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San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott Campaigning For Reelection

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San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott is campaigning to keep her job. She has endorsements from a number of high-profile elected officials. Elliott talked about her accomplishments and responded to criticism from her opponent, attorney Cory Briggs.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego city of turning Mara Elliott is campaigning to keep her job. She has endorsements from a number of high profile elected officials, but she's also combating criticism from opponent Corey Briggs in a KPBS interview last week. He says the city attorney's office has become politicized. Elliott responded to that criticism in an interview with KPBS evening edition host, Ebony Monet.

Speaker 2: 00:26 So city attorney Mara Elliott. Welcome. Thank you. Good to be here. Thanks for joining us. So since being elected in 2016 what would you say are some of the highlights of your time in office? Well, it's been two and a half years, and I think when the voters elected me, they gave me a mandate and they expected me to protect San Diego. So I've put all of our resources in doing that, whether it's protecting people from gun violence or domestic violence or sex trafficking. So we've, we've covered a lot of ground in two and a half years. In 2016 when you first ran for city attorney, you ran on a platform of transparency. You even talked about your desire to create a database that could be accessed by the public where people could access police body camera footage. Where do you stand on that now? I think it's extremely important for government to be as open as possible and as transparent as possible with the public.

Speaker 2: 01:18 And I still strongly believe that we need to do that. So I've advocated to have a person who is responsible under SB for 1421 to be able to produce, um, police records when requested. I am in the community as much as possible, whether it's at forums or going to city council meetings every Tuesday so that I can answer directly to the public. We have brought policies before the public that have never been publicly discussed so that they can understand how the city is doing business. It's extremely important for us to be out there explaining what our work is telling the public about how they can use the city attorney's office to keep them safe. So you are San Diego's first woman, the city attorney. What does that mean for you? It means a lot to me because the city has been in existence forever. And we've always had men leading the legal office, the largest municipal law firm in San Diego County.

Speaker 2: 02:12 And it was time for a woman to step up. We see things differently. The way I address issues is very much I'm looking out for to protect San Diego. I'm a mother. So I think that that has driven a lot of my agenda, whether it's protecting children from abuses or victims of domestic violence and trafficking. Today we have a Safe Storage of firearms ordinance we're bringing to the city council. We have a concern about, um, firearms that are in the home that are not secured because we have seen that children are very curious by nature and they will access a firearm if it's not locked up. And we want to make sure that kids are kept safe. So a lot of the decisions I've made come from being a woman, a woman of color, a mother who is raising her children and really understands what San Diegans need so that they feel invested in their community and they feel protected.

Speaker 2: 03:02 Whether it's protecting our finances or protecting our public safety. And I bring to the table over 20 years of municipal law experience. I know what I'm doing. I know that office inside and out and I have the trust of the attorneys that I lead. So if we can, um, talk about some of the decisions you've made while in office. For instance, regarding the Mission Valley Stadium Site, you filed a lawsuit to keep the competing ballot measures off the ballot regarding the Mission Valley Stadium site. Um, what do you say to critics including um, San Diego attorney, Corey Briggs, who is also running for the city attorney's office who say that your recommendations about the Mission Valley Stadium site and the lawsuit were politically motivated and cost the city a lot of money? Well, I think anytime you make difficult decisions and that was a difficult decision, you're going to get an accusation that it was political. I think that the voters, when they elected me back in 2016 had very, they had five diverse choices to make and I was very honest about who I was and how I was going to stand up for the taxpayer.

Speaker 2: 04:05 Regardless. This is an important property in San Diego. It's one of our largest properties and it's owned by the taxpayers, so it's concerning when a developer puts an initiative before the voters and it's been negotiated behind closed doors, it hasn't been subject to a competitive bidding process and I wanted to make sure that San Diego was getting the best deal possible and that this was something that was legal and the voters want me to ask those questions. They want me to defend their rights to their property. We did the right thing. I have no second guessing of having done that because that's exactly what San Diego expected us to do. And what about the argument that the voters had already spoken by signing the petition and the signatures were verified and therefore qualified for the ballot in the first place? I've heard that argument before, but I think we can all relate to going to target and somebody gives you a two second blip of what they're asking you to sign and the devil is always in the details.

Speaker 2: 05:07 So I think when you sign something like that and you're agreeing, yes, let's put it before the voters even not doing it because you're buying into the legality or all the details that go with the measure. You're expecting that whatever is going to be placed before you as something you can rely on. And our city clerk places this on the ballot. So it's our job to take a look at the initiative and decide is this legal? And then we also have to look at it and say, is this a good deal for San Diego? That's my job. I can't say, well the voters wanted it, so my work is done. I need to go back in there and look at the details so that we can advise the city council and the public as to what that initiative says. And that's the job we did. Why are you the best person to continue in this job?

Speaker 2: 05:50 Because I've been doing this job for two and a half years and I built up to my moment as city attorney for many years before as attorney for the transit authority here in San Diego and attorney for the county of San Diego and also an attorney for a k through 12 schools throughout the state of California. This is what I do. I am very passionate about public service. I feel at the end of the day that the work that I have done has made San Diego a better place. We have a lot of momentum, but that said, there's still so much to do, especially when it comes to some of our more difficult border related issues, whether it's sex trafficking or the increases that we're seeing in domestic violence or hate crimes. I hear this, I hear this from the public. I want to be responsive and I want to continue to deliver and protect them until I'm done as city attorney, San Diego city attorney Mara Elliot. Thank you so much. Thank you. And she was speaking to KPBS evening edition. Anchor. Ebony Monet.

Speaker 3: 06:48 Ooh.

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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.