By Doug Porter
The cheering for the city administration’s Rebuild San Diego plan wasn’t quite as loud as expected yesterday, as critics from both the right and the left made their discontent known. Mayor Faulconer held a press conference yesterday in front of the construction in progress for a new library in Skyline Heights, urging the city council to place the plan before the voters in June.
The Times of San Diego reported that the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, a group known for its advocacy of conservative fiscal positions, was skeptical about Councilmember Mark Kersey’s ballot proposal to budget billions for infrastructure needs. The SDCTA offered up a list of suggestions, saying they were wary of ballot-box budgeting.
Councilmember David Alvarez offered up an alternative infrastructure proposal with a more aggressive timeline of ten years relying on a combination of property tax increment, debt service savings, and use of general fund savings realized through efficiencies.
Alvarez asked that his proposal and other proposals from members of the public be considered by the Infrastructure Committee before the Council takes action, noting that enacting a funding plan through the municipal code would save taxpayers dollars spent on a ballot measure while insuring future flexibility in dealing with fiscal emergencies.
The District 8 council representative also noted future savings in pension contributions cited in the Rebuild San Diego plan represented a critical misunderstanding of actuarial analysis, saying the hypothetical cost reductions should not be considered a reliable funding source.
The local broadcast media pretty much lapped up the hype, wowed by talk of billions for infrastructure at the mayor’s press conference.
“Faulconer wants $5B for street projects” was the headline at 10News. “‘Rebuild San Diego’ Measure Targets Neglected City Projects” topped off the NBC7 story. CBS8 ran a headline questioning who’d pay, but started out with:
Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Councilman Mark Kersey has a plan to “Rebuild San Diego” at no extra cost to taxpayers.
Another Point of View
Jim Stone of Circulate San Diego, and Stephen Russell of the San Diego Housing Federation posted an op-ed at the Voice of San Diego yesterday, calling for the inclusion of affordable housing as part of any infrastructure program.
Neither of the groups we run, the San Diego Housing Federation and Circulate San Diego, is ready to support the measure as written. However, we recognize that increasing infrastructure funding is vital to the economic and environmental sustainability of our region. A key component to making an infrastructure program work holistically is to dedicate a portion of those funds to affordable homes near public transit. SANDAG datashows that San Diego consistently fails to build sufficient affordable homes to meet the city’s need.
San Diego is experiencing a tremendous housing affordability crisis. We are building far fewer affordable homes than required. Low-income workers, and families just starting out, need a home within reach of their paychecks so that they can get a foothold in the San Diego economy. Also, research shows that building affordable homes near public transit creates a measurable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. That can help San Diego accomplish the goals of our historic Climate Action Plan. Not only are affordable homes good for the economy and working people, they can help the environment as well.
The authors then proceed to lay out two ways for financing affordable homes: a dedicated percentage of infrastructure funds for direct building by contractors and/or using infrastructure dollars to offset the fees affordable developers pay the city to reduce the cost of affordable housing.
District One: Minimum Wage Referendum Turnout Needed
The race between Ray Ellis and Barbara Bry for the city council seat of (termed out) Sheri Lightner, though technically non-partisan, is considered the key contest in terms of the balance of power.
Democrat Joe LaCava’s recent withdrawal from the contest could translate into an advantage for Republican Ray Ellis. A two person race is almost certain to be decided in the June primary, which historically tends to turn out more conservative voters.
Many of the business concerns associated with the dirty tricks campaign to overturn a city council vote increasing the minimum wage are backing Ellis. A recent press release mentions endorsements from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors, the California Restaurant Association of San Diego County, the Building Industry Association of San Diego County, the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the San Diego Hotel-Motel Association, and the San Diego chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America and Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.
Democrat Barbara Bry may benefit if supporters of a minimum wage increase are able to mobilize turnout for a referendum on the city council’s proposed pay boost (and earned sick days) for low-income workers.
Competition for Mayor, School Board Races
Also hoping for an increase in labor and progressive turnout will be former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, who announced her intention to run against incumbent Mayor Kevin Faulconer yesterday.
The Union-Tribune was happy about having some competition in the mayor’s race.
Saldaña is running as an independent. That makes her a long shot, especially if the Democratic Party chooses not to openly help her with get-out-the-vote efforts, organizing and getting her message out. But she is a credible candidate and is likely to be embraced by the many local Democrats who want devoted progressives, not moderates, in office.
Her remarks in an interview with Voice of San Diego will resonate with this group. Saldaña said poor people have not been well-served by local government, getting only “crumbs” from City Hall, not badly needed services. She said that proposals to subsidize an NFL stadium for the Chargers amounted to throwing “good money after bad.”
But Saldaña also criticized local Democrats for pressuring her to support mayoral candidate Bob Filner despite her warning the party’s leadership in 2011 that he was a human time bomb with a history of treating women horribly. She endorsed Filner, who won in 2012 and then resigned in August 2013 after facing numerous sexual harassment allegations, clearing the way for Faulconer’s 2014 special election win.
Saldaña also was critical of the partisan “dual-party system,” saying it “creates a very combative approach to politics instead of problem-solving.”
San Diego Unified Trustee Marne Foster will be challenged by LaShae Collins, a staff member in Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s office. Foster has been dogged by scandals for two years now and is under investigation by the District attorney’s office.
I’ll tell you more about those contests when I know more.
The Times, They Are a-Changing
Former publisher Papa Doug Manchester must have been less than pleased when the Union-Tribune cited Voice of San Diego twice in its editorial lauding the advent of competition in these races. They even mentioned the Reader. Not-so-long-ago reporters from the daily were forbidden to even appear in local media without approval.
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is actively soliciting public input as they consider a half-cent sales tax measure for the November election. It’s actually kind of scary: ads from the group are popping in my internet browsing.
County Supervisor and SANDAG’s Ron Roberts (he chairs both groups currently) has an op-ed in the Times of San Diego offering up ways for the public to engage in letting planners know what their priorities should be.
While I’m justifiably cynical about SANDAG’s past actions (or in-actions, as the case may be), I feel it’s important to respond when government asks for an opinion. Who knows? They might even listen. Go read the article at the Times and add your two cents if you please.
Yesterday the Climate Action Campaign hosted an event at the 24th Street trolley station announcing the creation of a Quality of Life coalition of 20 community-based and labor organizations representing over 125,000 San Diegans.
They hope to work with SANDAG on a vision for better transit, cleaner air, good jobs and safe streets. The implicit promise here is that the group will be supportive of the SANDAG ballot measure come November if they like what they see. Included in the coalition are Mid-City CAN (Community Advocacy Network), Circulate San Diego, IBEW Local 569, SanDiego350, Environmental Health Coalition, and the Center on Policy Initiatives.
On This Day: 1937 – Workers won a two-day sit-down strike at the Brooklyn electric plant that powered the city’s entire subway system. 1940 – In Rockford, IL, Frank Sinatra made his first public appearance with the Tommy Dorsey band at the Coronado Theater. 1961 – President John F. Kennedy appointed Dr. Janet G. Travell as the first woman to be the “personal physician to the President”.
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