Opinion: Local input a key to reforming the city

By Carl DeMaio

Fifth District City Councilman

Do you think we need major change in how our city government spends taxpayer money? Do you think the city can deliver services to your neighborhood in a more efficient and effective way?

If you do, I’d like you to join me for a public Town Hall from 6 to 8 pm. on Feb. 2 at the La Jolla Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave.

The Town Hall is designed to let you comment, ask questions and share your own ideas for how we can make meaningful improvements in city government.

In November, I released a financial plan for the city, “The Roadmap to Recovery plan,” that balances the Fiscal Year 12 budget without tax and fee increases. More importantly, the plan prevents cuts to core city services such as police, fire, libraries and parks.

Some have proposed bankruptcy as the fix to the city’s financial problems. I strongly disagree, but have incorporated some elements from a traditional bankruptcy proceeding into the Roadmap to Recovery — without the stigma, expense, and uncertainty of a bankruptcy filing.

The Roadmap focuses on reducing the city’s liabilities and bringing the city’s annual operating costs back down to sustainable levels. Its centerpiece is a series of integrated reforms to the city’s pension system – all of which are legal and do not challenge vested rights.

The plan calls for a cap on “pensionable pay” for city employees for five years, and also requires city employees to pay an equal share of the cost of pension benefits. Additionally, The plan creates more affordable pension tiers and a defined contribution plan for new hires. Current city employees would also be able to “opt-out” of higher pension tiers into more affordable plans — saving taxpayers money and increasing take home pay for employees.

Over five years, these and other reforms to pension and retirement benefits produce approximately $700 million in savings.

But we must do more than prevent a fiscal meltdown — we must work to restore and improve vital services that are so important to our quality of life in each neighborhood. That’s why the Roadmap Plan calls for a heavy dose of rethinking and re-engineering how city services are provided.

City leaders should immediately implement competitive bidding on support services such as facilities maintenance, auto maintenance, landscaping, and information technology. We should also embrace public-private partnerships, new technologies, and look for ways to reduce layers of management and redundant processes.

The Roadmap documents more than $300 million in cost savings that can be achieved from redesigning city government – savings that the Roadmap proposes to immediately put back into preserving and expanding core services such as police, fire, and road repairs.

It is my hope that the Roadmap to Recovery can serve as a starting point for that discussion on fixing our city, but I hope to keep receiving additional ideas from the public. That’s why these Town Hall forums are so important — and I hope you will attend and share your views on how we can create a city government we can be proud of again.

See the plan at




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