City panel rejects DeMaio pothole ‘DeMan-trum’Around the City Thursday, June 21st, 2012
“A citizen picks up the phone to dial 911. A pothole, whether it’s fixed or not, is not going to answer the call. We need to make sure a police officer will,” said 7th District Councilmember Marti Emerald in rejecting a proposed ballot proposal from mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio about fixing potholes.
DeMaio appeared June 13 before a City Council committee to seek to have a city charter change an amendment placed on the Nov. 6 ballot that would place pothole repairs on city streets in a lockbox on city funds that would insure highest priority over other matters.
In a motion by Emerald, the panel voted 5-0 to reject the proposal from going to the City Council. Councilmembers Kevin Faulconer and Lorie Zapf, both Republicans, joined Councilmembers Todd Gloria and Tony Young in voting against it.
Rep. Bob Filner, who is running against DeMaio for mayor, also showed up, and sarcastically asked, “To put potholes above everything? We’re going to replace potholes for police?”
“This is a startling lack of vision for the future of our city,” said Filner. “Yes, we are going to fix our potholes, but to make it a priority over everything else? Let’s be better than this.”
Faulconer made a motion to forward DeMaio’s idea to the City’s independent budget analyst for a review, but the motion failed with getting only Zapf’s vote and the three other Democrats against it.
DeMaio called his proposal Repave and Eliminate Potholes through Accountability for Infrastructure Repairs, or REPAIR, for short when he appeared before the Rules, Open Government, & Intergovernmental Relations Committee.
“We can do these things if we rethink city government. It will follow the funding model contained in this ballot measure,” said DeMaio.
“The proposal before you today is not the end of the conversation – I’m hoping it starts the conversation,” said DeMaio.
DeMaio’s proposal said REPAIR would “impose accountability measures on city officials to ensure that road and other infrastructure repairs are made a priority, and are funded without the need for a tax increase.”
DeMaio said “a recent report found San Diego has the eighth worst roads in the nation,” but Emerald claimed he was using out-of-date information from a 2007 report.
DeMaio noted the city has made some progress in road repair, but not enough, adding “we still face a nearly $900 million backlog in infrastructural deficit.”
“In my administration, I will be presenting a balanced budget in December which will also lay out our 2014 budget,” said DeMaio.
Emerald seized on DeMaio’s comment about “his administration,” saying “this was a political speech from this lectern to help define his campaign.”
“Let’s cut through it. This is a blatant attempt by Mr. DeMaio to secure public funds to help him define and run his mayoral campaign,” said Emerald. “It’s a campaign ploy.”
As Filner began his comments, he said jokingly, “I know we’re all tingling with excitement with what the next referendum would be from Mr. DeMaio.”
“We get a tantrum. I think we ought to call it a DeMan-trum – whenever we can’t get a majority we go on a referendum hunt,” said Filner. “We should be talking about the real issues of the city … and here we are stuck in the rut with potholes.”
Councilmember Todd Gloria asked Jeff Sturak, the deputy director of the Independent Budget Analyst’s office, if DeMaio’s proposal would hurt other city services. Sturak said the proposal “would be a challenge,” adding “we have to be able to reserve our discretion.”
“I also worry about tying our hands,” said Zapf.
“I think there are a number of flaws here that are difficult to allow this to move forward,” said Gloria, who seconded Emerald’s motion.
“It also says to ourselves and to the public we don’t trust ourselves to make the right decision. I don’t agree with it,” said Young. “Times change. Issues change. Priorities change.”
“We should have more confidence in the democratic process itself to think people in the future will be able to make wise decisions on behalf of the public,” concluded Young, who is Council president.
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