Meet Ed Harris, San Diego's Newest Councilman
April 9, 2014 1:25 p.m.
Ed Harris, San Diego City Councilman, District 2
Related Story: Meet Ed Harris, San Diego's Newest Councilman
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Our top story on Midday Edition, the newest member of the San Diego city Council joins us today, Ed Harris, retired Marine and career lifeguard in San Diego will represent District number two, that is Kevin Faulconer's old district. Harris was appointed to fill out Faulconers turn on the city Council voted 5 to 3, and his replacement turmoil and this December. He will not be running in this year's district to election. Welcome to the show.
ED HARRIS: Thank you for having me.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Although the city Council isn't supposed to be partisan, it's a fact that you're a Democrat and it's been noted that this little counsel is now six Democrats, three Republicans, would you be promoting a Democratic agenda on the Council?
ED HARRIS: You should know that it is not partisan, but we're all part of the party. And so, the agenda that I will promote is finishing the term of the Council number that was there, finishing the process in the progress that get made and ensuring that constituents are represented well, and the decisions are made in a bipartisan manner in a manner that is good for the city and its citizens.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Some of most closely watched items on the Council, I will take them one at a time, a possible measure on a hike in the city's minimum wage, what is your stance on that?
ED HARRIS: San Diego is an expensive place to live in and people need to have affordable wages. I am a firm advocate of the middle class and raising that level of lower class to an acceptable living wage. We also have to be cognizant that we have a budget and an economy, and jobs that need to come in, there are studies that have been done on both sides. Either one will tell you that raising minimum-wage either promotes or kills job growth, and I think you need to take a step and look at that there's no hope in the proposal and will come to the compromise that is acceptable, to move forward in that manner.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So you don't have a strong feeling for or against minimum wage hike?
ED HARRIS: I am very for a higher minimum wage, that he be clear that that number is not determined.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What is your view on how to finance? The numbers changed of two of them in dollars in infrastructure repair.
ED HARRIS: I'm concerned about in getting the city to the point that we are in danger once again, and sell at the same time we are losing money because when our pipes break we have liability, we flooded residences and businesses, and we have to look right now is a good time to borrow money because many is rather inexpensive. We have reserves in which those are going to gain interest in those interests will be at higher rates moving down the road. It may be and is at this point the Council's direction to borrow money and there may be more, but we have to watch that balance and we cannot get past encumbering our assets to the point that there is a potential for trouble.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I remember Kevin Faulconer said it was not necessarily going to be his first choice to the voters for a large infrastructure bond, you agree with that? Or is that still on the table for you?
ED HARRIS: That is still on the table, in a perfect world we would pay as because most of us do with our households and we try to borrow as little money as we can. But the city, enforcement has not been taken care of. The Council that is their right now and this mayor has inherited a backlog of deferred maintenance that is affecting our way of life and affecting the city's economy moving forward, we cannot avoid spending $2 million to fix the street and then pay $3 million to fix a residence because the story was flooded.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You were appointed to fill up the term of Kevin Faulconer, why did you want this job?
ED HARRIS: I think it's a great opportunity, I have a young family so it is not a job that I can take for eight years. This was unexpected to me. But when it popped up, I really looked at it and said I can do eight months and I have a chart desire to ensure, my focus is on my family certainly and the use that might kid still want to play, but I also want to make progress in making sure that might kids have a acceptable place to play. I grew up in Orange County, where every field is developed and I cannot hear because there was less traffic, less impact, and we have the beaches. When I was up there there were orange groves and there are not any more. My ability and desire to protect the coastline and make sure that we have clean water and make sure we leave a place that is not covered by debt for the next generation.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: District 2 for everyone listening includes the civic beach, so to Point Loma and Ocean Beach, [ CHECK AUDIO ] at the top of your agenda, what is at the top of your agenda for Council District 2?
ED HARRIS: The top of my agenda to get with all of the community groups and find out more, I am very tight end with Ocean point point Loma PDF but Bella Vista, point Park, there are a plenty that I need to get familiar with and I don't have a huge agenda to accomplish big projects in eight months, I want to finish what is in the pipe and make sure that there's not delay in pushing up through. And then, at the same time I want to find out what is frustrating residence and really listen to them. I want to find out. I'm a normal guy, who often talk to people who walk their dogs outside of my house and I learned a lot, I want to do that around the whole city.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: He once said that you wanted to represent the district to because you wanted to advocate for the coastline and that had been missing in district 2, using the Kevin Faulconer did not advocate for the coastline?
ED HARRIS: No, I think Kevin did a good job and I think they're under tough budget constraints as we all know, so what frustrated me was the public safety side and homeless issues that we need to take care of. There has not been funding for that, if you go to community groups with the current mayor and council person who is very widely liked and crew that is why he is in office, you learn a lot when you just step in their shoes in two days, the staff and district to is phenomenal, and so, missing would not be the right term. But with budget and enhancements and other intentions, there is ability to do that now.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You feel that you are up to speed now on some of the issues but obesity counsel? Would you have some real homework to do?
ED HARRIS: I started with the homework an hour after I was sworn in on Monday evening. I plan to carrying on and the nice thing about an eight month schedule I will carry a hard and heavy schedule and be very encouraged and I do know a lot of the issues, but there are a lot. Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Linda Vista, these are all communities that have a lot of volunteers and a lot of community interest. My job is to learn what I don't know already, I was at a community meeting last night at about a new playground in Ocean Beach, we've been watching out for twenty years from the lifeguard tower walls watching the water. Some issues I am very aware of, others I need to get caught up with.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It was not long ago that your name was in the next as a possible candidate for the upcoming District 2 election. Is what you're saying now, you've looked at that and thought about spending eight years on the city Council? And you just decided not to run?
ED HARRIS: One of the things that you learn in emergency responses risk versus reward. You learn a lot as you are starting to run and what that actually entails. The risk versus reward for me is that I would deal the represent the district for eight years and move forward and provide a lot of input but the risk is my family, with a nine-year-old girl and a ten-year-old boy and my wife, we really sat down and to be honest with you I had an hour within the meetings to go out with my son and I had a crazy day, I had not seen him in three days and I asked him, to want me to run? And he said no. I told you that before. But they have encouraged and they are good with eight months.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You received a vote from council members Gloria Zapf, which may have been your arrival if you had run for the election this year, what you think she voted for you?
ED HARRIS: Lori and I have had a working relationship and she is pushed for lifeguard issues in the past. I'm no longer running now and I think that not only Lori but it needs to be known that there are two other Republicans, I am strong with Sherry Lightner, and always happen. The Council districts and the Democrats and Republicans, they looked at this and said what is best for the district? Who can get in there and could we have a history working with? David Alvarez as well, from day one he was the furthest from the coast but he has always been interested in lifeguard issues and environmental issues, all of them I think just looked at the district may put partisanship aside. That says a lot.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Could it be that council members asked ñ voted for you because you'd rather face the person you are now endorsing the election for district to? She voted for you to fill in this replacement terms that we you could not be facing her for election for District 2.
ED HARRIS: I don't think that would've been the consideration since I am not eligible since past March, I would've had my paper so that would not offend her reasoning.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now you have been serving as lifeguard union lead, [ CHECK AUDIO ] and that involvement now that you are on the city Council?
ED HARRIS: I do, I have taken a leave about since with his allowable by civil service for 8 to 10 months. And after that local back to my rules.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How has working as a city employee play in, and as lifeguard for this new role on the Council?
ED HARRIS: And life in general has prepared me as a Marine and someone who has traveled with countries, as a life guard I see tragedy and compassion, I see homelessness and things they are frustrating because you don't see them get done. I build a few of my own houses, so I know how homeowners are frustrated by getting permits for through and as well as builders. I've done the same thing on the city side trying to get lifeguard towers built. Edit view to the different departments, have you to the issues and I would like to bring more workers view to fixing the problems.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One of the ideas that you would like to see is to streamline some of these processes that you up and through as a citizen and as a city employee? Is that one of the things that you would like to see accomplished?
ED HARRIS: Yes, I bought my first 1100 ft.≤ house that had one cent of plans with one signature on the back, that was the approval process in 1950. That houses typically fine and has withstood everything that is been thrown at it in sixty years. I then built a house around 2000, and the process was not too cumbersome. When I build another house that I plan to stay in now, the process has become three times harder a few years ago, we shouldn't make things harder, we need to get people through and allow people to get housing, we need people to build the two add-ons and also help businessmen and developers that are helping us, we can keep adding new things that don't make sense, something needs to make sense if it's for environmental, but there are other things that are a little over-the-top.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Will you be directing staff to look into that? As a gotten to that point? Are these ideas still developing as you get your feet wet in your first couple of days as the city Council?
ED HARRIS: I will come to the realization that I have eight months so I have to hone in exactly what are going to be my priorities, is my hope to focus on environmental issues and public safety issues, and pass on my experiences to other colleagues that are on other committees in my observation so that they can use that information as they wish.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As you say, you have about 7 to 8 months as city Council representative, but you think you can realistically competition that time?
ED HARRIS: If you look at no counsel present Gloria, it there is a lot to get, accomplished and if anything else, a bipartisan approach to problem-solving that goes above and beyond politics and moves the city and the pop citizens/neglect the state capital, we want to very much provide. You're too small, we all live here in the displays and people need to be little more not willing to come to the middle.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You do have a veto proof Democratic with the majority, how can you tell San Diegans that they should expect bipartisanship on the city Council? How can you guarantee that to them?
ED HARRIS: I think you should look at it in the way that if either party has the power of both sides, and I think you have that balance. Having a majority on the Council, and having the mayor's office being separate parties, it forces compromising keeps things from going a certain direction that may be swinging the pendulum too far. But we need to do is be able to meet in the middle and everyone needs to be a little more willing to copper price.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, Ed Harris, congratulations. I've been speaking to San Diego city's newest council member, Ed Harris. And you very much for coming in.
ED HARRIS: Thank you for having me.