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Measure To Fix San Diego Roads Moves Closer To Making June Ballot

San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey, along with Mt. Carmel High School band members and other city leaders, talks to reporters about a the city's new street repair machine, October 9, 2014.

Aired 1/27/16 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Measure To Fix San Diego Roads Moves Closer To Making June Ballot

GUESTS:

Mark Kersey, San Diego City Councilman

David Alvarez, San Diego City Councilman

Transcript

The City Council on Tuesday directed the City Attorney's Office to develop language for a proposed ballot measure that would set up a method for funding infrastructure projects in San Diego over the next few decades.

Councilman Mark Kersey's "Rebuild San Diego" plan would amend the City Charter to dedicate future sales tax growth and money from reduced pension payments toward neighborhood upgrades, including streets, sidewalks, storm drains, parks, libraries, recreation centers, and police and fire stations.

In addition, it would preserve half of all new major general fund growth over the next five years for infrastructure projects — formalizing a commitment made by Mayor Faulconer in his first two budgets.

The money dedicated by the measure would close a gap in funding for fixing billions of dollars of neglected roads, sidewalks, municipal buildings and other city facilities that have been ignored until recently.

Kersey, his Infrastructure Committee and the mayor's office have spent the past couple of years trying to figure out the scale of the problem, and to streamline the city processes meant to deal with the issue.

"When my team and I first began putting together this measure, we agreed on one overarching goal — to never let the city's infrastructure get this bad again," Kersey said. "We realized pretty early on it would not be good enough to just invest in new projects or to just close the deferred maintenance gap, because as we now know, simply building new projects doesn't break the cycle of deterioration, which is how we got in this mess in the first place."

The plan doesn't include a tax increase — so if it goes on an election ballot — possibly in June — it would require only a simple majority for passage.

Faulconer has endorsed Kersey's plan. It also received conditional support from the city's independent budget analyst and San Diego County Taxpayers Association, but both have suggested tweaks.

The City Attorney's Office is scheduled to return Feb. 9 with draft language, at which time the council will determine whether it wants Kersey's plan to last 20, 25 or 30 years. Kersey initially proposed 30 years, but several council members expressed a preference for a shorter time frame.

The City Council has until early March 11 to decide whether the proposed measure will actually go on the ballot.

On Monday, Councilman David Alvarez proposed an alternative plan that he said would raise $800 million over the next 10 years with a combination of higher property tax revenues from new projects, debt service savings and use of general fund savings.

Alvarez said his plan would help neighborhoods get needed upgrades faster and reduce the city's long-term debt. He said he would ask for his idea and others from the public go before the Infrastructure Committee before the council takes action on Kersey's plan.

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