January 27, 2006

Editorial:

National City in a Financial Crises

National City is in a financial crises and the city leaders are desperately wringing their hands trying to figure out what and where they can cut to make up for the $7 million dollars they are not getting from an increase in the sales tax that was recently rejected by the voters of National City.

It is painfully obvious that this city council and its’ mayor overextended the city budget which has put the city into the financial mess that it now finds itself in.

Since the election of Nick Inzunza as Mayor three years ago, this city council has been in high gear, apparently sparing no cost, in trying an extreme makeover of National City. The only problem with this makeover was that this is not the kind of city that can afford to spend beyond its’ means. Emblematic of the free spending attitude at city hall: the 18% pay raise the city council gave itself as one of their first actions, reducing the number of city council meetings per month to two, and the creation of 13 council districts.

Nick Inzunza then set out an aggressive agenda, a 10 point plan, to remake National City, more specifically the downtown core, and bay view area. The plan was somewhat akin to the theory of ‘if we build it, they will come.’ For example the preparation of the bay front next to the bay park for future businesses, which still sits empty. Fancy brochures were printed, expensive consultants were hired, TV commercials were aired, and promises were made – the Filipino Village for example.

This aggressive mode by the Mayor was looked upon by many within the community as his attempt to build a resume as quickly as possible in order to run for higher office. The question often asked was, where was the money going to come from to pay for all that was envisioned? The sense being that Inzunza would indeed leave the city, and a pile of bills behind.

Of course not all of this can be laid at the feet of the Mayor, it did take the support of the full city council which fell in line with Inzunza and pushed this impractical agenda through. And now the bill is due.

With the failure of the 1% sales tax the city no longer has the money to pay for basic city services which now requires the slashing of library hours, the closing of the city pool for most of the year, the reduction in the number of council districts, and the elimination of jobs. And yet, despite these proposals this is not nearly enough. The city will still be millions of dollars short in meeting their budget.

The City of National City does need to create change in the downtown area of the city, which they have done with the new library, new police station, educational center, primarily through grants and bonds. Some of these projects have taken a long time, 10 years for the library for instance. But, for the library to have to go dark on the weekends, after only a couple of months of completion, is unconscionable.

The Mayor and the city council were depending on the sales tax to pass to save their collective hide. Once this failed, by a wide margin, they were like the fairy tale king walking down the street with no clothes.

Now in order to fix their mistakes the city council is once again proposing to put their sales tax back on the ballot. They have no choice, the city has no other means of generating extra income to make up for their failure to be fiscally responsible in managing the city.

National City will be holding a Public Forum on the General Fund Crisis, Tuesday, January 31st, 2006 @ 6pm - MLK Center, 140 E. 12 street,  National City, CA 91950, where they will discuss the possibilities available to them in order to meeting their obligations.

Much of the talk has been in cutting back services to the community, such as the library, city pool, and jobs but there has been very little discussion in regards to scaling back the aggressive agenda set forth by Mayor Inzunza. It is time that city’s residents ask for an accounting in the area surrounding redevelopment like how much money is being paid to consultants and architects? Money is being spent by the city and it is not being consumed by the library after three months of operation.

In the meantime the city council can set an example and include their pay raises of three years ago in the 20% role back that they are asking the rest of the city departments to make. That would be taking the high road, the question is will they?

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