San Diego Business Journal Opinion , Jerry Sanders

Our city is facing a financial crisis of historic proportions, and an equally serious crisis in the confidence of San Diego residents that City Hall is capable of responding to this challenge.

When I ran for office last year, I told voters that significant structural reform was necessary to restore public trust and fiscal discipline.

Since then, we've made progress in requiring transparency and accountability, producing the long-awaited 2003 financial report, facing up truthfully to our employee pension and retiree health commitments, and starting the process of structural change that is so badly needed at City Hall.

But we still have a long way to go. My two charter reform measures on the November ballot, Propositions B and C, give me important tools I need to move the process of change forward.

Proposition B would require voter approval for increases in employee pension benefits, and would provide voters with an assessment of the cost and impact of any proposed benefit increase before they cast their votes.

It will once and for all end the back-room deals that got the city's pension fund into trouble.

San Francisco Leads Way

A similar provision in San Francisco's charter has kept that city from experiencing the pension under-funding crisis now plaguing San Diego and other California cities.

Proposition C would permit managed competition for appropriate city services. City departments would compete with qualified outside providers to determine the best, most efficient way to deliver targeted services.

Tough safeguards, including an independent review board, a transparent review process, and strict conflict-of-interest provisions, will protect the public interest.

Requirements for regular audits and performance reviews will provide much-needed accountability and ensure service levels are maintained or enhanced.

Ignore Red Herrings

Labor unions opposed to this reform have offered up bogus arguments regarding corruption and outsourcing of public safety. Both arguments are red herrings.

It was the city's existing structure that produced a national spectacle of corruption and scandal. Proposition C replaces that with an open and honest process of competition with extensive safeguards.

As to public safety, I've unequivocally stated my intention to never allow outsourcing of services provided by sworn police officers or firefighters.

The city charter, council policy and the city attorney's opinions all prohibit such outsourcing. But since the employee unions lack any substantive arguments against this reform, they've resorted to deceptive scare tactics, instead.

Voters have a chance on Nov. 7 to help make our city a national leader in reform, to make city government more accountable, and to take a giant step on the road to stabilizing our city's finances by voting yes on Propositions B and C.

Jerry Sanders is the mayor of San Diego.