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Alvarez, Faulconer Go Negative In First San Diego Mayoral Debate

Alvarez, Faulconer Go Negative In First San Diego Mayoral Debate
Alvarez, Faulconer Go Negative In First San Diego Mayoral Debate
GUEST: Carl Luna, Political Science Professor, Mesa College

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Our top story today, the KPBS/10 News mayoral debate. Faulconer and Alvarez have agreed to a series of six debates before the special election on February 11. This debate is the first of that series. It was taped Wednesday in the KGTV studios with KPBS Evening Edition host Peggy Pico as one of the moderators. [ [ AUDIO FILE PLAYING ] ] STEVE ATKINSON: A panel of journalists has specific questions because San Diegans want specific answers. PEGGY PICO: The candidates are here for a face-off on the issues, David Alvarez represents the eighth district and Faulconer represents the second district. Matthew T Hall and LaDona Harvey are here with us. Steve and I will switch between the panel and moderating. STEVE ATKINSON: If our panelists go over time, the moderator must interrupt. Prior to the debate a coin toss determined who will go first and David Alvarez won that coin toss. He is a first with a one minute opening statement. DAVID ALVAREZ: I'm a native San Diegan, this is my home and my dad was a janitor and my mom was a fast food worker, so were my brothers and sisters and I would have the opportunities that they never had. We have a very clear choice, we can go back to the old days when a few downtown insiders use our tax dollars as giveaways to special interests. While we can choose to move our city forward, with both progressive and leadership that reinvest in our neighborhoods and we builds our crumbling infrastructure and create good middle-class jobs. In order to gauge what I will do as mayor, because what I have done, the last eighteen years I have dedicated myself to public service and working to restore funding for parks, libraries, and public safety. I stood up for all of us fighting against giveaways to special interests. I have led to the creation of jobs and supporting small businesses. This is my vision for our city and this is who I am. I would be honored to serve as your mayor. STEVE ATKINSON: Kevin Faulconer now has one minute. KEVIN FAULCONER: Thank you. I believe that we live in the great city with great promise. When I was elected a years ago those were some of the darkest days of our city's history, and ever since that time that I've been elected I've worked every day to restore our city's finances and restore credibility to give us a city government that we can be proud of. That is why I am running for mayor. I am going to finish the job. I am proud of the record that I have done by working with Democrats and Republicans about that us do what is right the best for the city of San Diego. I'm going to bring my experience to bear to get real results for real San Diegans. That is what my campaign is all about. I am proud of the work that I've done with environmentalists and service providers to provide homeless services. With her former mayor Jerry Sanders to save billions of dollars to reinvest into our neighborhoods. STEVE ATKINSON: Our candidates now have one minute to answer each question. The first question will come from Matt T. Hall. MATT T. HALL: David Alvarez, the police department has been in turn mile the last couple of years with officer misconduct, arrests, and lawsuits and more, what is your number one safety issue and would you keep the current police chief? DAVID ALVAREZ: I think the chief has done a great job. Him and I discussed together last week to talk about the work at the police department. He is addressing those concerns and she is doing a great job. He is making sure that we have adopted some policies to do the right thing and collect information, to make sure police department is doing the right thing. I'm proud of the work that he has done and he has done a great job. He is hoping to make sure San Diegans are safe and I am mostly proud of the budget that I supported, eliminating a $47 million budget deficit and restoring vital services to our neighborhood. I have done that every single year, this year alone a bipartisan budget to prove services. That is what San Diegans want and that is what I've done. I'm proud to stand with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to make sure that we have a budget that aligns with the priority of San Diegans. STEVE ATKINSON: Mister Faulconer, you now have thirty seconds of rebuttal. KEVIN FAULCONER: I'm proud of the work that our brave men and women do every day at the delights on the line. I'm proud to receive the endorsement of our police officers Association. They know I will continue the reforms to reinvest into our police department. The only one who has come out with a recruitment and retention plan to make sure that neighborhoods are safe and to make sure when you dial 911 we have the best care. I will continue reforms to ensure that we have dollars to reinvest into public safety. STEVE ATKINSON: Mister Alvarez, now you have thirty seconds to respond. DAVID ALVAREZ: For far too long special interests supporting Kevin have damaged our city credibility and ability to move forward and ensure that we provide services. That is why we're losing police officers because we have not invested in them. I will ensure that we actually do it this time. They are too important to keep our public safe and vital and make sure that we have good communities. We will work very hard to make sure that we keep officers and bring it to officers. STEVE ATKINSON: Kevin Faulconer has one minute to answer the following question from LaDona. LADONA HARVEY: Kevin, the debate over what to do with QUALCOMM Stadium has gone on for about the last century or that is what it feels like, bottom line, how much public money is okay to spend on a new Chargers Stadium and do you support a new stadium in the future? KEVIN FAULCONER: I don't think we need to spend any public money. The Chargers are important and they are important to San Diego, the important to the city, but I am concerned that any finance plan has to protect us as taxpayers. I've spent a lot of time reforming City Hall and making those tough decisions, so we have dollars to reinvest into our neighborhoods. That was my priority. We have an opportunity to work with the Chargers and as mayor I will do that, and I am confident that we will be up to find solutions to keep the Chargers in San Diego and protect us more importantly as taxpayers. STEVE ATKINSON: Mister Alvarez now to you. DAVID ALVAREZ: The Chargers are my team and I'm proud of the work and their effort they showed this year. They will stay in San Diego. I have led on the city Council opened million-dollar project for an under utilized airport. It is privately financed and we do not use any public dollars. STEVE ATKINSON: Mister Faulconer back to you for thirty seconds. KEVIN FAULCONER: This goes back to making sure that we have a man this independent to fight for what is necessary. That is my priority as someone who has stood up. I supported David to spend $30 million to help him get elected. My priority is to put the focus on the present services. STEVE ATKINSON: David Alvarez has one minute to answer the next question from Peggy Pico. LADONA HARVEY: Mister Alvarez, Donna Frye represented the open government question to change the city charter this morning to the city council, what are the first three documents you would put online and what does open government mean to you? DAVID ALVAREZ: I was proud that Donna and I worked together on that. To create an open government policy for our city. I appreciate Kevin's support on that and the rest of the committee that voted for that today. I have Donna's support because she understands that open government is a priority. We have seen the crisis over the last couple of years, I supported that and I'm proud of that moving that forward and the documents that must be made public and easily accessible starts with the budget, the most important document. Where our money is going and how we're using taxpayer dollars must be utilized in a way that the people always have access to the information. Taxpayers do not only have a voice when there is an election. The voice was be heard all of the time and we must be sure that our government is open and available and transparency so that they can voice concerns all of the time. STEVE ATKINSON: Kevin Faulconer, thirty seconds. KEVIN FAULCONER: Openness and transparency is critically important. I am proud to be the first one in this race back in the primaries and who released the transparency plan. The city's business is the public's business and one thing that we have to do a better job of his taking information and putting it online. Open data and open government, in a form that the public can easily access and never forget the information we're dealing with is the city's business. As mayor I will ensure that we increase that to greater standards. STEVE ATKINSON: Mister Alvarez for thirty seconds of response. DAVID ALVAREZ: What is important? Every in document is important. Budget is the first that we layout, but every document is important. We must always keep the public informed. I am am proud of my accomplishments of behaving that way. I compare that to Kevin, his candidacy is the big backroom deal and that is how the selected him to run for mayor. That is not how I will do business I will make sure that the city is always involved. STEVE ATKINSON: A couple of quick questions for each of the candidates, no rebuttals and no responses. The first is to Kevin Faulconer, you have thirty seconds. Do you think it's a liability that union supports your opponent and why or why not? KEVIN FAULCONER: The fact of the matter is that it is. 80% of the support for my opponent comes from one source, unions. We look at the spending: $3 million. The same union that nearly drove the city into bankruptcy. The mayor is the chief negotiator of labor contract. We need a mayor who is independent and I have the experience of setting up and supporting taxpayers but my opponent has experience of standing up to labor unions. STEVE ATKINSON: Mister Alvarez, a question to you. Do you think it's a liability that big business support your opponent? Why or why not? DAVID ALVAREZ: Absolutely, these are the same people who have driven our city to the ground. His supporters are the same ones who have caused pension underfunding, they all voted for that and supported that, that is where he comes from. Independence, look at our records. Kevin will listen and do whatever special interests, the developers ask him to do. Big corporations that have enough money to have high paid consultants and lobbyists. Not everyday citizens I am representing as mayor, he is there to represent lobbyists from his lobbyist days. PEGGY PICO: Our candidates will now ask questions to each other, thirty seconds for each question. One minute to answer and a thirty-second rebuttal. Kevin Faulconer will go first. KEVIN FAULCONER: That is go back to the issue of financing campaigns. Labor unions are spending about $3 billion to elect you, same labor union center of our city into the verge of bankruptcy and oppose all of the reforms that I supported and you oppose, 80% off all the funding in support of you, 80% is coming from unions, do you think that is a good idea? DAVID ALVAREZ: I will tell you what my support is coming from, thousands of people from throughout the city. I'm proud that people from the city who have never been involved in political campaigns have joined my team. They have done that because they have had enough of the same supporters that support you. Enough of the same special issues interests and lobbyists came after time to determine how our tax dollars are used to benefit them instead of fixing our roads and putting up streetlights and the things that matter to people of the city. Opening libraries and parks, I'm proud of their support nested with them and take them because without their support a candidate like the with my background coming from very little, from humble beginnings is able to now be able to be the next mayor of our city of San Diego. PEGGY PICO: Thirty seconds to respond. KEVIN FAULCONER: We have had on a clear difference in our race. We need Americans to be independent and the fact that labor unions are spending 80% of funding speaks volumes. The mayor is the chief negotiating officer for San Diego, we need a mayor who is independent will not repeat these financial mistakes of the past. I will have that independence and I will never forget who I work for our, San Diegans. I will stick up for you to make sure our dollars go to where they are supposed to, not expensive and unaffordable pensions and labor contracts. PEGGY PICO: Again we have thirty seconds to answer the question, David Alvarez ask your question to Kevin. One minute to answer and thirty seconds for rebuttal. DAVID ALVAREZ: I want to address the previous issue as well. I'm proud of the support of everyone that I have had, and Kevin and I have supported the same deals every agreement that I have helped support has saves taxpayer dollars. Why in 2009, when he cut pay for police officers and firefighters, why did you give your employees bonuses? Thousands of thousands of dollars in bonuses when you cut pay for police officers and firefighters. KEVIN FAULCONER: That answer your first point, when I talk about reforms that I supported that you haven't. You did not support pension reform but I could. You supported a sales tax which I oppose, he did not support managed competition which is the ability for private sector to come in and compete for city services, that is the difference between you and I. One of the big differences is that I have lead by example and supported pension reform. I do not take a pension, but you did. You chose to do that and I will save voters $1 million and you will not. DAVID ALVAREZ: This should be concerning to everyone, he does not acknowledge that he gave his own staff thousands and thousands of dollars in bonuses when our police officers and firefighters and men and women who sold our children and libraries and parks, they received a 6% pay cut. I can't believe that he did not even except that he did that. We do not need people in office who do not speak the truth. At least on up to things they have done. KEVIN FAULCONER: You have to have a mayor to lead by example and I have and I refuse the government pension that David takes. When it comes time to negotiate labor contracts, do we want the mayor who is independent or do we want someone like my opponent who has been opposed to every major reform. Voters have told us that they want these reforms, but David has said he does not believe in them. LADONA HARVEY: We know that yesterday there was a infrastructure surge passed unanimously by the city council, we know that infrastructure is somewhere between one and $3 billion in the hole, when you become mayor, what are specific things that you would do to make sure that you got roads fixed and how do you find that? DAVID ALVAREZ: That is the priority and should be for any mayor. When I came to the city council there was a $47 million budget deficit and fire stations were closed throughout the city. All because insiders and people who support Kevin, led to some horrible deals. Pension underfunding was that. Billions of dollars given away to the hotel industry when we should be investing them in our neighborhood. The hotel industry and developers have had so much control at City Hall, they always get their way. That is why our talks dollars are not used in our neighborhoods. People who control people like Kevin and his supporters are not allowing our city to be revealed in a way that San Diegans care about. Our infrastructure and public services and police department and fire department, those are my priority. KEVIN FAULCONER: Great difference in this race, and Leslie have a mayor to continue to make reforms, stand up to government employees, that are supporting David, we're not going to have dollars of the need to reinvest back and the neighborhoods. Keep our libraries and rec centers opened, labor unions are spending 80% of all funds supporting David, they are not reinvesting in our cities, they want additional benefits and salaries that the city cannot afford. DAVID ALVAREZ: Kevin does not understand, the biggest union that takes the most in a sense, is endorsing him. Now he is claiming that I have all of the support. That is nonsense. I am proud to always have been an independent voice when it came on to the council, sometimes standing on my own standing up for taxpayers, that is my priority and always has been and will continue to be but I am mayor. I'm proud of my achievements and I will put them against Kevin anytime. STEVE ATKINSON: Kevin, a majority of the city council voted in favor of the Barrio Logan plan, but some business leaders did not agree with the outcome and so they paid to enforce the issues on the ballot, as members of the council do you believe this strategy is in the public's best interest or a way to run around the elected councils decisions? KEVIN FAULCONER: We have to stand up for good quality jobs in our city, and I know that. That plan was flawed and put in jeopardy. Hard-working San Diego families have jobs in jeopardy. I'm vocally opposed that. We need changes in the Barrio Logan plan just as we do in many of our other plans, but we have to make sure that we're doing everything to protect the good quality jobs that our men and women rely on to put food on the table. I'm going to stand up and protect our working families with plans that makes sense. DAVID ALVAREZ: Once again, a clear difference between Kevin and I, he represents the interests and lobbyists people who get him gifts like yacht race tickets, those are the people who oppose the barrio Logan plan, and they are there talking to Kevin to make sure he is still on their side. I stand up for people in the community plan with the committee process where people speak loud and clear. We want a balanced put approach to protect jobs and people who live there. KEVIN FAULCONER: That plan showed a demonstrated failure of leadership by David. He was not able to bring people together and as mayor I will go I'm going to. I will do it in a way that a sense that will stand up for the hard-working men and women. MATT T. HALL: My next question is about jobs, if you win the election, let us get beyond the rhetoric. What would you do to streamline it bureaucracy and help new businesses and what can the mayor do to create new jobs? DAVID ALVAREZ: Support jobs that we have liked the maritime industry. People from all sorts of life. The city has for too long as it depended on the same lobbyists and consultants to create a wave of doing business for themselves. All of this bureaucracy and red tape, as only benefited those who know how to get around and have the ability to call people in high places to make things happen. That is not the type of city that we need, and the city to invest in our neighborhoods and rebuild in this infrastructure to get new jobs. Middle-class and not a subsidized hotel industry jobs that pay low wages. That is what I'm putting for for my blueprint. KEVIN FAULCONER: This is where my eight years of experience come into play. As someone who has been fighting to get rid of bad policies that do not promote good quality jobs. Cut the bureaucracy and the red tape make sure that we're fighting for taxpayers. That is what I'm going for. Working across the aisle with my colleagues Democrat and Republican to get real results, that is the biggest difference, I will be independent and promote our good quality jobs and not be beholden to the city government labor unions funding David's campaign. DAVID ALVAREZ: It took eight years for Kevin to figure that out. It's astonishing, the red tape in the city is unbelievable and that is why I am working with the council to ensure that we reduce bureaucracy and we have done with more in the last couple of years than in the timeframe that Kevin has been on the Council. We are doing more now to ensure to make pathways to middle-class jobs with a living wage. Those are the policies that I would continue to push forward. PEGGY PICO: And that is all of the time that we have for this mayoral debate. [ [ END AUDIO FILE ] ] MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. We just broadcast the KPBS ten news debate and I'm here with Carl Luna. Welcome to the program. There were quite a few debates before the special election in November, even so few candidates David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer still have to introduce themselves to voters? CARL LUNA: The dynamic is different this time around, you do not have so many people around such as Mike Aguirre and Nathan Fletcher. This is a principle between the candidates and gives you a better reflection of which of the two and narrowing down to the choice of one. The nice thing about yesterday's debate is now the have five more, he can only go up from here. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Attended to me that they were in a sense still trying to introduce who they are and where they have been at what they have done and where they've come from, even after several months of doing that before the special election. CARL LUNA: I think they were both coached that people have forgotten about you over the holidays and not to take risks, and reintroduce themselves, and when in doubt, fall back on talking points for the campaign, and they were both apparently in doubt most of the time because that is all they did. They hit each other with prolabor and pro-business, I don't live in San Diego so I don't have to vote, but I based on yesterday's performance I would be wondering if you could just write Todd Gloria in. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Know what did we learn about candidates during this debate, were the major elements of information? CARL LUNA: You learned that Kevin Faulkner is a capitalist tool that will subvert San Diego over to corporations and you learned that David Alvarez is a stooge of the unions. They repeated that over and over, it wasn't a hierarchy debate to lead San Diego forward. They both said they don't want to go back to the past and in the balance budgets and you want to fix infrastructure, but they spent most of the time beating up each other to try to stay might the base. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And it does sound like they are not willing to put forward any vision for San Diego, do you look forward to that? As we get closer although we are already pretty close to the runoff, do you expect more of that? CARL LUNA: I would think so, in Todd glorious address, he said you need to have big vision and dear to dream and it would be nice to have the current candidates, with some vision. The most controversial was a minimum-wage increase. I do not see where they are promising to lead except to say that if the other guy wins evil forces will take over San Diego. That is not what I wanted to hear. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: After a 10 News poll came out, and it shows that Faulconer has taken quite a lead of sixteen points. How is that going to influence what they are doing that a lot? Did it influence this debate at all? CARL LUNA: The debate before the primary election, the 240 of them, and Mike going out of bounds for things and bringing interesting concepts, the list of the most dynamic debate then and San Diego debate does not rise to a high-level. I would have expected more of this is who I am this is my vision, with this is who I am and this is why you should not vote for him. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I think people who have kept up with these debates, when other candidates are in debates it seems to be a tag team of Kevin Faulconer and David Alvarez going after Nathan Fletcher. Now there is only two of them but there is a nastier tone that you would've expected. CARL LUNA: And that was both of the Fletcher and Alvarez campaign strategies, and Nathan came up in the fall ahead of the polls, both of them by destroying him now the gloves are off. Now it is just a negative festival of how bad the next guy is. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is talk about the format of this debate itself. Obviously it's fast-paced because he wants to keep people's attention and so forth, if you were the king here how would you like to see these debates be reformed? CARL LUNA: If I could I would take these two guys to a restaurant and put them there and have them have to eat a five course meal and then all the camera and editing see him get all the ordering and see if they could develop a conversation. He would probably end up with 40 to 50 minutes of uncomfortable silence is not a want to take a risk, we don't do the base would you serial questions that results in talking points and what I would like to see is the panelists be more aggressive. When the question was asked what is your position for the chief of police, nobody answered back. They should be allowed to say thank you, you did not answer my question and please try again. Otherwise, people say they're talking points and move on, you need accountability and you need moderators to step in and keep people moving. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And this time because of time constraints I don't think anyone is allowed to follow up on questions. CARL LUNA: In a short debate you have one person asking questions. Having multiple people does not give the public much of a real debate. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When it comes to the state of the city we have interim mayor Todd Gloria saying an ambitious agenda for the next mayor talking about infrastructure bonds placed on the 2016 ballot, ending homelessness downtown San Diego, and as he said minimum-wage proposals. What you think it may be embraced by whoever wins San Diego mayor? CARL LUNA: One of the other things he mentioned were making our homes energy clean. Anyone will embrace that because they will retire by the time he comes around. Homelessness I think they would both embrace that. But it still has a she. Minimum wage would be majorly divisive issue. I do not think of Faulconer would be in a position with his support to push on that, but the council made was that beyond him and it becomes a debate, and Alvarez is the Mayor minimum-wage becomes more of a possibility. The Barrio Logan plan will be an issue they would be in opposite sides of that. I'm feeling potholes they are all agreeing, but they're not sure if they want union workers or non-union workers to fill them. What Todd laid out people can rally behind but minimum-wage is a big one. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, we have to leave it there. I have been speaking with Carl Luna, thank you very much.

The two councilmen facing off to become San Diego's next mayor went negative at the first mayoral debate of the run-off election.

The first debate in the runoff election to pick San Diego’s next mayor was fast and furious, if not necessarily edifying. The KPBS/10News-hosted affair was less a debate and more a recitation of negative talking points. Both candidates hijacked as many questions as possible to point out how the other guy was bought and paid for by special interests.

City Councilman Kevin Faulconer went negative first, reiterating that his colleague and opponent David Alvarez has received nearly $3 million from organized labor, “the same unions that nearly drove this city to bankruptcy,” he said. Faulconer’s other go-to comment seemed to cast himself as immune from outside influence. “I’m independent,” he repeated more than a handful of times.


Alvarez fired back, saying it was Faulconer who was in the pocket of the downtown business elite, “the developers, the big corporations -- those who have enough money to have lobbyists, who have high-paid consultants,” he said. “Not everyday citizens.” Alvarez declared that Faulconer would do whatever his business buddies wanted, keeping powerful interests at the helm of San Diego.

The accusations went back and forth during the half hour debate. Republican Faulconer described Democrat Alvarez’s work on the Barrio Logan community plan as “a failure of leadership,” but failed to suggest how he would craft a compromise. Alvarez quizzed Faulconer about giving bonuses to his staff while voting against pay raises for cops and firefighters.

But the crux of the issue seemed to come down who was in bed with a baddie. Faulconer blamed the unions for the pension crisis that nearly broke San Diego, while Alvarez decried that underfunded pensions were pushed through by a Republican controlled city hall shilling for big business.

At the start of the debate, the men arrived in starkly different style. Faulconer came in surrounded by a team of well-heeled staffers, while Alvarez entered the room with only two casually dressed aides, his backpack slung over his shoulder.

A prospective voter could read this one of two ways. They could see the experienced Faulconer, running a tight and well-managed campaign and Alvarez unprepared, perhaps even too young. Or they could see Faulconer as already surrounded by the ruling class and king-makers of San Diego, and Alvarez as the plucky outsider who will fight for the little guy.


The narrative voters take away from that scene may well determine for whom they cast their vote for on Feb. 11.

Corrected: March 4, 2024 at 12:15 AM PST
KPBS' Maureen Cavanaugh, Patty Lane and Peggy Pico contributed to the Midday and Evening Edition segments.