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2005-01-10-Dick Murphy-'State of City' of San Diego 

Harrison Weblog

2005 blog


San Diego's 'State of City' ceremony
had Jewish angles, spoken and unspoken
,  Jan. 10, 2005

Although no City of San Diego elected official is a member of the Jewish community, Mayor Dick Murphy's State of the City message in Golden Hall on Monday evening, Jan. 10, had a number of Jewish angles—both in what was said and what wasn't.

It began with the introductions when, as a matter of protocol, the first two persons seated in the audience to be introduced were Congress members Bob Filner and Susan Davis, both members of the Jewish community and both important to one of the mayor's announced goals—to keep San Diego military bases off the 2005 Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC) list.

Davis is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, which is chaired by another congressman from San Diego County, Duncan Hunter. Filner is a high-ranking member of the House Veteran Affairs Committee, which also has influence on military decision-making.

Soon after their introductions, Deputy Mayor Michael Zucchet introduced two other members of the Jewish community, Sheriff Bill Kolender and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Murphy spoke again of Kolender during his speech when he praised the work of a joint task force headed by the sheriff and city fire chief Jeff Bowman that recommended steps the city needed to take in the wake of the disastrous October 2003 wildfires.

Besides adding equipment, including a permanent helicopter to be stationed at Montgomery Field, Murphy called for implementation of an effective brush management program in the city, where, he said, there are "900 linear miles where brush is adjacent to homes."  He called for enforcement of a program requiring brush clearance within 100 feet of homes and suggested innovative approaches to thinning other brush, including use of goats.

Some may criticize our mayor but no one 'gets his goat'

Among those introduced by Zucchet as members of  the honorary consular corps in San Diego was Robert Horowitz, representing the nation of Iceland.

An invocation by Rev. Mike MacIntosh of the Horizon Christian Fellowship and a benediction by Bishop George D. McKinney of the St. Stephen’s Church of God in Christ in San Diego both were offered  in the name of the "Lord," rather than invoking the name of Jesus—an unspoken acknowledgment that San Diego is a city of many faiths.

For the most part, Murphy's speech dwelled on his determination to put the city's fiscal affairs in order by remedying past inaccurate financial reporting and solving the pension crisis.  In the latter regard, he promised to pursue the issuance of $200 million in bonds, which the city's current bad bond rating now makes nearly impossible, and called for a two-year salary freeze "for all city employees including the mayor and council."

The freeze in salaries would not only save $40 million per year, but would also cause lower pension payouts in the future, he said.  He also called for increasing the amount of money city employees contribute to their own pensions—so that there is a 50-50 match. Such steps, he said, can prevent any need for "massive layoffs."

Concerning various investigations into how the city previously had reported its financial affairs, the mayor said he expected an audit for the year 2003 to be completed in the first quarter of this year and an audit for 2004 the following quarter. He promised cooperation with investigative bodies such as the Securities and Exchange System and said if there were any wrongdoing,  "those responsible will be held accountable."

Notwithstanding the city's financial woes, Murphy said he will continue to press for construction of the city's new central library—stressing the belief that it could be done without using money from the general fund. He said thanks to former state Sen. Dede Alpert (D-San Diego), there is a grant of $20 million available from the state government, which must be used or lost. Another $100 million is available in tax increment funds from the city's redevelopment agency, and, according to Murphy, private financing can make up the balance.  He dramatically announced a $1 million contribution by City Library Commissioner Matthew Hervey from the Hervey Family Trust, and called on "all San Diego foundations and businesses who love this city to support this cause."

Mayor Murphy also pledged continued hiring of police officers to "fight gang violence" and to bring the police department up to full strength, to work for more affordable housing, to keep the San Diego Chargers in San Diego on a permanent basis, and to develop a transition program for the voter-approved changeover to the "strong mayor" form of government.  
                                                                                                     —Donald H. Harrison