A couple of weeks back I got an invitation to a "coffee with Carl" event in my neighborhood. City councilman Carl DeMaio is one of the mayoral candidates for San Diego. He's a libertarian-leaning Republican so he's a bit far to the right of this centrist. Nonetheless, I thought it was cool that he was doing this so I happily attended.
Before this night I thought of DeMaio as the "nut on the right" kind of like I thought of Donna Frye as the "nut on the left." But I will say that I don't think he's a nut any longer. Carl doesn't come across well in the sound bytes but he's alright...for a libertarian.
signage was up
First of all, I learned a lot about him.
- He started a company at 23 that consulted with local governments and sold the company
- He started another at 28 that did Sarbanes Oxley consulting
- He helped author the 2006 managed competition bill passed by San Diegans. He claims that for each implementation the average savings has been 30% whether the winner was private or public.
- The county library provides 25% more hours with $3.7M less budget than the city library. He's trying to change the way the city library system runs.
His current focus is proposition B which would implement certain pension reforms. For non-locals, our public pension plan was severely underfunded in the early part of the decade. The NYT exposed the problem and our city got the nickname "Enron-by-the-sea."
According to Carl (I did not fact check)
- 12 years ago, the pension payments were $48M, this year they were $232M
- The average city employee retires at 55 with payments of 129% of their highest salary
- Due to union influence, not just salary but skills pay and bonuses count towards the pension formula. Of course he gave a couple of ridiculous examples of what "skill pay" might be
- New hires get a 401k, not a pension
- Prop B would make the pension less attractive and incent current employees to voluntarily switch over to a 401k plan
yes, there were snack. an auspicious start to the night
Generally, Carl was preaching to the choir in this room. It wasn't quite "Amen," but I heard lots of "that's right" and "oh my God!" from around me. I guess there are a lot of Republicans in my hood.
The Toastmaster in me has to speak up for a bit. Carl's talk was about 15 minutes which was a good duration. He finished with a call to action (asking for volunteers and donations) which is a good thing to do as a speaker. He was a little "um" heavy but otherwise he was smooth. (The "um"s increased noticeably during the Q&A.) He had a good repertoire of memorized facts which gave him an aura of competence. For all the "grass roots" language, I could tell he was a pro politician. His image and brand were very packaged. If I were him I'd work on dialing that back a little bit. Also, during the Q&A he liked to say "great question" before giving his answer. But I didn't get a "great question." What's up with that. ;)
folks filtering in
Probably the most impressive thing to me on the night was the book he published giving his plan for San Diego. He wrote it a few years back so some of the ideas have been implemented already. May is going to be a killer for me schedule-wise, but I will be reading through that before the fall election so that I have a better sense of his plans.
One of the messages I didn't like was his focus on pay for performance. I am a Drive devotee and I think this idea is misguided. To be fair to Carl, a lot of city workers are blue collar and pay incentives work better for those kinds of jobs. BTW, if you've never seen the Drive 10-minute whiteboard video, do it! It's really enjoyable and informative.
best shot I got with my waterproof camera
With the new election laws, if one candidate gets 51% in the primary, he'll be mayor. There are 4 serious candidates and nobody is polling that high. If the current numbers hold, DeMaio and Democrat Bob Fillner will be the top two and have a runoff in the fall. I have to say, if that comes to pass I will vote for DeMaio. I am not a Fillner fan. Not at all.