We’re San Diego's Non-profit, Non-partisan, Local Public Policy Think Tank & Government Watchdog Group

Our Mission

To support the public, civic leaders and policymakers with independent research on economic and quality-of-life issues impacting taxpayers and ratepayers countywide.

Our Policy Platform

Who We Are, What We Believe, and What We Want to See for San Diego

SDCTA is a nonpartisan association of individuals, businesses, and organizations who promote effective and efficient government on behalf of all San Diego County taxpayers. SDCTA engages civic leadership as well as the public to develop and promote well researched policy solutions.

SDCTA envisions a future where San Diego citizens receive a better return on investment in public assets and services.

SDCTA works to reduce the need for tax revenue or taxpayer debt by advocating for policies that create efficiencies in public services, which affect San Diegans’ quality of life and against policies that disengage, disaffect, and disenfranchise the taxpayer.

SDCTA’s focus for 2019 is to identify and support housing, homelessness, and behavioral health initiatives that maximize taxpayer investments, now and in the future.  

General Principles

  • We believe the free market through the private sector generally provides the private goods and services San Diegans need.

    • When advocates propose government intervention as a response to market failures, it is our association’s job to evaluate whether that intervention is appropriate.

  • We believe public goods and services should be provided as efficiently and effectively as possible from organizations in both the public and private sector through practices supported by data and academic research.

    • In pursuit of efficiency, for profit, nonprofit, and governmental enterprises should establish and track measureable goals when providing public goods or services.

    • Even if effective, an organization is more efficient if it can achieve those goals with less financial resources.

  • We believe practical leadership is vital, and “perfect” can be an impediment to progress.

    • Policy solutions should be scoped to the scale of the problem.

    • We acknowledge our community’s shared responsibility to assist those who cannot help themselves

    • Costs and benefits over the life of a project should be taken into account when determining the effectiveness and efficiency of a proposal.

    • Some policies have beneficiaries who should share in the responsibilities and risks of these proposals

    • We believe our staff have the capabilities, capacities, and character to identify reasonable solutions and to produce independent advice.

Our History

The San Diego Taxpayers Association was founded on September 18, 1945, just four days after the abrupt end of WWII. As the world entered the atomic era, San Diego's wartime economy evaporated. Factory production of warplanes halted and thousands were out of work. Meanwhile, political and civic leaders grappled with what San Diego should become in this brave new world.


The Association was founded by the "Broadway Barons” aircraft pioneer Claude T. Ryan; attorneys Walter Ames and J.D. Forward; contractors Roscoe “Pappy” Hazard and Walter Trepte; department store owner Guilford Whitney and others who felt that San Diego needed an independent civic organization separate and distinct from the City-subsidized Chamber of Commerce to monitor government spending and efficiency as San Diego planned its future in the post-war world.

In early 1946 the San Diego Taxpayers Association - SDTA (later SDCTA, when “County” was added to its name in the 1980’s) - hired its first Executive Director, Jack Borchers. Jack, a tax attorney by training, was fresh from serving on Admiral Nimitz’s staff in Hawaii. Jack initiated the detailed analysis and independent approach to issues that is still the signature of today’s Taxpayers Association.


The “Borchers’ era” resulted in SDCTA becoming a key player in San Diego’s civic establishment. Borchers worked closely with dairyman-Mayor Harley Knox in developing a constructive working relationship with local government. Jack served until 1955.

The Association’s second Executive Director, John Leppert (who retired as Assistant City Manager for the City of San Diego in 1997), ran SDCTA from 1955 to 1970 and cemented the Association’s role as a permanent civic fixture.

The work of SDCTA’s pioneers, its staff and its dedicated and hardworking Board of Directors is why public opinion polls consistently rank SDCTA as the most “influential” and “trusted” public policy institution in San Diego.