By E.A. Barrera
6th District City Councilwoman Donna Frye officially entered the race for San Diego Mayor on May 14, calling on city employees to voluntarily return the retirement credit’s they had accrued under the current Pension system. Speaking at the Mission Bay Visitor’s Center under a picture perfect clear blue sky, Frye addressed the murky financial and political vista caused by the pension crises facing the city. Frye blasted the current power structure at City Hall, specifically citing the region’s land developers as culprits who she said had helped to put the city near bankruptcy.
“We can no longer continue to subsidize corporate sports and private projects on public lands with a disproportionate share of taxpayers’ funds. The impacts from growth and development have not been adequately analyzed or mitigated and have added to our city’s debt,” said Frye. “Growth and development must pay its fair share to address the impacts on our city services and our quality of life.”
Close to 200 supporters turned out for the Saturday morning event, which had Mission Bay and Fiesta Island serving as the backdrop for the former Pacific Beach Surf Shop owner turned politician. She said the city “must protect the small, mom and pop businesses from redevelopment abuse” and stop allowing what she termed “the use of eminent domain to take private property away from small property owners and hand it over to the large and well-financed corporations.”
But while denouncing the development industry, Frye sided with San Diego’s Biotechnology Industry, saying the city’s employment future lay in science and research into solar and renewable energy.
“We must continue to collaborate with the Biotech industry and protect our industrial lands. I am committed to making sure that our employment lands are not rezoned to benefit land speculators, but are instead protected to allow for growth in research and manufacturing jobs,” said Frye.
The bulk of Frye’s speech was devoted to the city’s fiscal crises and what she has long termed “the culture of secrecy” that she said existed in City Hall. She made “open government” the theme of her campaign last Fall against Murphy.
“We need to tell people the truth and not shrink from adverse conditions but acknowledge them, accept responsibility for them and then act to change them in a direct and disciplined manner,” said Frye. “We must work for shared solutions and shared responsibility and not allow the dialogue to turn these troubled times into an “us vs. them” mentality because it will tear our city apart. The current unrest cannot be marked only by cynicism and distrust; we need to be committed to positive change.”
Frye said the people who created the mess should be fired and said the city needed a realistic audit of how deep the financial crises went.
“We must recalculate the retroactive and unfunded pension benefits. We need to remove the folks who are/were part of the pension mess and helped create it. We need to include retiree health in the calculations,” said Frye. “We must get the real pension deficit numbers, the real city budget numbers and begin using realistic numbers in the actuarial assumptions. We need the real numbers so we can complete the 2003 and 2004 audits, but we also need to understand the story of how those numbers came to be. We must establish a realistic payment plan to get back the money that the city has loaned to the redevelopment agencies. Right now, that amount is well over $200 million dollars.”