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— Oh? Attorney Michael Conger, who filed suit against the city for illegally underfunding the pension system and recently got a big settlement, says that during negotiations, "We believed they were considering it [bankruptcy]. My information was that this was on the discussion block on the city's side, and may still be. The city obviously has never publicly admitted it is on the verge of bankruptcy -- no debtor would say that. But the city is still teetering."

Clearly, San Diego doesn't have the money to meet its pension obligations. Some in the legal community believe the city could unilaterally declare that the labor agreements drawn up by a prior city council are void because of lack of authority. Others say that would be an invitation to lawsuits. Some say it will take bankruptcy, or at least the threat of it, to get the unions to give up their bountiful benefits.

Ron Villa, the city's budget director, believes that proposed cuts are fair. "We've tried to minimize the impact across the board; there have been hits on both sides," he says, noting that the Convention and Visitors Bureau is getting trimmed. Groups such as the International Sports Council "provide services to the community and are responsible for generating tourist dollars." The new police budget corrects "some of the deferred maintenance that has been going on for so long."

But Mike Aguirre, candidate for city attorney, says, "Every time we spend money on the Chargers ticket guarantee or subsidize Petco Park bond payments or have to pay into the pension plan to correct past underfunding or retain outside law firms because of past legal mistakes, the opportunity cost is imposed on the neighborhoods, the taxpayers, the community groups. We are like a family that doesn't use income to pay for essentials because it is busy spending money on a wasteful lifestyle."

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