's opinion concedes that argument is "difficult to make."

The standard for attorney-client privilege is intended to be clear. Privileged information is communication between a lawyer and his client including confidential legal strategy. Because revealing the city's strategy to its potential adversaries could cause harm, privileged documents are exempt from disclosure under the state's public records law.

But the declaration is not without discretion. Goldsmith's Convention Center opinion, for example includes a reference to the private opinion. Francke said it was "certainly not" normal for one opinion to be public and the other privileged on the same subject.

Former City Councilwoman Donna Frye, whose nearly 10-year term ended in December, said Goldsmith's decisions on attorney-client privilege have been inconsistent, especially compared to Goldsmith's predecessor, Mike Aguirre. Aguirre often was criticized for going the opposite way: making too much information public to the detriment of the city's legal position.

Frye questioned why this summer Goldsmith released a memo publicly detailing the legal complications with Proposition D, the city's financial reform and sales tax ballot measure. Lawsuits challenging the ballot measure appeared soon afterward.

Frye added she believes both the private Convention Center and pension opinions should be released because they address public policy issues, not legal strategy. Further, Frye said, if DeMaio and Maas are to be believed the public already knows what they contain.

"If the conclusion is already known, what is the secret, then?" Frye said.

Goldsmith's spokeswoman said the city attorney was busy finalizing a public memorandum of law on pensions and unavailable for comment for this story.

Of course, there's one way the privilege issue becomes irrelevant. There's nothing keeping the person or agency that receive the legal advice — whether that's Mayor Jerry Sanders, the City Council, CCDC or someone else — from waiving privilege and making the information public. Here, that hasn't happened.

"I'd just say this coyness can't and shouldn't be trusted," Francke said. "If the client here won't waive the privilege, the public is entitled to conclude it has something to hide."

Monday, January 03, 2011

How to Drown 'Enron By the Sea'

How to Drown 'Enron By the Sea'
January 2, 2011
by Liam Dillon

In September 2004, The New York Times bestowed a nickname upon San Diego that the city has yet to shake: Enron by the Sea.

Though Enron, the famously corrupt Texas energy company, is long gone, the reference to San Diego's financial failures remains. Just last month, the national media revived it when discussing San Diego's reputation in stories about Mayor Jerry Sanders' plan to foist 401(k)-style retirement plans on most new city employees.

Like many folks, I wouldn't mind seeing "Enron by the Sea" go to sleep with the fishes. But how? The most surefire way is to end the city's series of budget problems. Deficits now stretch back a decade and most observers point to 1996, the year the city hosted the Republican National Convention and began underfunding the pension, as the beginning of the city's modern money woes. Budget problems predate the most recent recession, though the economic downturn certainly hasn't helped matters.

Here are five issues the city should address before it can declare victory over the many-headed hydra that is the city budget. All of them will be discussed in one form or another in the coming year.

Solve the Pension Problem

This one is a no-brainer. But as the last six years have proven, meaningful pension reform can be one of the hardest changes to make.

What could happen in 2011, though, is that city leaders could decide what the pension reform endgame looks like. Decide to develop or pursue legal strategies, such as forcing employees to share investment burdens. Decide to cut salaries or exclude certain compensation from pension calculations — if it's legal. Decide to lobby state and federal officials to change rules guaranteeing certain pension rights or for a negotiated bailout.

It's clear that the city's annual pension payment will continue to put a crushing burden on its ability to provide basic services over the next 15 years. City employees also deserve to know when leaders will stop going after benefits that have been promised to them and perhaps stop with misleading attacks.

Also worth noting is the city's $1 billion-plus deficit for another retirement cost: health care. Negotiations on reforming this benefit, which doesn't enjoy the same guarantees as pensions, are expected this year.

Solving the pension problem doesn't mean resolving everything at once. Lawsuits, for example, often take years. But the city needs to develop a clear finish line.

Fix Stuff

To figure out that San Diego is broke, you need to look no further than at what is broken. Estimates of the city's backlog of repairs for its buildings, streets and sidewalks approach $1 billion. Fixing streets alone will cost $377.5 million.

Despite an infusion of new bond money, streets continue to deteriorate to the point that people are filling potholes on their own.

A comprehensive report on the city's maintenance backlog was expected over the summer, but has yet to materialize. Getting a grip on needed repairs will help determine how much San Diegans must pay to maintain the parts of the city they touch and feel every day. The quicker the better. Spending $1 on street repair now, according to an estimate in a recent city audit, will eliminate or delay the need to spend $6 to $14 to fix streets in the future.

Restore Some Services

In summer 2013, San Diegans will celebrate the grand opening of a new downtown main library. As long as it's not a Saturday.

Budget cuts made over the past decade have degraded city services already. Operating hours, for example, at branch libraries have decreased by 30 percent to 36 hours a week over the past decade. The main library now is closed Saturdays.

Restoring at least some of the library hours and other cuts, most notably the rotating closures of city fire engines, will be central to the city's full recovery.

What Will Redevelopment Pay For?

Both our own Scott Lewis and the Union-Tribune editorial board have noted that redevelopment — the subsidizing of private sector development to fix rundown neighborhoods — has become the City Hall flashpoint.

And why shouldn't it? Time and again, people ask me how city leaders can consider $2 billion worth of big building projects while begging for new taxes to keep police officers and firefighters on the streets. The answer always is that redevelopment dollars are separate from the dollars that fund police and fire services, and redevelopment money can pay only for things like schoobraries and Chargers stadiums.

Now, even with downtown redevelopment continuing for 20 years longer than expected there's a growing consensus that redevelopment money still can't pay for everything. City leaders are going to have to make choices, and they won't be happy ones. Have redevelopment money take over debts, freeing up cash for police and fire services, or build a Chargers stadium?

Add lingering questions about the fiscal impacts of last fall's downtown redevelopment state legislation on other city neighborhoods and you have an issue central to San Diego's financial future.

Define the Role of the Public and Private Philanthropy

Catch nearly anyone who has spent time studying the city's budget for long and they'll tell you, most of them privately of course, that the city should charge all residents for trash pickup and collect greater fees for storm water. Together, according to a recent estimate, the city would collect an additional $60 million-plus a year if both fees were in place.

Given San Diego's reputation as an anti-tax city and recent history, both of those ideas don't appear to be coming soon. Still, no current city leader has made a sustained push to explain why San Diegans should consider these fee hikes for equity or other reasons.

At the same time, the role of the private sector in city affairs has increased, though in fits and starts. Funding for fire pits on the city's beaches, a national cause célèbre, now appears to come from philanthropy after years on the budget chopping block. A plan to create a gathering place in Balboa Park relies heavily on private financing. Opportunities for greater direct involvement from the private sector to provide city services, notably through volunteering, exist.

The definition of the city's structural budget deficit hinges on the word "structural." San Diego's structure is such that the city is set up to spend more money than it collects. Though Proposition D, a sales tax/financial reform measure failed in November, the potential fix to the problem remains simple. The city must cut costs, increase revenues or do some combination of the two.

Until that happens, San Diego will continue to drown in Enron's sea of red ink.