Mayor Sanders calls for immediate action on Props B, C
by Kailee Bradstreet
Dec 21, 2006 | 839 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Voters recently endorsed Propositions B and C on the Nov. 7 ballot, spurring Mayor Jerry Sanders to announce immediate implementation of the measures and bringing a tide of change for the City of San Diego and its civil service employees.

Sanders, who strongly supported the propositions and touted them as a way to "get the city government back on track," hopes to get the ball rolling with Prop C "” a measure to secure managed competition for the city's civil services "” sometime this month. Action for Prop B, a pension reform measure, will most likely not be seen until the next election in 2008.

"Props B and C alone will not solve the city's long-standing pension or financial problems," reads a statement by Sanders, issued by his office on the city's Web site. "Those will require years of diligence and tough medicine. But both propositions are important tools that I need to reform the broken managerial and financial practices at City Hall."

Managed competition will allow the mayor, city council and an Independent Review Board to evaluate how economical and efficient the city's civil services are and to decide whether to contract a particular service to a private company.

Candidate selection for the Independent Review Board and deliberation of the implementation ordinance by city council will begin in December, and the first Request for Proposal, notifying a particular service's staff that it will be contracted out, is expected this summer, according to a press release from the mayor's office.

Prop C was opposed by the San Diego Fire Fighters and the San Diego Police Association, which suggested that the measure could possibly put the city's safety in jeopardy if private companies were allowed to manage police and rescue services. However, Sanders has promised that employees from those groups will not be affected.

"Our whole opposition was that we and [San Diego] police had numerous meetings to ask to include the Charter 58 language, which protects firefighters and police officers, in the ballot language," said Frank De Clercq, president of the San Diego Fire Fighters and a captain at the Rancho Bernardo station. "If you used the charter language and put it in the ballot language, then it can never be changed. The ordinances that they now have passed are different, and we have nothing more than to take him [Sanders] at his word that he won't contract out police and fire staff."

The organization wants to believe that Sanders will not replace safety and rescue employees, but members are afraid that when the mayor's term expires, a new official might begin making changes, the fire captain stated.

Middle-tier positions in areas such as waste disposal, street and ground maintenance and recyclables collections and processing, including supervisors and lower-level management, will be directly affected by the measure, according to a managed competition fact sheet issued by Sanders' office.

Pensions and benefits for firefighters in San Diego are another sensitive issue, and the passing of Prop B, which gives voters the final say over future pension increases for elected officials and city employees, may affect firefighters and police in the long run, De Clercq said.

"We don't suspect there will be many pension changes anyway, so it doesn't really affect us, but we don't want to have citizens wait two years for the next election if they start seeing police and firefighters leave," he said.

His organization believes that in order to retain qualified firefighters and paramedics, the city must ensure competitive and fair salary and benefit packages. Otherwise, these professionals will end up in cities that do offer competitive pay, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, he said.

He also stated that he didn't believe that San Diego residents would want or allow for that to happen, but that city resources for firefighters, police officers and other rescue workers, such as lifeguards, are scarce.

"As firefighters, we are ranked 43 in the state based on our salary," he said. "We can argue this is the second largest city in California and the seventh largest in the U.S. We're not saying that we should be paid the second highest, but we should be in the median range of the top ten at least."

De Clercq and the San Diego Fire Fighters hope the public, in light of the current audits of city officials, will continue to become educated about the city's budget and its spending practices and that the mayor will continue to share that information.

"On neither one were we surprised that they passed, and that is because of all the media attention that the budget deficit has brought," he said. "People are so distrusting of their government they won't feel they can trust anybody until you show them these outstanding budgets, and be truthful with them once and for all."
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