Posts about Accountable Government
By Trinh Le | April 10, 2013 |
The Mayor released his proposed budget for 2013-14 on Monday (4/15), and the spending decisions made over the next two months will directly impact our neighborhoods and our families’ quality of life. We invite you to get involved! We’re planning a series of free events aimed at helping you understand the budget process and learn how to effectively advocate for the services and infrastructure needed to give every neighborhood a fair shake.
Join us online and in person:
4/16 @ 7pm Budget 101 Webinar: General Overview (Online)
4/17 @ 7pm Budget 102 Webinar: Capital Improvement Projects (Online)
5/4 @ 9am Budget Teach-In and Advocacy Training (at Jacobs Center)
5/6 – 5/10 Week of Budget Hearings (San Diego City Hall)
5/22 @ 6pm Evening Budget Hearing (San Diego City Hall)
By Trinh Le | March 29, 2013 |
The new city budget is coming! Decisions on City of San Diego spending for 2013-14 have begun. The new budget will take effect on July 1. A number of residents and community leaders have expressed concern over the complexity of the process.
Do you know how to tell if service levels or projects are being funded in your neighborhood? How can you determine if the investment in city service levels will improve?
This workshop will be a hands-on opportunity to learn how to access the budget online and how to interpret the data as it relates to projects in your community. Corinne will lead us in a review of the budget format, how to read key tables and how to review which projects received funding.
Will you join me and the Community Budget Alliance at this important workshop? To confirm your attendance please email me at TLE@OnlineCPI.org or call me at (619) 584-5744 x24. You may download flyers here.
By Christie Hill | March 1, 2013 |
Thank you for supporting livable wages for the thousands of San Diego residents who work in the tourism industry.
The outcry against a 39-year, $1 billion subsidy for hotels paying poverty wages has been overwhelming! More than 90 of you have answered our call to write letters to the editor. UT San Diego published 24 of those letters here and here, San Diego Free Press thanked the letter-writers publicly and we have posted many of the letters on our website.
A special thanks to everyone who came to the City Council on Monday. We demonstrated strong public opposition to the Tourism Marketing District’s insistence on controlling $30 million a year in public funds while refusing Mayor Filner’s call for living wages.
At the end of the meeting, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith admitted that legally the TMD is “a gray area.” Several lawsuits have been filed against the city for enacting the 2% TMD tax without a public vote, in violation of 2010’s statewide Prop 26.
By Clare Crawford | February 7, 2013 |
Take a look at this CPI op-ed published this week. It may get you thinking about how the budget for city services affects your life.
It’s budget season at San Diego City Hall, and this year for the first time, we have a Mayor who ran on a “Neighborhoods First” platform. The stage is set for a budget process that will prioritize the needs of city residents and diverse communities.
City services took a beating under the previous administration, when the focus was on budget-cutting rather than measuring and ensuring adequate service levels. As our op-ed states: “It’s time for a real conversation about the need to deliver the services San Diegans expect and deserve.”
City services aren’t luxuries. Cutting them below needed levels harms our quality of life and can result in far greater costs, such as the recent court judgment linking a horrific accident to a lack of city tree trimming.
CPI and the Community Budget Alliance will be at City Hall frequently this spring, working for adequate and equitable funding of crucial city services and infrastructure improvements. (Here’s a recent news clip of CBA members in action.)
We’ll be in touch throughout the budget process. Here are some key dates: Councilmembers must send their budget priorities to the Mayor by March 1, and the Mayor releases his budget April 15. The final budget vote is expected on June 10.
What good is city government?
We all rely on city services for the necessary basics that support our daily lives. Ideally, everything runs so smoothly we barely notice all the work that goes into keeping our city clean, safe and functional.
But when those services stall or fall short, the disruptions get our attention and the long-term repercussions can lower our quality of life. When the sewer lines back up, the firefighters arrive late or uncollected garbage piles up, the value of municipal government becomes crystal clear.
In San Diego, repeated budget-cutting during the administration of former Mayor Jerry Sanders has reduced some of our public services to unacceptably low levels.
Saving money is great. But simply slashing budgets without a realistic assessment of whether citizens are getting the services they need is not only irresponsible but ultimately more costly than providing good, efficient services.
The tree-trimming budget is a particularly troubling case in point. Over the past six years, the budget for tree maintenance along our streets was cut in half and then eliminated except for emergencies. An untrimmed, top-heavy palm tree fell on a city resident and left him paralyzed. A jury recently ordered the city to pay $7.65 million for its negligence in failing to maintain the trees, according to Courthouse News Service.
Clearly, that budget-cutting decision did not save money. And, even more importantly, it put the health and safety of San Diego citizens at risk.
Last week, the City Council voted to restore some funding for trimming palm trees in public rights of way. Now the council must take proactive action to determine the appropriate levels of other services, rather than waiting until damage is done.
It’s time for a real conversation about the need to deliver the services San Diegans expect and deserve.
To begin with, we are lacking the information and systems to measure whether the services provided to city residents are at adequate levels. And the city pays private contractors to provide many of our services, without sufficient oversight of how well those contractors are doing their jobs.
During the previous administration, the budgets that determine service levels were drastically reduced for many city departments, with the budget taking priority over realistic needs. We need a full accounting of those cutbacks and the services we have lost, from library and swimming pool hours to police car maintenance.
Before the “managed competition” program continues, we need to pause and take stock of our needs as a city. Each managed competition is based on the current service levels of a city department and concludes with a contract awarded either to that department or a private contractor. Already, city administrators have had repeated difficulties defining the work to be done in the contract documents.
To avoid locking us into reduced service levels that put citizens and city finances at risk, the city needs to develop solid measures of service levels and quality. That process should involve residents from all parts of San Diego.
Everyone who lives and pays taxes in San Diego needs the services that only city government can provide. We need debris cleared from the streets and storm drains, safe water piped to our homes and maintenance of fire trucks and garbage trucks completed regularly — to name just a few crucial services.
Good fiscal stewardship is not just a matter of doing things on the cheap. It means getting good value for money spent. It’s no bargain to shortchange city residents on basic services and put public health and safety at risk.
Corinne Wilson is research and policy lead at the Center on Policy Initiatives, a San Diego nonprofit dedicated to economic equity for working people and communities.
By Corinne Wilson | April 16, 2012 |
Thought I would share something I find interesting regarding formal processes for citizen input in infrastructure planning and the impact of funding deficits on them.
In the City of San Diego, community plans (and related plans for how to finance facilities identified in community plans) are the primary method to enable community planning groups (and residents generally) to provide input on needed projects and priorities. Community plans, per state guidance, are essentially living documents and are meant to define community needs and values and are recommended to be updated frequently.
However, community plans in the City of San Diego are, on average 23 years old. Related financing plans are, on average, 9 years old.
This means the average community plan was “born” in 1990 or so. How have we changed since then?
- The City of San Diego had 200,000 fewer residents.
- We were using pagers, listening to music on portable CD players and the iMac had just been introduced.
- Dances with Wolves had won Best Picture, The Simpsons had been on the air for a year and Friends still had four years before they would “be there for you”.
- And, while you could ride the Trolley from downtown to San Ysidro and to El Cajon, you couldn’t take it to Old Town or to watch the Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium.
There is a small difference between plans for communities funded through development impact fees (on average 28 years old) and facilities benefits agreements (on average 21 years old). Ten community plans are in the process of being updated:
- Uptown (1998)
- San Ysidro and the Tijuana River Valley (1991 and 2000)
- Barrio Logan (1979)
- North Park (1986)
- Greater Golden Hill (1987)
- Midway/Pacific Highway (1991)
- Ocean Beach (1976)
- Old San Diego (1988)
- Otay Mesa (1981)
However, these aren’t the necessarily the oldest. For example, Mission Beach and Carmel Valley date from 1975, Serra Mesa from 1978, and Navajo and Tierrasanta from 1983.
Updating community plans is expensive and requires significant resources. In a conversation with city staff from Chula Vista, they lamented the loss of redevelopment because that was one of the main sources of funds to do planning and outreach. The funding crunch isn’t just impacting getting infrastructure built, maintained or revitalized but is also hampering what we are investing in and how we make those decisions, if our vision is so out of date.
By Susan Duerksen | March 19, 2012 |
Under the guise of “streamlining,” Mayor Jerry Sanders is asking the San Diego City Council to steamroll community concerns and give him more power to make closed-door deals with contractors.
A vote is scheduled during the Council meeting that begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 20.
The broad-based Community Budget Alliance, which includes CPI and more than 20 diverse community organizations in San Diego, objects that the change would allow the Mayor to award public works contracts of up to $30 million without any Council or public review, a substantial increase from the current limit of $1 million.
The Mayor’s proposal also would allow large contractors to choose subcontractors with no obligations to hire locally or pay wages that cover the cost of living in San Diego.
Read more in an op-ed published Friday by alliance members representing the League of Women Voters, NAACP and United African American Ministerial Action Council.
Please attend the Council meeting Tuesday afternoon or contact your Councilmember: Tell the Council to reject this deeply flawed proposal and develop a real streamlining plan that retains public control of our public works and benefits our neighborhoods rather than big contractors.
By Susan Duerksen | November 30, 2011 |
Research shows more people uninsured in county, while outreach lags
As residents of San Diego County continue to lose health insurance, County officials could enhance their efforts to bring in federal funding newly available to increase coverage.
The Center on Policy Initiatives is calling on the County Board to re-examine its approach to the federal Affordable Care Act, in light of new research findings:
- Employment-based insurance is declining, leaving an additional 27,000 San Diego County residents uninsured in 2010, and pushing many thousands more into public, taxpayer-funded programs such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, CPI reports in The Uninsured in San Diego County.
- San Diego County spends relatively little on the uninsured, compared to other major California counties, and is lagging on outreach and enrollment in preparation for the new federal funding, CPI found in Improving Access to Health Coverage: San Diego County and Federal Health Reform.
“Counties are responsible for providing a healthcare safety net,” said Corinne Wilson, CPI research and policy lead. “The federal government is offering funding to strengthen those safety nets, and that gives the San Diego County Board an opportunity to benefit taxpayers as well as individuals who’ve fallen on hard times.”
As the Union-Tribune reported this week, the County has limited early enrollment in the new Low Income Health Program, instead transferring participants in from another program it opted to close. Because the closed program had broader eligibility standards, the change by the County will leave more people uninsured in the future.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, which will be fully implemented by 2014, an estimated 203,000 more county residents could be eligible for Medi-Cal and others qualify for additional public programs. However, decisions on eligibility standards and allocating matching funds are left up to county governments.
CPI urges San Diego County officials to gather input from a wide variety of community stakeholders on the best way to respond to the federal healthcare reform opportunities, for the good of community residents as well as healthcare providers such as hospitals and clinics.
By Xavier Leonard | September 14, 2011 |
The city of San Diego has never mastered the art of managing contracts.
Debris haulers contracted by the city overcharged victims of the 2007 wildfires. Computer system consultants ran millions over budget and months behind schedule. Recently, a private ambulance company took advantage of lax oversight to shortchange the city by an estimated $18 million. And so on.
Again and again, private contractors take San Diego taxpayers for a ride – because they can. Read More