Voters send city leaders a wake up call during 2010 - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Voters send city leaders a wake up call during 2010

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The city of San Diego's ailing finances dominated the City Hall agenda once again in 2010, as voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed half-cent sales tax increase in November and elected a City Council member who promised to shake things up.

The council majority responded to the setbacks by making Tony Young -- the member considered the most able to work with various factions on the council and in the city -- the panel's president. Young, upon accepting the appointment, made solving the city's structural deficit his top priority for 2011.

"Don't be surprised if you see that on the agenda every week until that's corrected," Young told his colleagues.

The task became more critical in November when nearly 62 percent of voters rejected Proposition D, which would have raised the sales tax from 8.75 cents to 9.25 cents for five years and generated about $102 million annually for the city's general fund.

Mayor Jerry Sanders has projected a budget shortfall for San Diego of $72 million during the next fiscal year.

The opposition to Proposition D was led by Councilman Carl DeMaio, who is part of the "reform" wing of the council, along with Kevin Faulconer.

"By defeating Prop. D, San Diegans have issued a mandate for reform and change in city government," DeMaio said on election night.

Voters strengthened the reform cause by adding to the council Lorie Zapf, who defeated former Democratic Assemblyman Howard Wayne 53 percent to 47 percent to replace the termed-out Donna Frye in a district that includes Clairemont, Bay Park, Kearny Mesa, Linda Vista, Mission Valley and Serra Mesa.

New Councilman David Alvarez could also alter the complexion of the panel. He won 58 percent to 42 percent over Felipe Hueso in a district that covers Barrio Logan, Grant Hill, Golden Hill, Sherman Heights, Stockton, Logan Heights, Memorial, Southcrest, Otay Mesa and San Ysidro.

Alvarez replaces Ben Hueso, who led the council majority but was termed out. The younger brother of Felipe Hueso moved on to the state Assembly.

Two issues on which city leaders delayed action returned late in the year -- lifting a financial cap on downtown redevelopment and building a new City Hall.

In June, the City Council voted unanimously to hire a consultant who would take 15-18 months to study whether to increase a cap on tax revenue funneled to the city's downtown redevelopment arm from $2.9 billion to about $9 billion.

A portion of tax revenues generated by downtown construction goes to the Centre City Development Corp. to fund future projects, but there is a lid on the total amount taken in during the life of the agency, and several large projects are being proposed -- including a new stadium for the Chargers football team.

In October, the cap was lifted to $6 billion -- $3 billion less than originally intended -- in the waning hours of the state Legislature's session after a closed-door deal between Mayor Jerry Sanders and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego.

The deal drew the ire of DeMaio and other council members, who felt they were left out of the process. DeMaio wrote in a memo that the "unilateral action at the request of a state legislator completely disregards a public process."

On replacing the deteriorating City Hall, council members planned to place a project before voters in November, but the ballot plan was vetoed by Sanders, who was worried that it would conflict with the ill-fated sales tax increase measure.

Perhaps stung by Proposition D's fate, some council members apparently want to reconsider the proposed City Hall construction project -- and might vote to approve it themselves early in 2011.

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