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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Todd Gloria Discusses His Bid For San Diego Mayor

 February 6, 2020 at 10:18 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 Todd. Gloria has spent the last four years representing San Diego in Sacramento, but now he wants to come back to city government where he spent eight years on the city council. Even taking on the role of interim mayor in 2013 after Bob Filner resigned, Gloria is now a candidate running to succeed Republican mayor Kevin Faulkner. We've already heard from his main opponents, fellow Democrats, Barbara Aubrey, and Tasha Williamson along with Republican Scott Sherman that today send them. And Todd, Gloria, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for inviting me, Allison. So what prompted you to decide to come back to city politics? Don't you enjoy Sacramento? Actually, I do enjoy my time in Sacramento. It's a tremendous honor to represent my hometown in our state Capitol. But as I look at this work, and this is very much, uh, about, uh, giving to your community, I think that there's a lot of need here in San Diego. Speaker 1: 00:51 We have to address our homelessness crisis. We need someone who will tackle housing affordability, address climate change, invest in our infrastructure. Uh, and I want to be the leader that does precisely that. So now one of your democratic opponents of Barbara Bree believes that, uh, when we're looking at homelessness and the housing crisis, that the housing first model, uh, is failed. It doesn't work. So if you were the mayor, would you continue with the city's policies, which are basically based on that idea that housing first rather than dealing with the underlying root causes of homelessness, uh, investing money in a subsidized housing, for example, intents, that sort of thing? Or would you change it? I am a believer in housing first. Um, and it's not just me that feels this way. This is a national best practice. And when you look at cities across the nation that are successfully addressing their housing and homelessness crisis, they are using this approach. Speaker 1: 01:40 But I would disagree in terms of the question because while that may be the stated policy of the city, um, because leadership like current members of our city council who do not believe in this approach are not implementing it correctly. And that's exactly why Alison, your viewers and your listeners have seen tremendous investments in homelessness without any actual reductions and on street homelessness. They're not significant reductions. So what do you mean by they're not doing it right? Well, w when you, uh, a lot of, a lot of folks have seen politicians certainly say a lot of stuff but not actually follow through. I think this is a tickler case. The city has nominally adopted housing first. Yet when you see us spending millions of dollars on temporary tents, purchasing bankrupted indoor skydiving facilities for navigation centers, these are not in furtherance of housing first. This is largely a symbolic efforts to try and address what is the issue that is going on without really understanding how do we end homelessness. Speaker 1: 02:32 And that requires really tough decisions like actually citing permanent supportive housing in neighborhoods across the city, which some of my opponents have been unwilling to do. Ultimately, I do not believe we had been living the promise of housing first. And it's of course not housing only, it's housing plus services that actually end homelessness. And again, this is what cities across this nation are using to solve their problem. We have not done that here yet. That would change if I'm given the opportunity to be married. Would you continue the tents? For example? I think tents serve a purpose. Um, our recently adopted housing homelessness action plan actually endorses the continued use of that and that is fine. But the problem, Alison, is that people go in the tent and then they have nowhere else to go. Right? Because we're not constructing the housing. And in fact we were taking the money to, as meant for housing construction and using it to fund the tents, sort of robbing from Peter to pay Paul. Speaker 1: 03:19 This kind of approach is not sustainable. And while we may need a bridge shelter to get people off the streets, it has to be a bridge to somewhere currently under this existing leadership at city hall. It is a bridge to nowhere and that's going to have to change. And do we have enough resources to actually build enough new housing to solve this problem? Well, Oh, probably not currently, but the voters of the city of San Diego may have the opportunity to vote on a measure this fall that would fund the construction of more low income housing, particularly for low income San Diego, informally homeless B. I am supportive of this idea and concept. Unfortunately, other candidates in this race are not and I think that that's really at odds with a homelessness action plan that's been adopted that says we need additional resources to build this unit. I don't see how you can vote for a plan that says we must build this stuff and then simultaneously oppose the funding that actually will construct it. Speaker 1: 04:09 I'm interested in making sure that we have transformational change on homelessness. Our current state of affairs is unacceptable. San Diego are rightfully frustrated, but we can't have just the simple solutions that you've seen city hall currently doing, which is buying random things and just throwing a lot of money at the problem or criminalizing homelessness. It has to have a different approach. I'm offering that different approach course. It's not just about money. It's also about where are you going to build this housing. And Barbara Brie says, one of your legislative proposals to build more housing near transit would actually destroy some of the older neighborhoods. How do you convince the existing neighborhoods that higher density is going to work for them? Well, first off, it would require a leader that's not engaged in fear-mongering when it comes to additional housing development. You know, that's an easy thing to say to the public, but ultimately neighborhoods do change. Speaker 1: 04:55 I don't believe that new housing is necessarily bad for communities. In fact, I think it can be helpful in community improving. I've seen it in my own city council district and whether it's North park or little Italy, you see communities that have really gotten vibrancy or where we've maintained a certain historic assets but invited additional, um, uh, development where it's appropriate. I want to be really clear, you know, this is not about building anything anywhere. Building housing out in the back country than the fire prone areas is not appropriate. Building high-rises that are the most expensive form of housing longer coasts. Also not what we need. What we need is additional housing that is priced for working in middle-class San Diego near jobs, near existing infrastructure. And this would be important if we want to solve what I think is the biggest issue in the city, which is communicating to San Diego is that they have a place here that they can afford to live here, build a family here, raise, raise a family here. Speaker 1: 05:46 I don't think too many of our folks right now feel like they can and that is not a recipe for success for this city. Can you be specific about some of the neighborhoods or areas that you think density is appropriate? Well, I think any community, I think every community has to do its fair share and whether that's a granny flat or a row home or a Guidant garden style apartment or more transit oriented development, it has to be matched to the community itself. But this notion that all nature, all development is bad is just simply not true. And quite honestly it's counterproductive. I am interested in engaging with the community and finding out what the right mix is. Alison, when I was served on the city council, I had the responsibility of helping to site additional shelters for homeless people in my city council district. Speaker 1: 06:27 These were not easy conversations to have, but I engaged in them and worked with the community to figure out a way to integrate these things successfully into the community and we did precisely that as mayor. Would you be able to interact that intimately with your constituents? 100% I have a reputation for being one of the most accessible elected officials in this County and I that will not change as mayor. In fact, I don't know how you can do the work of public service without being out and engaged in the community and that's particularly true for the most difficult of subjects. Homelessness is by far the most complex problem there is. There is no simple solution and so it's going to require a level of engagement that perhaps we haven't seen before, but I believe that sanding is want change on this. They're going to willing to support an executive that's going to go out and do the hard work. Speaker 1: 07:10 And your listeners know that. I have never been afraid of hard work. So another of the contributing factors is the large, the explosion really of Airbnbs, of short term rentals. And the city's attorneys has determined that short term rentals are illegal under the city's municipal code. So if you are the mayor, would you enforce those codes? Yes, I would. And I say that as someone that is willing to have a longer conversation about this. But Alison, when your legal counsel tells you that something is illegal, I think you must listen to them. And if we don't like that opinion then we should go about the process of changing the law. Right now what I hear from San Diego ins is that to the extent that they are troubled by a vacation Reynolds in their community, it's largely having to do with quality of life concerns of noise, of parking, of other kinds of disturbances in the community. Speaker 1: 07:56 And I think the city should absolutely crack down on those kinds of things, create the kind of enforcement mechanism that actually will allow someone to come and respond to that. Um, I think that through a series of fees, fines, instruction and taxes, we can fund us of uh, uh, an enforcement, uh, effort that would make sure that these, uh, bad actors are cracked down upon. Um, I think it's disturbing that the city of San Diego in all of these years has not been capable of doing what many other cities have, which is successfully regulating, uh, this use in our neighborhoods. Um, when I was on the city council, I fashioned two motions that were approved by the city council to regulate the industry. And unfortunately the current mayor ignored both of those motions. I think it's time for this city council right now who could choose to enforce on this or pass an ordinance to do it today if they're incapable of doing it. Speaker 1: 08:43 And I'm the mayor, I will work to make sure we have a law on the books that we can actually enforce. And let's face it, I mean the city council has already passed laws about short term rentals and they haven't gone anywhere. They said they've been overturned. So what they would different that that has not been tried already. What, so the city council did approve an ordinance and then they ultimately repealed it. That's right. And then that repeal process, there's a one year cooling off after that happens, that period has passed. So if you are upset with the current state of affairs when it comes to, uh, Airbnb, uh, they could do something now. Um, what would I do differently? Well, you know, obviously I think you can take what the council was able to pass and then use that as a base of negotiations to figure out what can we get that can be approved by the city council and not be referendumed. Speaker 1: 09:30 Ultimately, I think whatever it would be would certainly be an improvement over the current situation, which is basically the city says they're illegal but there's no enforcement. Um, there are, uh, the, I think it's are questionable whether or not the city is receiving its fair share of the taxes, uh, that is generated, uh, by this use. And of course there are communities that have bad actors that are out there who are disturbing quality of life. This current situation cannot stand. It will change. The question is how long will it take? I hope to be the leader that would actually put this issue to rest because other cities have done it. We should be able to do it too. Right. It does sound like you're more determined to take care of the bad actors rather than perhaps put some restrictions on the number of short term rentals that could exist in a city. Speaker 1: 10:13 I think that would be a part of the negotiation. I mean there, but ultimately when I listened to San Diego, the people who were upset about this are the ones who you know have, you know, noise issues, parking issues, any number of issues and ultimately we have to listen to our constituents, understand the problem and work aggressively to solve it. Right now I'm concerned that no one at city hall is listening because I get the, I hear these complaints, I'm interested in acting. They don't apparently seem to be interested in acting. Now do you support SANDAG that's the San Diego association of governments there. That's the regional planning board. Do you support their five big moves to transform transit in the region? Which would get people out of their cars, perhaps onto bikes, people say and trains. And, and what about the fact that people are quite angry at the amount of money being spent on bike lanes? Speaker 1: 10:57 How do you balance all those priorities? Well, number one, I do support the five big moves. I think that it is time for our world-class city to have a world-class transportation system. And importantly I would use the authority under assembly bill eight Oh five that actually restructured SANDAG that puts the mayor of San Diego in a position to help lead the organization, um, to actually use that authority to make sure that we are making investments to give your listeners freedom of choice when it comes to getting from a to B right now, does that mean less money on roads? Cause some people are going to be very disturbed by that. Well ultimately what we have to do is follow what has been adopted. And you made mention of the fact that some people are upset about what's being spent on bikes, but Alison, the voters of San Diego approved that. Speaker 1: 11:38 Um, so I am in the habit of listening to what the people have voted to do and what SANDAG is chroming doing is implementing that. My objection is that this is going extremely slowly, uh, and that people can't really see the network that is attempting to be built. And so they understandably are skeptical. But honestly, Alison, when I look at what prob plans and I approve when I was on the city council years ago that have yet to be implemented, you recognize that this is less about a vision and more about implementation. I want to be the guy that comes in and helps actually construct this network that gives people the freedom of choice. Because right now I'm, I think that San Diegans have no choice when it comes from getting from a to B. And the choice is simply right now just to sit in traffic and be miserable. Speaker 1: 12:17 So if you were mayor, there would be more public transit, more bike lanes being built, more pedestrian opportunities, more high quality public transit and the ability to get in your car if that's what's appropriate. But again, I think that our current situation is not befitting of our region in two quick things. I don't think that our economy can continue to flourish if we're not making massive investments in our transportation infrastructure. And importantly, I know that our climate action plan necessitates us moving in that pretty clear direction. And so we must move in that direction too. Let's just talk quickly about police reform. One of your other democratic opponents, Tasha Williamson says she would replace police chief, uh, [inaudible]. Would you keep them on the job if you were elected? I'm not making any personnel decisions during the course of the campaign. Um, I think broadly speaking, I'm hopeful that, uh, folks who are currently at the city, if they believe in the vision that I'm painting in this campaign and that I want to carry out as administration, folks would be welcome to, to, to continue on. Speaker 1: 13:12 Um, if they don't see that as a part of what they can do, then they'd be asked to leave. But here's the thing. Ultimately I think that the next mayor of San Diego should make it a priority to work on improving the relationship between our police officers and our communities. I don't think that it's possible to properly police a city of this size without the trust of the neighborhoods that we are serving in and I've been able to, I've had a ability to bring people together in this regard. I am proud to have the endorsement of our San Diego police officers and the endorsement of assembly woman, Shirley Webber, folks who are often seen as on opposite sides of this issue, who both believe that I'm the best person to be the next mayor of San Diego. And I'm hopeful that that's proof to your listeners that I can bring people together on this very difficult and sensitive issue which relates to surveillance cameras for example. Speaker 1: 13:55 It's been very controversial. Well, and I'm very frustrated about that. Not because I don't want our police department to have the tools they need to keep us safe, but importantly we have to operate in a transparent fashion. And I believe that San Diego PR prize, their privacy. And right now to the extent that this, uh, technology, not just this technology by the way, Alison, whether it's license plate readers, sting Ray or other kinds of, of technology that is being used by our police department, the fact that the public doesn't understand how that's being used, how their data is being collected in what it's being used for. These are concerns. And again, it gets back to that question of trust. For me, we are w we will acquire appropriate technology, but we will disclose to the public and in advanced explain what we intend to do with it and how this will be used to actually get bad people off the streets, not to collect data about private citizens who are not doing anything illegal. Speaker 1: 14:42 Now you have been called a career politician compared to Barbara Brie, for example, who has been in politics much less than you. Uh, Barbara Reese has that the San Diego city government is not accountable. And uh, so what would you say to people who, who feel like the city really needs somebody to shake things up? Well, first off, I will make no apologies for spending my career serving my hometown. I love San Diego and I've done everything I can to give back to the city. That's given me so many opportunities with regard to this notion that someone with absolutely zero experience in the public sector is capable of leading um, government. But that's not true of Barbara Brie, of course. Well, there's that, but I, I would refer you to Washington D C and see what a president with zero public sector experience has done for us. Um, I'd also point out to someone who I look up to and who I have the endorsement of in this campaign. Speaker 1: 15:31 Uh, governor Jerry Brown, who has spent a career in public service, he took California from a state that people said was ungovernable and should be broken up into smaller pieces. Turn us around a situation where we have stable finances, a solvent budget, and we're doing big and bold progressive things. That's what experience can do. And humbly, this is the eighth largest city in the United States. It's a multibillion dollar budget with over 11,000 employees. I think you need someone who has experienced and your listeners know that I did this job for eight months under the most difficult of circumstances in this campaign. I'm asking for the opportunity to do it for eight years under more normal circumstances. If you were to give us an example of what you've learned in this past few years that would enable you to be more effective at city than you were before, what would that be? Speaker 1: 16:14 Oh my God. So many things. Our son, you know, when I was on the city council, I just thought the state was terrible and I thought they only live to do things to cities, and I'm specifically, I'm thinking about repealing redevelopment or taking away economic development incentives, the kinds of tools that we use to do good and important things like what we did in city Heights or in North park. But now here we are in a situation where, you know, I worked with Senator Tony Atkins last year to pass a bill to make sure that our city's pure water system, where we're going to get our water for many decades to come to actually get that project back on track and actually put billions of dollars of investment into our communities. That is what the state is able to do. And I want to take that experience and the relationships that I've created with people like governor Gavin Newsome with our attorney general and others. And to bring that to the benefit of San Diego, I think I will be a better mayor for having served in wa in Sacramento, uh, and combined with my experiences at the County of San Diego and at the federal government collectively. I think that that's something that I can bring that as a benefit, uh, to this, uh, to this candidacy and proof that I won't just be a mayor, but I'll be an effective and good mayor, assemblyman, Todd. Gloria, thank you so much for being with us. Thank you Alison.

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State Assemblyman Gloria is running against two fellow Democrats, San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry and community activist Tasha Williamson, along with Republican City Councilman Scott Sherman.
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