Within hours of the City Council’s vote Tuesday to place four City Charter amendments before San Diego voters in June, including one that would create a funding stream for infrastructure projects, the debate began.

San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey. Photo by Chris Stone

Councilman Mark Kersey, the Republican who wrote the infrastructure measure he calls “Rebuild San Diego,” said it would prioritize infrastructure investment as “a core function” of local government.

“It provides a certainty of resources necessary to build real and long-term capacity in our Public Works Department so it can deliver on projects that are important to our neighborhoods — streets, sidewalks, storm drains, parks, and city facilities such as streets and fire stations,” Kersey said.
The measure would dedicate between $3 billion and $4.5 billion for neighborhood improvements from three existing city revenue streams: sales tax growth, major general fund growth and pension payment savings, his office says.

But Councilman David Alvarez said: “The Rebuild San Diego measure will NOT rebuild San Diego. It produces just 11 percent of the $1.7 billion we need to fix our streets, sidewalks and buildings in just the next five years.

“Additionally, the proposal has a giant loophole that allows city politicians to squander this money by giving bonuses to employees far removed from actual construction.”

The ballot measures were brought to the council last week, but were returned to the City Attorney’s Office for some minor language adjustments.

The proposed amendments to the charter, the city’s primary governing document, would:

  • Consolidate sections on budgeting and appropriations, and clarify the budgeting process.
  • Update sections related to financial operations.
  • Repeal and replace language about audits conducted on offices of elected officials upon their death, resignation and removal.
  • And dedicate sales tax growth and savings from reduced pension payments over the next 25 years toward neighborhood infrastructure improvements.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said: “We’ve made significant infrastructure investments over the last few years with better streets, parks and other improvements in neighborhoods across the city.

“The Rebuild San Diego ballot measure ensures that city leaders will continue to put our neighborhoods first for decades to come, and represents a major step forward toward building our better future.”

Councilwoman Myrtle Cole said results of a survey of San Diego residents presented earlier in the council meeting showed that “infrastructure is lacking. It needs to be a priority.”

Her Southeast San Diego district needs economic development, but attracting business is difficult when infrastructure is lacking, Cole said.

Kersey’s measure was opposed by Councilmen Alvarez and Todd Gloria and organized labor representatives.

They contend the plan won’t raise enough money to solve the infrastructure problem, especially in the first five years; would tie the budgetary hands of future mayors and City Council members; and requires that the city follow through with the “meet and confer” process with municipal employee unions.

City officials said they didn’t believe that bargaining with labor was required for the ballot measure, though a brief meeting was held with one union on Monday.

Changes to the City Charter, the city’s primary governing document, must be approved by voters.

San Diegans will have nine local propositions to consider in the primary election.

The crowded June ballot already included a proposed hike to San Diego’s minimum wage, changes to the city’s Redistricting Commission, and three other City Charter amendments similar in nature to those considered today. That’s on top of candidates running for president, mayor and City Council, a host of state and federal legislative offices, and numerous state propositions.

The City Council has had a Charter Review Committee working over the past year-plus to propose revisions that would bring the archaic and obsolete document up-to-date. More charter amendments could go before voters in November.

— City News Service contributed to this report.