In the November 2nd, 2010 election, Proposition D was voted down 62% to 38% in the City of San Diego. If it had passed, the proposition would have raised the city sales tax from 8.75% to 9.25%, costing the taxpayers $500 million. The ‘No on D’ campaign was spearheaded by Carl DeMaio, City Councilmember for District 5. Though proponents of the proposition claimed that the increase was necessary to maintain city services such as fire and police, DeMaio argued that there were no guarantees that the money would go to these services. Because Proposition D did not pass, budget reform is now a necessity. DeMaio has published a ‘Roadmap to Recovery’ detailing his plans to reform the city’s finances. I had the opportunity to interview Councilmember DeMaio about his life, ideas and goals, and the following is an excerpt from that interview:
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: “I was born and raised in Orange County, CA until age 13 when my mother passed. I was taken in by the Jesuits and went to boarding school in Washington, D.C.”
Q: Where did you go to college and what is your favorite memory of your college experience?
A: “I attended Georgetown University while working full-time and finished in two and a half years to save money. My favorite memory is when I was so disgusted with the school government that I ran a protest campaign called “The Challenge.” I asked the students to write in “The Challenge” on the ballot if they were upset as well. “The Challenge” won 28% of the vote and came just four points shy of winning.”
Q: How, when, and why did you first become involved in politics?
A: “I worked with the Republicans on budget issues on Capitol Hill and became frustrated with the wasteful spending. My first company worked closely with government on reform topics and efficiency and focused on California and San Diego in particular.”
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
A: “I would describe it as ‘from the gun.’ I’m not worried about the political consequences of doing the right thing. I listen to the public and their concerns and let them drive my focus.”
Q: What politicians do you have the most respect for and why?
A: “Chris Christie is doing a great job in New Jersey. He’s fighting issues similar to those that I am here in San Diego. He’s going up against the unions and challenging government to rethink how it runs.”
Q: What are the most pressing issues facing San Diego and California at large?
A: “Pensions, both city and state, are the most pressing issue. We need to bring benefits in line with the local labor market. Right now they are out of control and unsustainable. The taxpayers are burdened and services have gone down.”
Q: What are your proposals to help fix the San Diego budget crisis?
A: “Pension reform is on the top of the list. We need to reform existing benefits, avoid pension spiking, make sure that public employees pay their fair share for the price of pensions, and sign new employees in under a more affordable system.”
Q: What issues do you support that you believe independents would support? In other words, why would people cross the aisle to support your policies?
A: “Pensions transcend parties. Everyone is and should be upset when government wastes taxpayers’ money. Government waste brings people together on both sides of the issue.”
Q: What do you believe is your strongest asset?
A: “The public. Government will never reform itself. It needs constant public pressure. That’s why I always aim to educate and engage the public. My team of advisers and additional staff are also a very strong asset.”
Q: What do you think about alternate forms of energy?
A: “We need solar energy. San Diego is sunny and the government should embrace that as part of its energy plan. We should also make it easier for the public and small businesses to use solar energy.”
Q: What do you believe the place of unions is in the modern economy?
A: “I have no problem with labor unions. I only have a problem with unions’ influence in politics through campaign contributions. The government shouldn’t be bowing to unions over taxpayers. Membership should not be mandatory, and dues should not be used for political purposes.”
Q: Government involvement in the economy is growing. What is your opinion on how to both improve the economy & reduce the size of government?
A: “Government needs to get out of the way of small businesses. Many mandates applied to small businesses create extra costs and time delays that they simply can’t afford. Government needs to help, not hinder. It needs to be held accountable for providing quality services such as roads, water, sewer systems, schools, etc. Without good quality services, how can families and small businesses flourish? The two go hand in hand.”
Christopher is a senior in Muir College majoring in Linguistics.