Name: Jerry Sanders
Occupation: Former chief of police for the city of San Diego
Education: Undergraduate work at San Diego State University; bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at National University
Family: Wife, Rana Sampson, and two daughters
What is your stand on the debate over selling public assets as a way to ease the city’s financial problems?
I am opposed to selling city lands, except in limited circumstances. It permanently eliminates valuable assets, while doing nothing to correct the structural problems that have created the financial mess.
The unions have come under fire as a major cause of the city’s financial state. What is your position?
The unions did their job, which was to represent the employees and wring the best deal possible out of the city. It was the mayor and City Council who failed to negotiate in good faith on behalf of the taxpayers. They gave away the store and now we find ourselves in a deep hole. Despite this, city employees, through their unions, must be part of the solution, because any long-term solution requires renegotiation of existing labor agreements.
Is bankruptcy a viable solution to the city’s troubles?
I will not take any option off the table, including bankruptcy, because to do so decreases the city’s leverage when it comes time to renegotiate the current deals.
That being said, bankruptcy is the last option. Some think bankruptcy is the easy way out, but it’s not! Orange County, which some like to point to as a model for municipal bankruptcies, now finds itself back in deep financial distress a little more than 10 years later because they did not change the structural problems that led them into debt in the first place. The only guarantee with bankruptcy is millions of dollars in legal fees.
What would you do to prevent a repeat of the pension crisis? And how do you plan to solve the $1.7 billion deficit in the city’s pension fund?
In order to solve the problem, the mayor must have the pension board immediately waive attorney-client privilege to comply with information requests from the attorney general and Securities and Exchange Commission; determine if the benefits are illegal; renegotiate lawful, but unsustainable benefits, with the employee unions; and issue pension obligation bonds as soon as the city is able to enter the bond market.
The only way to prevent this from becoming a recurring problem, similar to the cycle Orange County is in, is to change the culture at City Hall. The move to a strong mayor system gives us a unique opportunity to change the way the city does business, instilling ethics and openness as fundamental principles.
Should the city spend more on marketing San Diego as a tourist destination?
The city should use a portion of taxes paid by visitors to market San Diego as a tourist destination. The mayor and City Council recently voted to cut visitor marketing. This was a bad decision, because tourism is a major economic cluster for San Diego County. It not only provides jobs for many San Diegans, but it also provides tax revenues to support basic city services. Cutting marketing is counterproductive and moves us further away from fiscal health.
How would you address the issue of affordable housing?
The city needs to encourage the free market to produce more supply, reduce fees passed along to buyers and speed up the permitting process so we can reduce the time it takes to build such housing.
This is another system that is truly broken in the city. The mayor cannot sit on the sidelines on this key issue. To do so risks damaging our local economy and prevents our children from finding affordable housing when the time comes for them to buy their first homes.
Where do you think a new airport should be located, if at all?
The San Diego International Airport, as it is currently configured, will run out of capacity sometime in the next 20-25 years. When this happens, San Diego will be unable to grow economically. We cannot let that happen. The Regional Airport Authority has been directed by the state Legislature to come up with a solution and put it on the ballot to let the citizens decide. If the authority comes up with a viable plan, as mayor I work as an advocate to secure voter support for this solution.
Is the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. doing a good job of bringing new business to San Diego?
Economic development is critical to the future of our region and is an important responsibility of local government. Once in office, I will assess the work and effectiveness of EDC as an organization in accomplishing that objective.