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On February 21 at 9:00 a.m., residents of City Heights and surrounding areas filed into Hoover High School’s dimly lit auditorium on El Cajon Boulevard. They were there for the San Diego City Council Budget and Finance Committee’s third community meeting on the city’s budget crunch.

As the citizens whispered among themselves in Spanish and English, committee members Tony Young, Todd Gloria, Kevin Faulconer, and Marti Emerald took their seats alongside independent budget analyst Andrea Tevlin, city financial officer Mary Lewis, and a representative from the city attorney’s office. Councilmembers (but not committee members) Donna Frye and Sherri Lightner were also in attendance.

Missing from the crowded table was Budget and Finance Committee member, and outspoken budget critic, Carl DeMaio and city council president Ben Hueso. During the past few weeks, DeMaio has come under scrutiny from the mayor and other city insiders for using inflated numbers to represent city employees’ fringe benefits.

After the meeting began, Mayor Jerry Sanders took the mic, telling the community he was aware of their concerns for keeping the budget cuts away from libraries and recreation centers. He also stressed the importance of resolving the city’s pension deficit and renegotiating the city’s labor agreements before any new taxes or fees are imposed.

Toward the end of the two-minute speech, Sanders expressed appreciation to those councilmembers who attended the weekend meeting.

“I really appreciate the councilmembers for being here. It’s easy when it’s not your district to stay home on a Saturday morning, but you have six of your councilmembers here and I think that shows some dedication on their part.”

After handing off the mic, Sanders disappeared through a hallway at the side of the auditorium and left the remaining city officials to hear suggestions from the residents on ways the city can resolve the budget imbalance. A few residents regretted seeing the mayor leave without hearing any of the suggestions.

Among the suggestions made: selling off the city’s public golf courses, implementing a staggered workweek, and streamlining middle- and high-level management. All of the speakers opposed closures of libraries and recreation centers.

Come see which councilmembers decide to make it to the next budget meeting on Wednesday, February 25, on the 12th floor of city hall at 9 a.m.

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