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David Alvarez Discusses Goals For First Year In Office

Audio

Aired 1/4/11

What will David Alvarez bring to the San Diego City Council? We speak to Councilmember Alvarez about his goals for District 8, and we discuss how he thinks the council should go about cutting the city's $73 million budget deficit.

What will David Alvarez bring to the San Diego City Council? We speak to Councilmember Alvarez about his goals for District 8, and we discuss how he thinks the council should go about cutting the city's $73 million budget deficit.

Guest

David Alvarez, San Diego City Councilmember representing District 8

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. San Diego City Council member David Alvarez has been on the job just about a month now. He's taken his seat representing district eight, and he has cast his first votes. New City Council president Tony Young says he plans to conduct meetings differently this year with an unrelenting focus on fixing San Diego's structural deficit. Councilman David Alvarez is here to talk about his ideas for closing that deficit and his goals for District 8. It's a pressure to welcome David Alvarez back to These Days. Good morning, David.

ALVAREZ: Good morning, thank you for having me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We invite our listen ares to call with questions and comments for couple Alvarez. The number is 1-888-895-5727. That's 1-888-895-KPBS.

So how have your first weeks in office gone?

ALVAREZ: You know, it's been -- it's been exciting, it's been a lot of activity. Only a month into the job but on my first day, we had to make some really important decisions on a couple of issues at the city. And so it's -- I had to hit the ground running. And it's been exciting of it's been a learning insurance as well. Getting to learn a lot of the departments and a lot of the personnel at the city, to learn about the work that they're doing and it's been a good month.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering as you cast your first votes, what does that feel like after having, you know, battled so long to get to this council seat, and there you are sitting on the council, what is the feeling like? Is it one of responsibility?

ALVAREZ: Intense responsibility, and wanting to make sure you do the right thing, that you listen to all the facts and you make the decision based on those facts. So I got my agenda a couple days before my first meeting. So I had to hit and read through all the documents and read through all the factual evidence, and then make sure that you listen to all the public to make sure that you've got all the information to make that choice to cast that vote.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what are your goals on the council this year.

ALVAREZ: Well, there are several goals that I have for my district, but then also as a city, we've got many challenges, so maybe if I could first start with my district.

THE COURT: Please do, yeah.

ALVAREZ: The district is actually, I think, one of the most exciting in the City of San Diego 678 we've got everything from a border with Mexico from in the southern portion in San Ysidro and Otay, we've got agricultural land in the River Valley area, we've got bayfront both down in the south, and also in the Barrio Logan part of town, we've got historic neighborhood, in Barrio Logan and the northern portion of the district. Then we've got bran new communities in Bay Side and in Ocean View Hills. And so it's a very diverse district. So I'm really, really excited about the opportunities and challenges that that brings. But I think the three things that I want to focus on is on maintaining public safety in owl of our neighborhoods. I think that's a priority for people. It's been shown in surveys, and in study it is, time and time again, that's what people want from their city government, so that's a priority for me. Economic activity and development opportunities for people to have jobs or people to open up businesses and to run businesses in San Diego that are successful. And economic revitalization in some of the historic neighborhoods, some of the older neighborhoods where we can brick in some innovation, 134 redevelopment, some activity that's gonna bring November into some of these neighborhoods that really need a lot of infrastructure projects to make them go forward. But I think that ultimately as our counsel president pointed out in his first meeting as president, getting a grasp and a handle on our budget and solving a structural budget, our structural been deficit is a priority for me, and I think it is for the rest of the council, and that's where all of our energies really should be focused. That's where we're gonna be spending a lot of time, as the president said, almost as many meetings as possible, talking about that, and I think that it is where the priority should be. That's where we're gonna find out whether we can continue to provide the services that people want in the city or not.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with San Diego City counsel member David Alvarez, he represents district 80, and he was just sworn into office early last month. And just to follow up on one of the things you said about your prior -- your goals for District 8, we've heard so much that in the southern part of San Diego, the foreclosure crisis has hit particularly hard. And I'm wondering, is there anything that you as a city councilman can ask the city council to do to try to mitigate that in some way or try to ease that pain a little bit?

ALVAREZ: Well, one of the things that we can do is work with our partners in the federal government to make sure that our credit agencies, our banks, our institutions, that loan money for people who are going through some difficult times are willing to work with the homeowners. So we could do things, like, for example, hold workshops, foreclosure prevention workshops, housing workshops, where we can bringing in the resources into the community so people can go and directly access, rather than having to call these 800 numbers that sometimes don't get answered or you never get a chance to actually speak to someone to make your case as to why you perhaps need to get a loan remodification. Or something of that sort. So bringing those types of resources to the city. A couple of years ago, when president Obama came into office, there was some funding that was created through the American recovery act for housing, and so making sure that those dollars are getting out there, that they're getting used in a way that's appropriate not only for new housing projects but also to prevent those foreclosures to allow people to stay in their homes is gonna be really, really critical. And you're right. The rate of foreclosure some of the Zip Codes in our communities of District 8 are way too high.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As I say, I'm speaking with city City Council member David Alvarez. A caller is on the line. Oh, we had a caller on the line. But he had a very interesting question for you, and it goes along with the topic that I'm getting to, and that is the structure 58 deficit that we spoke about and that council Perez Kent wants to focus on, to fixate on hike a laser beam, I think he said. And I'm wondering, you said that public safety is a primary goal for you in representing District 8. But there have been ideas that since we have this $73 million deficit that we're facing this year in the City of San Diego, that there are going to have to be cuts to public safety services. What do you know now that you didn't not when you were running for the council that might have changed your attitude about that at all S&L.

ALVAREZ: Well, I still think that keeping cuts away from public safety should be a priority. However, given the massive deficit that we have and the percentage in terms of our budget in terms of how much goes to our public safety departments, police and fire primarily, and life guard services, that's over 50 percent of our budget, approximately 50 percent of our budget. So you can continue to cut in all the other areas like eliminating and closing libraries and parks and recreation centers and things like that, in order to maintain public safety. But at some time, you start to damage that infrastructure that we've created in our great city, in what we all believe is our great city, and you start focussing on some of the very, very core issues that are important, but some of these peripheral services like parks and recs and libraries, particularly in districts like mine where access to information is sometimes only obtained through libraries or the library system, where recreation opportunities and opportunities for kids to go out and have an opportunity to have some activities only occur 234 rec centers and parks, those are also important. And so we're gonna have to balance that. We're gonna have to find a way to be able to balance all of the needs that we have. And the needs are different in different parts of the district. We're gonna have to learn to prioritize where we really need to put in our dollars for public safety, where are the high crime rate areas and we're gonna need to start doing things a little bit differently, and again, prioritize what services are needed in which neighborhoods.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Councilman Alvarez, the caller who couldn't stay on the line wanted to know what you thought about the City of San Diego declaring bankruptcy.

ALVAREZ: I think that's an option that's been presented by a few. I haven't had the opportunity to see how that option would play out. I think that there have been some talks and I think other City Council members have mentioned some ideas that sort of borrow on the idea of bankruptcy. But I'm not sure that we're ready to do that yet. I've seen -- I'm waiting for the mayor to propose a budget this next year to see how drastic these cuts are going to be. And once we have that information, because we haven't been able to receive that information yet, I want to make my decision based on that. And so I want to make sure that I have all the information before I make a decision on any of that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Have you come to any sort of conclusion about the budget proposal that was put out by Carl DeMaio which relied heavily on reforming the pension and, excuse me, outsourcing city departments? What is your take on that?

ALVAREZ: Well, a lot of those ideas are probably ideas we should look at and consider. I think that some of the numbers might -- might vary. Of they might not exactly equate to the number that we need to get to. And so in order to really move forward on the proposal, I think we've gotta have a really grasp on what it exactly means. We're gonna be going through a process of managed competition. Of and probably some of the services that we provide as a city will be outsourced. But how much that's gonna be and how much in savings we're gonna achieve, we will not know until a bidder comes in and provides a bid with an actual number of what it's gonna cost us. And so we can't really -- we can sort of estimate, but we cannot say precisely how much money we're gonna be saving by outsourcing. There is some money to be saved but how much that is, we don't know.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You know, when you took your oath of office, council machine Alvarez, you shared with the public some very moving family history. And that is the fact that your family was basically dislocated by the construction of Petco Park downtown. And I'm wondering, not only is something to share with people to let them know that you know what city decisions can do to people because you know that very personally, it made me wonder about what it makes you think about the other construction projects that are proposed downtown, a new Chargers stadium, the push to expand the convention center. Does this personal history inform the way you think about these new projects?

ALVAREZ: Absolutely. I think everybody's personal history helps them decide, make decisions. And the fact that gentrification did occur in some of the neighborhoods that are adjacent to the downtown area, not only in Barrio Logan, Logan Heights and Sherman heights, that's gonna help me be able to make a better policy choice in terms of what the effects of those types of projects will be. And so when we are talking about building a new Chargers stadium, if that's where we decide to go, then we need to talk about what some of the ramifications of that are, and some of the impacts that that's gonna be have some of the neighboring communities on the downtown community, and how we're dona close those as well. Not just acknowledge that there are impacts but also how we're gonna be able to address those.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have a caller on the line, that is, James is calling from San Diego. Good morning, James, welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning, and happy new year to both of you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you.

ALVAREZ: Thank you.

NEW SPEAKER: And I live in District 8. And just wanted to thank David for being our representative. And you know, the streets in our neighborhoods have really deteriorated over the years, especially like in Sherman heights issue it's know older neighborhood. And with the recent rains they've become even worse. I was wondering if there's any funding available to repair some of the streets and pot holes that have developed recently.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: James, thanks for the call. And pot holes, boy, are you all on the council gonna be hearing a lot about that.

ALVAREZ: Yeah, that's all we hear about. Of at least on the campaign trail, you hear about that a lot.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, everywhere you look now, that's a pot hole.

ALVAREZ: And thank you, James, for the phone call. You know streets is a -- and infrastructure in general, in District 8, and some of the older neighborhoods like I mentioned and Sherman heights definitely is an older neighborhood. And that is it a concern to people. And the rains did make that problem, I think, possibly worse. . And so today the City Council, we will be ratifying the mayor's declaration of an emergency for the City of San Diego. And we are hoping that with that, after all the assessments are done by state and federal officials that we will be able to receive some money to help off set some of the costs that occurred in some of the neighborhoods. No, whether or not that can go directly to resurfacing streets or fixing pot holes, I don't know, that's a good question that I will be asking. But it's something that we need to start focusing on. And that's something that people want to see -- aside from public safety, that's where people want to see the city's money going to. Of and I know the mayor introduced earlier last year, I believe it was in April, a $103 million project to resurface and work on streets. So I want to make sure that the priority of that money goes to some of the neighborhoods that really, really desperately need those. And a lot of my neighborhoods in District 8 rank last. And they have some of the poorest state of streets. So we gotta prioritize where our funding's gonna go to our city, to the communities that need them the most. Not only when it comes to street money, but all the other needs that they have.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We're just about out of time, but I just want to ask you one quick question. When council woman Donny fry was leaving the office, she basically asked all the new City Council members, all the remaining City Council members to be more civil, to try to deal with each other in a good way, in a positive way, and maintain a sense of civil discourse. What is your feeling on that? What is the atmosphere at the council like when you deal with these problems?

ALVAREZ: Yeah. You know, Donna Frye's gonna be missed a lot. She had a lot of good leadership qualities that she brought to the council. And that was one of them, the way she conducted business as a public official. And I feel that my personality and just who I am is someone who will also try to make sure that we have that type of relationship on the council. I think I mentioned in my inaugural remarks that we're in this together, and if we're gonna survive issue we're gonna do it together. So there's a huge spirit of cooperation right now in the council. And that just gives me a lot of optimism. And there's a lot of hope on the tenth floor at city hall right now, because people are willing to work together, and we've extended that hand. And I look forward to working with all of my colleagues because they each have their own unique skill set and their own ideas that I think are good and that will make the city a better place. So I'm really looking forward to that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: David Alvarez, thank you.

ALVAREZ: Thank you very much.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And if you would like to comment, please go on-line, KPBS.org/These Days. Coming up, big issues facing San Diego schools this year of that's as These Days continues right here on KPBS.

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