District 1 Councilmember Sherri Lightner isn’t San Diego’s most outspoken city politician. Typically, her comments at council meetings are succinct, slightly awkward, and usually start off with a clumsy grab at the microphone.
She’s not the most press-savvy politician, either. In a May 11 post on the Union-Tribune’s blog, a reporter accused Lightner of refusing to field questions at press conferences and criticized her for dodging the issue of whether her office will consent to a 6 percent pay reduction. In a May 6 CityBeat article, Lightner was reported disappearing from her own press conference just before it was set to begin.
On May 8, the soft-spoken, longtime resident of La Jolla Shores, seemed to have found her voice, in a 16-page memo to Tony Young, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, outlining her ideas for budget reform.
Lightner started the memo with some unusual vigor. “The City must become more transparent, increase public oversight and input, increase accountability, and minimize waste, follow best practices, and fully utilize our resources to achieve increased efficiency and better service delivery,” read one of the opening paragraphs.
Lightner’s memo then classified six categories the City needs to improve to reach “fiscal responsibility.” Those six categories are: “Citywide Efficiency; Savings or Increased Revenues; Efficiencies and Increased Transparency; Additional Department Hearings; Economic Development; and Public-Private Partnerships and Joint Agreements.”
In the “Savings or Increased Revenues” category, Lightner identified 11 areas in which the City can save or increase revenues.
Among those proposed measures: the elimination of the City’s Administrative Department, which would save $3.5 million each year. “Currently the Administration Department oversees Administration and Grants Management, the Citizens Review Board, Emergency Medical Services, EOCP, the Living Wage Program, Mayor's Office Management, and Public Information,” reads the memo. “There does not appear to be criteria to demonstrate the need for all of these positions.”
Lightner also wants to put a stop to city sponsorships at public events, activities, and sporting venues. “For example, the Storm Water Department is proposing to spend $4,347,548 in education and outreach including...attendance and sponsorship for events such as December Nights, the Padres, the Jazz Festival, the Filipino-American Festival and the San Diego State Aztecs."
Furthermore, Lightner wants to cancel all public relations contracts with outside firms paid to promote tourism for the City, start charging film companies to process expedited permits, look into recovering the cost incurred by local universities for the use of the City’s emergency services, and increase enforcement at the City’s news racks. Lightner asserts that neglected maintenance and upkeep of news racks causes “visual blight and accessibility issues,” and the cost to enforce proper upkeep are more than the City collects in fees.
To see a copy of Councilmember Lightner’s full budget report, go to sandiego.gov/citycouncil/cd1/ and click on “budget recommendations.”