Welcome to Day 5 of the SDFP Virtual Mayoral Forum. (See Day 1, Asking about managed competition, here , Day 2, Looking back on the Plaza de Panama controversy, here, Day 3, The Building Permit Process is a Hot Mess and Plans for the Planning Department, here. Day 4. Walkable/Bikeable Neighborhoods and Public Transit, here.)
With input from our many contributors, editors put together a series of eight questions we felt were unique, not too open ended and not trite. We’re publishing one response from the candidates per day (Monday-Friday) so readers can see the verbatim responses side by side.
We emailed the questions to the addresses listed with the City Clerk’s office as contact points, knowing most of the minor candidates wouldn’t respond. Kevin Faulconer’s campaign is refusing to participate. We can only assume–and, believe me we’ve tried to get them involved– their non-response sends a message about their openness to the citizens in this city. You can decide what that message is.
Editor’s note: According to his campaign staff, Nathan Fletcher did not receive our questions until after we began publishing this virtual forum. His responses have since been added to past questions and are included today.
The complete questionnaire can be found here.
SDFP editor Anna Daniels provides insight into why we asked this question that includes information about a critical City Council vote on the issue that occurred last night.
California Congresswoman Barbara Lee once stated “Budgets are moral documents but they don’t lend themselves to moral reading.” Capital Improvement Project (CIP) budgets are probably the least likely to generate the kind of reading that Lee encourages. Capital improvements are the realm of engineers and architects who are responsible for streets and right of way features; storm water and drainage systems; water and sewer systems; public buildings such as libraries, parks recreational and community centers; and public safety facilities such as police, fire and lifeguard stations.
It is these very things however which create the essential underpinnings of liveable neighborhoods. It is impossible to address the issues of neighborhood mobility raised in Day 4 of our SDFP mayoral forum without assessing the state of neighborhood infrastructure and remedying deficiencies. The City of San Diego has a long history of deferred maintenance and infrastructure investment which was compounded by the near economic collapse of the global financial markets in 2008. But beyond those two factors, which had City-wide impacts, there has been a long history of infrastructure investment neglect in a number of neighborhoods, particularly those south of Route 8 in the oldest part of the City. Community activists have spent decades advocating for street lights, parks, and most recently, for fire stations in those communities.
On October 28, the City Council unanimously voted to accept policy 800-14, the Prioritization of CIP Projects. This policy is nothing short of remarkable–it acknowledges issues of equity, strives for objectivity and consistency, emphasizes environmental sustainability and provides more transparency in the process. It is the culmination of almost three years of advocacy by the Community Budget Alliance, the diligence of City staff and the leadership of Councilman Mark Kersey on the recently constituted City Council Infrastructure Committee.
The introduction to the policy clearly states why capital improvement projects and their prioritization are necessary.
The importance of quality infrastructure cannot be overstated. Without world class infrastructure the City’s economic prosperity cannot be sustained. The quality of neighborhood infrastructure will directly determine the livability of the City’s neighborhoods. The community’s health, safety, and natural environment will depend on available and quality infrastructure. Decisions about capital investments affect the availability and quality of most government services, as well as many private services.
Infrastructure can also have a significant effect or improvement on the quality of life of the City’s neighborhoods by providing fair, transparent and equitable services. The prioritization of CIP projects that create that infrastructure should take into consideration social, economic and geographic disadvantaged and under-served communities. Under-served community is defined as having documented low levels of access and/or use of City services.
Councilwoman Marti Emerald, in her support of the policy, expressed the desire that one day the term “under-served” community would disappear from our civic lexicon, that her “hope was to ensure that every community will be equally served.”
When we invest in public infrastructure and facilities, we are investing in people’s lives and in their livelihoods. When we invest in streetlights, sidewalks, libraries and fire stations, we are investing in people’s lives and in their livelihoods. Budgets are indeed moral documents.
5. Infrastructure Maintenance Backlog/Deferred Capital Projects
According to the Independent Analyst Report Number 13-27 (6/20/13) the City is facing “deteriorating infrastructure and a significant backlog of deferred capital projects, currently estimated to be $898 million for streets, facilities, and storm drains. However, this estimate is likely much higher since it is based on an outdated and partial condition assessment…”
How would you prioritize where maintenance and infrastructure investments should be made based upon the reasonable assumption that the full amount of funding necessary will occur over a period of years?
I prefer the “Fix-it-First” approach, which utilizes a variety of strategies to meet needs specific to the City of San Diego and it’s varied communities. Cities and states have begun to recognize they can save money by more efficiently utilizing the roads, housing, schools, and utilities they already in place in many cities and suburbs rather than spending money to build new infrastructure and facilities in undeveloped areas.
First, the City needs to spend funds more efficiency by targeting investment in areas with existing infrastructure and facilitating development in areas most suitable for growth, as well as coordinating planning around common development goals.
Second, the City must increase economic competitiveness by improving existing community infrastructure to create places that are appealing for business and residential investment. To make San Diego communities attractive to investors, we need to create incentives to revitalize and restore the economies of targeted areas.
Finally, we must make enhance quality of life a primary priority by creating incentives for communities to pursue coordinated development goals and removing the barriers to the construction and rehabilitation of schools in established areas.
It’s important to recognize that while many benefits can result from a fix-it-first approach, city leaders must have a specific goal in mind. Whether the primary goal is to help relieve strained budgets through greater efficiency in spending, achieving greater efficiencies by coordinating agencies and comprehensively mapping investments to ensure the greatest impact of limited spending, or to increase economic competitiveness, the goal must guide all City infrastructure investment, planning, enhancement and development decision-making.
The Council has operated in the dark in terms of infrastructure and reinvestment needs for too long. As Mayor, I will better use existing data to gain a clearer picture of our true backlog. With current and accurate information, the City can make better decisions that will save taxpayer money and bring us up to date faster.
Our infrastructure backlog didn’t develop overnight, and it will take many years to address all of our deferred projects. As Mayor, I will explore new sources of funding, such as general obligation bonds (which are voter-approved and at a lower interest rate, saving taxpayer dollars when compared to a traditional bond) and potential public-private partnerships to start rebuilding San Diego. Bonding while interest rates are low, and building while construction costs are relatively low will take careful planning, but will pay dividends in avoided and reduced maintenance costs. I will also dedicate significant portions of any surplus tax revenues to infrastructure needs, as prioritized by neighborhoods.
Ultimately, the solution to prioritization is to engage and listen to residents. The City has been able to pave hundreds of miles of roads over the last few years and repair many facilities that had deteriorated to unacceptable levels. However, we still have a long way to go and it is critical that as we move forward in addressing our infrastructure needs City Hall engages the public in what projects should have the highest priority. As Mayor, I will ensure a fair, open, and transparent process to listen to resident needs.
The future of communities and our priorities is also driven in large part by community plans. In San Diego the majority of community plans are old, out-of-date and do not reflect the best practices in city planning. Therefore, development decisions are being driven by documents that no longer reflect the values and priorities of the residents who live in those communities. Obsolete plans also mean developers have to spend more time and money seeking community plan amendments and producing their own environmental impact reports. This extra cost prevents many developments from moving forward. Community plans provide our residents a direct voice in the future of their neighborhoods and provide the business community with the certainty needed to stimulate investment from the private sector. As Mayor, I will update all community plans that are over 15 years old by the end of my first term.
Probably $5B. Cannot do anything until finances + pension problem solved.
It’s clear that some neighborhoods have historically been more neglected than others. Nearly three years ago, the city received a report showing that a 9-‐1/2-‐square-‐mile area was at a higher risk of delayed response to 911 calls because of a lack of fire stations, but no action has been taken to rectify that situation.
Addressing neighborhood neglect with public safety implications will be my top priority. I plan to complete an honest assessment of our needs and develop a funding plan to address them. Then I’ll appoint a neighborhood investment director to oversee the entire effort and ensure projects are being done efficiently and according to schedule so we don’t fall further behind. Once we have a clear plan and path to address the neglect, I’ll identify a maintenance schedule and funding needs so that we don’t build up a massive backlog again.
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