Name: Michael “Myke” Shelby
Occupation: President of San Diego Harley-Davidson
Education: Attended the University of South Carolina
Family: Wife, Paula, two daughters and two sons
What is your stand on the debate over selling public assets as a way to ease the city’s financial problems?
This is an unacceptable and shortsighted solution that does not address the problems that got our city into this financial position in the first place.
The unions have come under fire as a major cause of the city’s financial state. What is your position?
The union leadership did their job. Unfortunately, the people on the City Council did not negotiate with the best interest of the city’s taxpayers or employees in mind. It is not the fault of the union leadership that they got everything they asked for when in negotiation with the mayor and City Council. However, current pension benefit levels are unsustainable, and the unions have to recognize this and come back to the bargaining table. Bankruptcy is not an option because it the worst-case scenario for the unions as well as the city. Therefore, it is in their best interest to work with the city to create a sustainable pension benefit system with the understanding that raising taxes and selling city-owned land is out of the question. Caveat: If the current investigation regarding the pension board cover-up discloses corruption, the above statements will change.
Is bankruptcy a viable solution to the city’s troubles?
Bankruptcy can solve the short-term financial shortfalls of the city. The inadequacy of bankruptcy is that it does nothing to address the institutions of the city government that put San Diego in this financial crisis in the first place (note that Orange County is probably going to file Chapter 9 again in the near future). A more appropriate solution is to privatize some of the services of the city (totaling roughly 3,000 jobs), streamline the bureaucratic processes, and create a viable and sustainable pension plan. To do this, we need the pension trustees to lift the attorney-client privilege. It is impossible to write a specific business plan for the city until we have taken an accurate inventory of the city’s debt and outstanding commitments.
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?
See above. The answer is to bring the unions back to the bargaining table, which they have to do because bankruptcy is their worst-case scenario too, and negotiate a sustainable pension program. As for the pension deficit, we don’t even know if that is an accurate number or if the situation is far worse. Without the completion of the audits, it is not possible to draw out an exact business plan for the city. However, the solution will come from a combination of privatization, renegotiation of pension benefits, and streamlining of the city’s bureaucratic process.
Should the city spend more on marketing San Diego as a tourist destination?
Yes, as long as the money comes from the business/promotional organizations. Until we come out of this fiscal crisis, subsidies for this purpose are unjustifiable.
How would you address the issue of affordable housing?
Housing is unaffordable because San Diego regulations are prohibitive to new developments. The situation is that the demand for housing far exceeds the supply, and this issue should be addressed on the supply-side. By streamlining the bureaucratic processes related to creating new housing developments, adjusting zoning regulations to allow for people to build condo conversions and other creative housing ideas, and lifting excessive (but not practical and reasonable) environmental regulations that inhibit the ability of developers to create new housing, we can turn San Diego from a city that is averse to new development to one that encourages it.
Where do you think a new airport should be located, if at all?
Given the existing runways in the San Diego area and the unlikelihood that any new ones can be built, Lindbergh is going to have to be our passenger airport of the immediate future. Lindbergh can be expanded to create a longer, more accommodating runway and possibly another terminal. Despite previous failures, a freight terminal can be created at Brown Field, where it will be ideally positioned to benefit from cross-border trade and will help alleviate both air traffic at Lindbergh, but also the San Diego region’s semi-dependence on the Los Angeles/Orange County region for air-freight service. Additionally, short commuter flights can be diverted to one or more of the San Diego area’s smaller and more convenient airfields, including Montgomery Field, Brown Field, Gillespie Field, and Palomar airport to further alleviate air-traffic congestion at Lindbergh.
Is the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. doing a good job of bringing new business to San Diego?
It is impossible to bring too much business into San Diego. It can always be better.