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A sober start for San Diego mayor

The New Mayor, Jerry Sanders, quickly warned of possible layoffs as the city teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.

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Former police chief Jerry Sanders gained a reputation as an organizational savior after helping the local United Way and Red Cross recover from scandals. Now, Mr. Sanders has become the new mayor of this beleaguered city of 1.3 million, and his Mr. Fix-It skills are confronting the ultimate test.

Last week, the moderate Republican gave a glimpse of his governing style and revealed himself to be anything but a Pollyanna. In a hoopla-free inaugural address, perhaps the grimmest in the city's 155-year history, San Diego's fourth mayor since July declared that the city "is mired in a financial and ethical crisis of historic proportions," and warned residents of the need for "sacrifice." Yet he did not mention the city's most pressing threat: bankruptcy.

As Sanders takes office, San Diego is on the edge of a financial black hole. Years of mismanagement left it with an employee pension-fund deficit estimated at $1.4 billion. The bills are coming due, and the city can barely borrow money to stay afloat. Government malfeasance has also led to a rash of indictments, a humiliating mayoral resignation, and corruption trials.

On his first day on the job, Sanders alerted city workers to possible layoffs.

The city has already cut library hours and reduced park maintenance. Residents have complained about overgrown trees and unfilled potholes, and there's talk that the city might unload valuable property.

Sanders, who comes into office as new mayoral powers take effect, could slash the budget and demand concessions from municipal unions whose employees are slated for gold-plated pensions.


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