A Conversation With San Diego Mayoral Candidate Nathan Fletcher
October 7, 2013 1:12 p.m.
Nathan Fletcher, Former State Assemblyman
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition, we continue a series of interviews for candidates for San Diego Mayor. The special election in San Diego is set to select a successor for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. There are 10 candidates who remain in the race. Recently a 10 News and USA today poll found that top four candidates to be in alphabetical order Mike Aguirre, David Alvarez, Kevin Faulconer and David Fletcher. My guest today is candidate Nathan Fletcher. He ran for mayor last year and lost in the primary. Nathan Fletcher represented San Diego 75th state assembly district for two terms. Fletcher has been endorsed by several prominent Democratic elected officials including Congressman Scott Peters and has also been endorsed by the city firefighters and the city workers. Nathan Fletcher, welcome to the program.
NATHAN FLETCHER: Good afternoon. Here we are again.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is my first question to you. This is the second time that you've been a candidate for mayor of San Diego. I'm asking you now what are your top three policy priorities and have they changed from last year?
NATHAN FLETCHER: You know, in a lot of ways it does feel like a redo. We lost last time we are really advancing a lot of ideas and we are back and pushing a lot of those same ideas. We are talking about good quality jobs and making sure we are a competitive place for folks to get those good jobs not only an innovative economy but in manufacturing and exports advanced based economy with middle-class jobs and then the folks out in neighborhoods a lot of investment neighborhoods when you go out of the neighborhoods you see that they have been left behind and the status quo has failed to give folks the main things that they should deserve, good streets and good sidewalks and parks, communities that are safe. I received a lot of feedback from a lot of the devastating cuts on public safety so we are focusing on those two things, making sure we invest in our neighborhoods and making sure there's opportunity for good jobs. And then having a city that works and I want to be the Mayor because at the end of the day mayors of cities are the ones responsible for demonstrating leadership, for making the coalitions, for standing up for residents and getting the job done and it hasn't been getting done and I think we have an opportunity to do it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One thing that has changed since last year is you are now a Democrat after years of being a Republican serving the California assembly as a Republican. Why did you decide to change parties?
NATHAN FLETCHER: Somebody told me the other day, they said we want a leader who can bring all the parties together. I said that you have to support me because I've been in all the parties. But you know, Maureen, I had a very difficult relationship with the Republican Party the whole time. I was always somebody who supported a woman's right to choose, I supported equal rights regardless of sexual orientation. I had a commitment to the environment to preserving and protecting the environment and I cared a lot about the middle-class and working-class which I came out of a working-class family and the Republican Party in a lot of ways changed. If you look at what's going on in Washington DC today which is reflective of the party that is out of touch with the values of America. I think there was a huge influence by the tea parties and others that really got them to the right and it affected me and I also changed and as we go through life our values don't change and our commitment to making sure kids have a good education and good jobs don't change but the way you view the particular issues does and that whole area. And I'm very comfortable as a Democrat and I think that's why you see as you mentioned the Democratic leaders who have known me for years are all supporting me. But what never changes is the willingness to work with folks, to stand up for the residents and to find solutions and that's really what we need in the next Mayor, someone who can do those things.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Ever since Bob Filner won on an anti-downtown establishment pro neighborhood platform that same theme has been taken up by several candidates this year. You just mentioned it as one of your top priorities to focus more attention on the neighborhoods. Do you think that more dollars, actually more dollars, more attention needs to be spent on San Diego's neighborhoods?
NATHAN FLETCHER: There is no doubt. That is indisputable, you go into neighbors that don't have sidewalks and street lights and you understand why they get frustrated when every conversation is about a stadium. When the firefighter supported me, I am honored to have the endorsement of the San Diego firefighters but we went to a firefighter station in southeast San Diego because, as has been documented in a lot of communities in San Diego, the response times are 7 min. or less and in some they are 9 ½ min. There is no way we can be one as the city and allow one neighborhood or region in our community have to have such a dramatically lower, tremendous inequity in the delivery of services and the children in those communities are not worth less than the children and other communities and they shouldn't have to wait longer for first responders and shouldn't have basic infrastructure that is less. So I think the conversation is right. I'm glad that the candidates are talking about it. I wish that over the decades it hadn't been allowed to develop the way it is but I think we have to change it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Nathan Fletcher, is it super important for the Mayor of San Diego to have a vision for downtown San Diego?
NATHAN FLETCHER: I think it's important for the Mayor to have a vision for the city and you don't run promoting one neighborhood and attacking another. I'm certainly not bringing that approach. I want all of San Diego to thrive and be prosperous and do well but I think we have to acknowledge the reality and the reality is the status quo has put investment in some areas and others. We are going to build one city, we are going to lift everyone up and focus on how we move the city forward but I think we have to address the obvious.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What about the convention center expansion? Just recently the coastal commission staff has given the expansion a thumbs down. I'm wondering, do you still support that plan? You think we should still move forward on the convention center expansion?
NATHAN FLETCHER: I think it is important. It's important to the economy. I would like to see the concerns of what the coastal commission addressed and they did provide a path forward for how to do that. I take very seriously the coastal act and the coastal commission and our commitment to making sure that folks have access to the bay and beaches and we do these in environmentally sustainable ways but I think moving forward we've got to shift our focus because you hear a lot that we don't have money for public safety or we do not have money for libraries or parks but we managed to find a whole lot of money over the last decade for a lot of other things. I think convention industry is an important part of the economy and if I'm Mayor we will continue to grow and build it, but as a city we are more than just a convention destination and I think the Mayor should care about the people that live here 365 days a year as much as people who come for a weekend.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As Mayor would you listen to the Chargers if they came to you for a stadium plan for a multiuse stadium in downtown San Diego?
NATHAN FLETCHER: I'd listen to everyone I think that's all we need is a Mayor who listened every would listen to them, to labor, to the business committee, two environmental groups what I will always do is listen to every group that focus on a solution that's right for the people of San Diego. Be willing to stand up to any group and the Chargers are part of the community and they are part of who we are and I believe we can figure out a way to do it. But I think the first thing we've got to do is demonstrate to the residence that we have a commitment to investing in their neighborhoods. We are going to release our infrastructure plan to show how we do that and I think that has to be first priority for the next Mayor is investing a neighborhood so they get the basic services that they deserve and what we've done that and I think we can, can have conversations about some of these other issues.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, former Mayor Filner made homeless issues a top priority which you support your round funding for the downtown homeless tent?
NATHAN FLETCHER: I would support permanent funding for the shelter, but I think there's other ideas out there that help get the folks off the street and I think there's a number of really innovative things that are happening. There's a lot of federal funding a lot of work with veterans a lot of good ideas out there and we need a comprehensive solution that doesn't just focus on where we have them but how we help them rebuild their lives.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So you would support a year-round, money for a year-round, shelter?
NATHAN FLETCHER: I would, I would but here again that is part of the problem. So what we are doing is finding them somewhere to live and pay for their living I think there's a lot more we can do. I think we can couple of the folks rebuild their lives and get back on track where they could get back to work and provide their own type of housing. But I do think it is important that the way you treat your homeless says a lot about who you are as a city and I believe we can do better.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One of the reasons that the downtown homeless, the funding for the downtown homeless tent is even a question is because there was, seems to have been a problem with the budgeting for that under Mayor Filner. San Diego has suffered for a number of years from ups and downs in the budget process. We think we have the money, then we find we don't have the money for certain things. What would you do to make the budget process more consistent and transparent?
NATHAN FLETCHER: Well, having a balanced budget, yeah I went through the ups and downs of budgeting my time in the assembly and I think what is most important and what often contributes to this is we make poor fiscal decisions. People make decisions that feel good today but don't work out in the out years. As Mayor I'm committed to taking a tough stand and sing we are going to think wisely about how we spend taxpayer money today but also think about the obligations for the future. You saw that in the light of the financial crisis is people wanting to go along to get along and they took money out of the pension fund to fund other things they want authority for attractive benefits that they wanted they should've had a Mayor to stand up and say look this isn't right in may make everybody happen today, but down the road it will cause problems and if I'm the Mayor the days of those types of things are over. We are going to do the basic things city should expect. We're going to invest in neighborhoods make sure the communities are safe and we are going to be a competitive place for good paying jobs that pay a good wage and we will make sure that we never again are falling into the trap of these terrible financial decisions.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, after the Mayor's race Nathan Fletcher you went to work for QUALCOMM as a senior director of corporate development. And in the interest of full disclosure Irwin Jacobs of QUALCOMM is a major supporter of KPBS. Our media partner 10 News reported some of the workers at QUALCOMM are trying to figure out what it is you do there for a salary of more than, much more than six figures. What do you do?
NATHAN FLETCHER: Well this is one of the most frustrating things in politics and there's lots of questions out there that are fair and I'm happy to address my work at QUALCOMM but what 10 News did is absolutely irresponsible. They took one person who hid behind a veil who made accusations that are patently false. They came out and they said he doesn't show up to work, did some database programming that is not part of my job, said Paul Jacobs our CEO had not been there for 1100 days, they grossly inflated my salary and pay and reported that as news and I think it's really frustrating in today's world people gave politically biased untrue things that get said. I work hard at QUALCOMM, as senior director of corporate development I do a number of things are about business development projects where the technology is making the world a better place. I put a lot of effort into technology that we think can help to better find missing and abducted children, I've worked in law enforcement groups of how we can use technology to make the community safer. I work with leaders in the environment to figure out how we can use technology to actually reduce carbon emissions. I've done work on programs and outreaches around the world whether we are talking about HIV-AIDS monitoring, with more sustainable fisheries, worked on immigration reform and we brought a huge coalition of folks from business and labor and community and law enforcement and civil liberties altogether behind comprehensive immigration reform. And I present a big push for these things around the world on behalf of QUALCOMM. Working to help on a White House task force to help increase veteran employment. I mean, every day I'm committed to helping advance the business interest of the company that is our single largest private-sector employer and helping them be a good corporate citizen sitting on the corporate social responsibility committee and others and I'm proud of the work that I did. And I'm proud of them being a good corporate citizen partner in San Diego.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now QUALCOMM is reportedly sending out fundraising letters on your behalf. What will you owe QUALCOMM if you become Mayor?
NATHAN FLETCHER: Exactly what I owe everyone else who supports me and everyone who supports me is getting an investment in good government. They're getting an investment of someone who will make wise decisions, someone who will end (inaudible) someone who does the right thing for the people of San Diego and that's true for everyone who supports me; business leaders and labor leaders or community leaders that has always been the same. Am I going to push for good paying jobs? Absolutely. Absolutely. And I will push to create an environment where any company will have the opportunity to create those good paying jobs and that's really what I think the focus of our next mayor needs to be.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now the San Diego Mayor Democratic Party, the labor Council, other prominent Democrats although not the ones that support basically the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has endorsed candidate Dave Alvarez instead of you. How can you convince Democratic progressive voters that you are a real Democrat.
NATHAN FLETCHER: Honestly, I've never been good at partisan politics in either party. But, it's a good thing. That is not what being Mayor is about. I think what we have to convince the voters of is that I'm going to be a good Mayor. Going to be someone who focuses on solutions, someone who gets the job done, someone who does the hard work necessary to make sure that the basic services are being delivered. I don't think the voters are looking for an inherently partisan Mayor either way I think they want someone who can focus on solutions and I'm proud of the support I have in the Democratic party. You mentioned that we mentioned Congressman Juan Vargas and Congressman Scott Peters and Sen. Marty Block, (inaudible) Gonzales, former (inaudible) Mary Gonzales the speaker of the assembly to Sen. Pro tem of the Senate and some of these other folks who don't know me as well and that is okay and over time we will work together and I know we will work well together. I think what the public wants in the office of the Mayor is a leader who will make the city work.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Last Monday you released a plan to bring more than 130 well-paying jobs to San Diego. Can you, we are running out of time a little bit but that would be by the year 2020. Tell us a lot about that if you would.
NATHAN FLETCHER: We've outlined a plan to embrace the innovative and creative economies. That's a lot of the future of where we are headed as a country and we've got all listed on nathanfletcher.com, you can see the whole city co-branding campaign to focus on patents, a lot of work with the workforce partnership to make sure workforce people have skills but what we want to do is be the place in San Diego that embeds the ideas that make the world a better place and the second thing we want to do is actually make the products (inaudible) called for manufacturing on the Otay Mesa border in conjunction with the partnership with Mexico. So we want to invent the idea, we want to make the product and sell the product to 90% of the customers that live outside of San Diego. A lot of cities, Portland Chicago and others have done a lot to increase their exports and help even the small business exports. I think we can triple the number of San Diego businesses that export their product and what that does is build a balanced economic base that includes good working class and middle class jobs, the type of job I came out of. I was the first one in my family to go to college. I worked as a janitor in high school. I drove a forklift in college. We've got to have jobs where people can afford to buy a home, put their kids in college and have health. That's the kind of jobs that our economic plan will create.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Nathan you said early on in this conversation that this is the second go around for your time and Mayor San Diego Mayor. San Diegans said no for your bid last year. Why should they say yes now?
NATHAN FLETCHER: I think a lot of the message we talked about last time probably resonates more now. We talked about getting it done about finding solutions about working with people and I think a year ago our country was in maybe more divisive place and the message of a Carl DiMaio on the far right or Filner on the far left probably resonated little bit more but we've had a year and have realized what that gets us and what that approach gets us is a shutdown in government, what that approach gets us is an immigration system that is not resolved and even a the lack of progress on neighborhoods. For decades and I think the message resonates much more now and we see that every day when we are out campaigning. People are saying it is really time that we get our city moving forward and we think you are the right choice.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you so much for coming to see us
NATHAN FLETCHER: Good to see you, Maureen. I'm sure I will see you again over the next month or so. Thanks, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You can join us for a KPBS news special on the Mayor's race, a live debate that is on new on Monday, October 14th right here on Midday Edition.