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— Employment is barely creeping up. Gin looks for 8000 to 10,000 new jobs next year, about the same as this year and half of last year. Cunningham says 11,000 jobs will be added this year, a gain of only 0.8 percent, with 14,000 or 1.1 percent added next year, mainly from construction. "Just a few years ago, we were adding 30,000 to 50,000 a year," says Cunningham.

Until housing prices began to drop, San Diegans had borrowed against rising home values to make purchases. The most recent statistics, through the third quarter of last year, show San Diego had weaker retail sales than major metro areas. "Adjusted for inflation, retail sales would be negative," says Cunningham, who suspects the trend has continued this year.

Both the City and County are in bad economic shape, dogged by pension and infra-structure problems. Will the City boost taxes? The transient occupancy tax, or hotel tax, is lower in San Diego than in other competing cities. Dare the City and County raise existing taxes and create new ones? "You know how cheap the County is," says Gin. "I don't know that the political will will be there."

Others say that there is plenty of money flowing into government coffers; what needs to be cut are overgenerous pay and benefits for employees and the amount of money flowing to corporate welfare. But employees and corporate mendicants have clout too.

The fires will bring a political conflagration that could be as societally damaging as the fires were physically damaging. As Henny Youngman used to say, "I told my doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places."

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