May 25, 2016 (San Diego) Last night KUSY and the Union Tribune held a debate between the three candidates for mayor in the city of San Diego. They were the incumbent, Republican Kevin Falconer, Independent Lori Saldana and Democrat Ed Harris. The debate was spirited but it also touched on areas of importance to San Diegans. Among the topics broached where wages, jobs, affordable housing and yes, the $1.7 billion deficit in the city budget.
On the Chargers, Falconer said that the Cory Briggs proposal to raise the Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) to fund a stadium downtown “does not pass legal muster.” Faucolner said that he was quoting the City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. He also said that the information will not be available for him to make a decision until after the June 7 election.
He also said that as far as the Chargers proposal is concerned, “this would be potentially one of the largest bond offerings in the city’s history. It is up to me as mayor to make sure we are getting the facts.” He has been trying to get all the consequences of these proposals with all the stake holders, including the Metropolitan Transit System and the San Diego Padres.
His office expects to get the assessment from MTS in July as to the cost to move the bus yard. He also said, and this became a mantra thought the debate, that it was his job not to repeat the financial mistakes of past mayors.
Saldana said that she supports “The plan that will preserve Fashion Valley and look for an increase in TOT that will go into the General Fund.” That said, she is concerned that the Chargers plan is not coming from any of the city departments, “but out of people who are frustrated with the slowdown in City Hall.”
Harris is not in favor of the Chargers and pointed out that “we have a $1.8 Billion budget problem. We have 911 emergencies, we are leaving people on hold.” He added, “I can’t support giving tax payer money to a billionaire. billionaires can pay for their own damn stadiums.”
He added that there are three plans on the table right now. There are then Chargers, the Citizens initiative, and then “there is Kevin’s plan, that is to give $350 million of tax payer’s money to build the stadium in Mission Valley.”
Then came issues of affordability and jobs. Faulconer insisted that one route we need to continue to press is the expansion of our tourist based economy. This economy relies on things like Comicon, and yes the Chargers staying in San Diego. This has created jobs and has become the engine, together with the innovation economy.
Saldana hit him on this fact. Yes, we are a tourism based economy, which is low pay, and with his position to the minimum wage increase the mayor gave up on the stimulus to the economy due to pent up demand. She also insisted we need to build up affordable housing. She insisted that we are going up on $60 million in federal Housing and Urban Development funds. and so did Harris.
Harris pointed out that we need to enforce the law and not go after people who rent out property, in short vacation leases, instead of longer term. He also insisted that the city needs to build up more low and medium income housing and look at near transit. This means going all the way from San Isidro up north.
The debate revealed a schism in ideas. While the mayor defended his record, strongly, both Harris and Saldana were critical since under his administration police services have declined, the 911 system is in disarray, and both poverty and homelessness have gone up. Saldana supports Proposition I, which will raise the wages in San Diego. The Mayor vetoed it.
As far as the Climate Action Plan, yes it is ambitious, but the mayor again pointed out this was a bipartisan effort, while both Harris and Saldana went into the implementation.For Harris bike paths are essential, and Saldana pointed out that there are things that need to be done, such as attending SANDAG meetings, which the Mayor missed, which kept funds away from the City.
Infrastructure is a deep issue this year. While the mayor defends his record on roads, Harris pointed out that police stations have sewage in locker rooms, leading to real morale problems and a continued delayed maintenance in the city.
Saldana pointed out that we need to raise more money. Prop H will not do all the job and higher wages are needed to also push up the tax income the city gets.She cited the Independent Budget Analysts on this.