By Claire Trageser
City News Service
Mayor Jerry Sanders on Thursday used his fifth State of the City address to tell voters he heard their rejection of tax increases and laid out plans to fix the city's budget without reaching into taxpayer wallets.
"In November, the voters were presented with a sales tax measure, and by a rather spectacular margin, they said no, and I heard them," Sanders said.
Sanders told the assembled audience at the Balboa Theatre he would not allow voters' rejection of Proposition D, the sales tax measure, to create gridlock in city government.
"(Voters) don't want us stopping in our tracks and waiting for another election, or a court verdict that's years away," Sanders said. "They have big dreams for their city. They want action, not delay."
City Councilman Todd Gloria, who supported Proposition D in November's election, said he did not view Sanders' speech as a challenge to the City Council.
"The City Council and mayor were partners on the efforts behind Prop. D and we thought it was an honest assessment of where we were at at the time," Gloria said.
In his speech, Sanders laid out a plan for financial reforms he hopes to enact in his remaining time in office, which he said would eliminate the city's budget deficit without raising taxes.
"(Voters) did not say they wanted some other type of tax increase," Sanders said. "No means no."
Sanders' plan will focus on a new pension plan for city employees that would be similar to 401(k) retirement plans in the private sector.
"Now, some will say this approach is too bold or that it doesn't go far enough," Sanders said. "But my motives are clear. I'm not running for mayor. I'm not clamoring for attention.
"I'm thinking about the taxpayers in 25 years, and the kind of city that they'll inherit."
That declaration was met with loud applause from the audience, one of the few times a line in Sanders' speech received enthusiastic clapping. The crowd did not rise to its feet in a standing ovation until the speech ended.
Sanders also outlined his other efforts to cut government costs, including merging the Development Services and Planning departments, reorganizing the Public Works Department and eliminating the Bid to Goal
program, an initiative that rewarded city employees for finding ways to do work for less cost than private companies, which a San Diego city audit found problematic.
"When the cutting is done, we will have a sculpted government that lives within its means when times are bad and invests responsibly when times are good," Sanders said.
"We will do this as a team. There can be no pride of authorship if our goal is the common good. And no good idea should be discounted because of bias against its source."
Sanders also spoke against Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal that would "loot our redevelopment agencies rather than make honest budget decisions head on" and said he was concerned about the lack of recognition for what downtown redevelopment has done.
"To those San Diegans who would sell out our redevelopment agencies for pennies on the dollar, I say your thirst for quick cash will come at a steep price," Sanders said.
Sanders described the expansion he hopes to oversee, including a new downtown convention center, a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers and a restoration of the Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park.
Gloria said he appreciated Sanders' inclusion of these big projects in his speech because of the optimism they cultivate.
"There's a temptation when the economy is as poor as it is to become mired in negativity," Gloria said. "I liked that he did not just address the short term problems, but talked about bigger things."
Instead of immediately recognizing his family and the government officials who attended his speech, Sanders began by acknowledging Kaylee and Conner Wilson, the children of San Diego Police Officer Christopher Wilson who was killed in the line of duty this year. Wilson's children led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance before Sanders' speech.
Sanders closed by asking again for quick action.
"We will never get back time and opportunity wasted," Sanders said. "I'm going to fight for what I believe in. I ask all of you to join me. It's time to stand up for San Diego."