Last Tuesday’s meeting of the San Diego City Council was a big day for La Jollans and a glaring example of a city government that is at best inefficient and at worst dysfunctional.
La Jollans were out in force for the meeting because it featured the possible decertification of the La Jolla Community Planning Association as a city-recognized planning group. The item was the last of three big orders of business for the council on the day, along with a proposed raise for our city’s firefighters and a software upgrade for the city’s computers. Considering the way that schedule played out, we think our City Council needs to take a look at how it runs its meetings, but not until it takes an even harder look at its priorities.
First on the council’s afternoon agenda beginning at 2 p.m. were the firefighters, who came seeking a raise that would have cost the city about $2 million. In little more than an hour, the council decided the cost was too much for our cash-strapped city to bear, and rejected the firefighters’ raise. This after the firefighters have foregone raises for the past three years and even helped pay off part of the city’s pension deficit.
Next up was a proposed software upgrade for the city’s computer systems. After two hours of deliberation, the council voted to move forward with a plan that will make the flow of money into and out of the city’s coffers much easier to track. The cost of the upgrade is expected to be about $40 million, not accounting for the fact that the cost of information technology upgrades are notoriously moving targets.
Then the council came to the issue of the Planning Association. The council spent three and a half hours hearing public comment and talking with city staff before deciding to allow the association to retain its certification contingent on suspending a few aspects of its new bylaws.
We think the City Council misspent its resources - both in time and in city dollars - at every step of the way. How in the world could the city not find $2 million dollars for firefighters who are already toiling in a city that has far too few fire stations? The juxtaposition of that decision with the council’s agreeing to spend 20 times that amount on a computer system made the choice even more jarring. We understand that accounting is important and better software may help our city in the long run, but the huge price tag only illustrated that the money was there for the firefighters, if only the city was willing to look for it.
And maybe that search could have taken place during the hours the council spent on the Planning Association. It’s clear now that decertification never should have made it to the council’s docket. Council President Scott Peters remarked at the meeting that his plan was to decertify the Planning Association, then recertify it with the same members. What, exactly, was the point? It’s not the City Council’s job to hold meetings; their job is to get something done at those meetings.