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Friday, Feb 23, 2024

Richard Rider

Name: Richard Rider

Age: 59

Occupation: Taxpayer advocate; owner of a small telecommunications business

Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics, University of North Carolina

Family: Wife, Diane and two sons

What is your stand on the debate over selling public assets as a way to ease the city’s financial problems?

In ordinary times, the city should be open to selling underutilized public assets, provided it can receive full market value for these assets. Since money is fungible, however, any funds received in the current situation of extreme financial crisis will be immediately dumped into the pension fund abyss. This cannot be allowed to happen. There should never be a “fire sale” of public assets to cover up the past failures of our city politicians.

The unions have come under fire as a major cause of the city’s financial state. What is your position?

Indeed, the unions are a major cause of the city’s perilous financial state, but definitely not the only cause. The unions offered political support and endorsements to politicians in exchange for great pay and perks, and the biggest sellout politicians used this massive support to win their races. Every time.

Moreover, just about every person involved in the pension-setting process had a conflict of interest, as they received the opulent pensions as well. These self-serving reckless actions were immoral, if not criminal. Then, to add insult to injury, our politicians went on a spending binge for pro-sports subsidies and an unneeded Downtown library. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Is bankruptcy a viable solution to the city’s troubles?

While bankruptcy should not be completely ruled out, it should be the last option , the nuclear option. Bankruptcy will cede power to an unelected judge who will have the immense ability to redirect scarce city resources without any meaningful input from the public.

Since the city is not truly bankrupt (when liabilities exceed assets), but simply has a cash-flow problem, it is likely that a judicially imposed solution will have undesirable consequences. It may very well reaffirm the pension obligation, burdening city taxpayers for decades to come. The judge may require the city to float a multi-billion-dollar pension obligation bond (without a vote of the people) to fund the exorbitant pensions. He might mandate that the city sell off public land. Or the judge might make some good decisions. No one knows. We should make every effort to solve the problem without bankruptcy.

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?

We must never again offer defined benefit (promised pensions) to city employees. Instead, we need to go to defined contribution plans, aka 401(k) plans , eliminating the temptation of politicians to give union employees increased benefits today while the bill comes due years hence. And all future pension deals should be subject to a citizen vote.

The unions will not renegotiate. If the courts do not declare the post-1996 pension benefits illegal, the only solution is the Yellow Pages. We look in that phone directory to find every city service that can be provided by efficient, lower-cost private San Diego companies. We should seek competitive bids from private companies for over 75 percent of what the city does.

The city employees would be welcome to bid as well , the best bid wins the city contract for each service. If the city employees want to keep their jobs, they will have to make major pension and salary concessions to stay competitive with the taxpayers who pay their compensation.

Just because the city pays to provide a function does not mean it must be performed by ultra-high compensation city employees. For instance, Riverside County contracts out its library services. Trash collection has been contracted out by virtually every other city in San Diego County. Savings from full implementation of this approach in all non-public safety functions should exceed $200 million annually.

Should the city spend more on marketing San Diego as a tourist destination?

No. San Diego sells itself. We have arguably the best weather in the world, and everyone knows it!

The city should concentrate on making San Diego a safe and clean place to both live and visit. In particular, the city needs to concentrate on fixing the aged storm drain and sewer system. This mundane, but vital infrastructure maintenance, has for years been deferred for glitzy projects, such as pro-sports stadiums and an unneeded new Downtown library.

The city should end its multimillion-dollar annual subsidy of the Convention Center operation. Let the Convention Center operators either improve their efficiency, or put the Convention Center management out for competitive bid.

The city should end its incestuous relationship with the Convention & Visitors Bureau and the scandalous salaries paid to bureaucrats. If the tourist industry thinks such largesse is appropriate, let the hotel owners fund it. Perhaps the best thing the city can do for tourism is to stop wasting transient occupancy taxes and instead work on reducing this levy to make San Diego even more attractive for conventions to come our way.

How would you address the issue of affordable housing?

Alas, the city with its bureaucratic planning function, huge permit fees, so-called “inclusionary zoning,” and a host of other impediments is an actual hindrance to affordable housing. Instead, let’s reduce fees, streamline planning and eliminate expensive “feel-good” regulations , thus encouraging builders to provide more housing at lower cost. The high regulatory costs and government-enforced scarcity of housing are the reasons our housing prices are too high for 92 percent of our citizens to buy a median-priced home. Those parts of the country that keep the politicians out of the home-building process have the most affordable prices.

Where do you think a new airport should be located, if at all?

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We have one of the most conveniently located airports in the nation. It is still years from capacity , maybe decades if we make a few minor adjustments. With the technological communications revolution and the Internet, businesses are finding that travel is less necessary than in times past.

The residents in that area have a 70-year history with the airport. Moving it will be incredibly costly, much more inconvenient for most travelers and, according to new federal law, likely will have to operate 24 hours a day , no curfew! Such a move will encounter years of turbulent, expensive opposition, and is fundamentally unfair to anyone residing anywhere near this new airport (presumably located at Miramar). Let’s leave well enough alone.

Is the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. doing a good job of bringing new business to San Diego?

No, the REDC is not doing a good job of bringing new business to San Diego , how could it? California is a horrible place to do business. Everything is difficult. Taxes are exorbitant and climbing, regulation is oppressive, restricted housing results in sky-high prices, litigation bloodsuckers relentlessly file extortion lawsuits the courts too often sustain, road transportation is strangled, environmental permits are extremely difficult to obtain, and, perhaps, most serious, the political climate borders on socialistic.

California’s notoriously anti-business attitude makes our state the engine of progress , for Arizona, Oregon, Idaho and especially Nevada , as more and more of our existing businesses look elsewhere to set up operations. In an environment like this, it is a wonder that we keep the business we have! Attracting a significant number of out-of-state new businesses in this anti-business climate is a pipe dream.


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