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San Diego’s New Mayor On Public Health, Economic Crises

Speaker 1: 00:00 Today is the first full day in office for new San Diego mayor, Todd, Gloria, he and five new city council members were sworn in yesterday in a virtual ceremony. Gloria's inauguration speech called for a new vision of San Diego as a big city. Speaker 2: 00:16 If we dream big work together and believe in San Diego, we can accomplish anything. Speaker 1: 00:23 Mayor Gloria promised in his first 100 days in office to focus on San Diego's major problems of homelessness and the public health and economic crisis created by COVID-19 in the backdrop of the mayor's address came the twin headlines that vaccine approval is moving forward. And the number of newly diagnosed COVID cases in San Diego County Thursday, once again, topped 2000 and joining me is San Diego mayor. Todd, Gloria. Welcome to the Speaker 2: 00:52 Show. Thank you so much. You've Speaker 1: 00:54 Spoken many times and in your speech yesterday about San Diego, starting to think and act like a big city. How do you see that Mindshift actually influencing action on our big problems like homelessness and public health? Speaker 2: 01:09 Well, those two things are directly connected for me because we spend so much time talking about issues that I think many other cities have successfully addressed. It means that we never get to the big issues that everyone seems to struggle with. And so that means that we, you know, chase our tail for years when it comes to short term vacation rentals and issue that many other cities have successfully regulated. Uh, and we never get around to the big issue of homelessness, housing, affordability, infrastructure, and climate action. So my hope is that we can swiftly deal with many of the issues that have been on the civic list of things to do in order to free up the space, the time the resources, the bandwidth to tackle the issues that I hear the most from San Diego is about. And that's homelessness, housing affordability in the state of our transportation system. Speaker 1: 01:56 Your first 100 days in office, you promised to introduce a strategy to address the health economic and housing crises caused or worsened by COVID-19. Can you give us maybe a preview or a kind of a framework of that strategy Speaker 2: 02:13 It'll involve certainly inter-governmental cooperation. I think one of the exciting things about this most recent election is not just the election of a new mayor and council, but the election of a new majority, uh, at the County board of supervisors. But I think can refresh, deepen and strengthen our relationship between the city and the County acknowledging the County has the lead responsibilities for public health response, but the city can be a fruitful partner on things like, uh, small business relief, tenant, uh, assistance. And the list goes on. Uh, my focus is going to be making sure we're advocating in Washington DC for meaningful federal relief, uh, advocating in my old office, up in Sacramento for additional state relief and working with our partners at the County here within the four walls of city hall. My hope is that we can focus on a shop local campaign that would encourage San Diego ins to keep as much of their money local, hoping to support the businesses that are struggling in our neighborhoods and having the city join that effort by leading by example, and concentrating more of our spending on supplies, contracts, and services here in the city of San Diego. Speaker 2: 03:14 I think that could be determinative between the number of businesses that survive this difficult time determinative about the number of San Diegans that are employed in our community and who earned paychecks. And they can spend in our neighborhoods to help support other businesses. We will be doing other announcements right now. I'm huddling with our team here at city hall to make sure that what we propose is feasible deployable and can be done swiftly enough to make a difference for those folks who are currently hurting. Speaker 1: 03:38 You've mentioned that a new city council was also seated yesterday and the city council chose a new council president yesterday, Dr. Jennifer Campbell, over council member, Monica Montgomery step. It was a close vote and a hard-fought struggle. How do you see tensions stemming from that vote influencing your agenda? Speaker 2: 03:58 Well, I'm hopeful that we can move past that. Um, I recognize I've had experiences with tough, uh, council, president votes myself in the past. Uh, and I think the goal has to be collectively that, uh, we move forward, uh, working currently with council, president Campbell on a list of committee assignments, uh, uh, to make sure that we utilize the talents and skills of all of our council members to the most benefit of the people of San Diego. Uh, I think that will be a positive step forward and then working on a collaborative agenda. I know that council president Campbell, as well as council member Montgomery and every city council member has priorities for their districts and for the city. We're in close collaboration with those offices, understand how those align with my priorities and my vision for our city and how we can get the most done as quickly as possible. Barring these are difficult times people are turning to the government for help and assistance and leadership. I'm hopeful that we can meet those high expectations because the times have really demanded. Speaker 1: 04:55 Did you or your staff seek to influence the outcome of the council president selection in any way? Speaker 2: 05:01 No. Quite to the contrary, uh, I have had a long, positive working relationship with both of the candidates who sought the council presidency. Many of you may know that council member Montgomery once worked in my office and, uh, Jen Campbell and I have been friends for years. I could work with either of the candidates, uh, and I recognize and remember my own experience with Merril involvement in the council president vote. Um, I didn't think it was appropriate, then it is not appropriate now. Uh, so we allowed that decision to be made by the councils themselves. And we are now in the business of governing, uh, with that council and try to move the city forward. Speaker 1: 05:33 We hear that leaders in the house are still struggling to get a COVID economic relief package passed before the end of the year, time and hopes are fading for that. What does San Diego do without that help from Washington? Speaker 2: 05:47 Well, it's not good news. If our leaders in Washington cannot come to a compromise on additional economic stimulus, uh, Marina remind your listeners that meaningful federal leaf has not happened since, uh, back in March. And so we have lived through several months now without additional federal stimulus, uh, and it would be a mistake to go another week, another month without it for here in San Diego, we're currently dealing with a $45 million mid-year budget gap. We're projecting a $124 million budget deficit for our next fiscal year. And so federal relief could be a determinative about whether or not we can continue to provide appropriate levels of neighborhood services. If we can continue to make sure that we are protecting, uh, key employment, uh, sectors like our firefighters or lifeguards or librarians. Uh, and so I spent a part of my day yesterday, I'll be spending a part of my day today reaching out to our congressional delegation, making sure they understand very clearly what the stakes are for our city and why we so much need them to come together and pass something sooner rather than later. Speaker 1: 06:48 Does that do to your agenda though, if we don't get that help from washing? Speaker 2: 06:52 Okay, well, we'll have to adjust it, you know, and I'm dealing with that right now. In fact boy, and after taking the oath and providing my speech and listening to the other speeches, uh, the first thing I did was have a meeting with, uh, my finance department to understand the current state of affairs and what the menu of options available to us are. I can tell you very clearly, uh, without additional federal relief, uh, the kinds of tests that we may have to look at would be a pretty significant, uh, we will figure out every way that we can responsibly balance this budget, limiting impacts to neighborhoods. Uh, but it certainly would be a lot easier, uh, with better relief, much as you saw that was done earlier this year with the federal cares act dollars that really allowed the previous administration and council to fill in their significant budget gap, uh, with those federal relief dollars. Speaker 2: 07:34 Again, this is urgent, it's critical. I recognize the new Biden Harris administration. They passed into this of their own, uh, but we need help right now. Uh, we need help, uh, after the new administration takes, uh, takes office in Washington, DC, uh, this again will be determinative about what levels of service we can provide to the community, uh, with regards to my agenda, you know, listen, a lot of what we're talking about isn't necessarily direct spend from our general fund. A lot of it exists is the current spending out of our general fund. I think about our homeless services programs, a level of spending that is higher than we've ever spent. And yet I don't think San Diego is really feel like they're seeing the results that they expect, uh, from that high level of spend when it comes to homeless services. I think that the regulatory relief that could help increase the amount of housing supply in our community that doesn't necessarily have a huge price tag, but it would make a huge difference to San Diego. And so I believe we can get creative and still make progress on the vision that I have for our city. Again, it would be a lot easier with additional federal assistance. Speaker 1: 08:30 There's been a Corona virus outbreak among homeless residents in the convention center. So my question is, do you still think keeping that facility open into the new year is a good idea as opposed to reopening some of the city's bridge shelters for them? Speaker 2: 08:46 Well, I think that some of the challenges we're seeing at the convention center, uh, may also occur at the bridge shelter. You know, you're talking about a large numbers of folks, a confined space. What I'm asking my team right now is to help me understand, uh, what we could take, the dollars that we're currently spending and making sure that we're providing as much shelter as possible for this vulnerable part of our community right now, I think it's not appropriate, uh, to close that shelter in part because the convention center, uh, has, uh, no customers coming in, uh, anytime soon and we have this new stay home order. Uh, and I think that it's inappropriate to tell people to stay at home while simultaneously, uh, throwing hundreds of San Diego out of the home that they've known for the last number of months. Um, I believe that we can find the funding to keep the convention center operating for a few more months. Speaker 2: 09:33 Um, much of that will require additional council authorization, which we are currently developing a proposal for their consideration. Uh, but ultimately Marie, we opened up the convention center because we thought that would be, uh, one of the ways that we could, uh, reduce the transmission of COVID-19, uh, up until this week, I think that has been largely successful or the outbreak, uh, that you're seeing at the convention center is fairly representative of the outbreak we're seeing in our region as a whole. Um, and we, uh, are testing everyone. We are isolating those who are testing positive or showing symptoms. Uh, we're doing, I think everything right when it comes to the response, obviously we don't want to have any transmission within our, any of our shelters. Um, and that's going to be a challenge in the going forward with this level of spread, uh, not just amongst our unsheltered population, but amongst our entire population here in San Diego County. Speaker 1: 10:19 Gloria, you talked yesterday in your inauguration speech about being the first person of color, the first openly gay person to be the mayor of San Diego. What do you think that brings to San Diego leadership that we haven't had before? Speaker 2: 10:33 Well, Maureen, when I was growing up here in San Diego, you know, I didn't see people like me in government and it there's a saying that, you know, if you haven't seen it, you can't be it. I'm hopeful that my presence in this office communicates to more of our young people who are people of color, LGBTQ youth, but frankly, really any San Diego that they can see someone like me in this role and hopefully broaden their expectations for what is possible for them. I also really feel like I have very much a side of the city, a product of San Diego. And I hope that the opportunities that I've been able to experience in my life are opportunities that we're able to give to more San Diego. And that's why you see me, uh, advocating for climate action in order to preserve the city that we love for future generations advocating for more housing. So that folks who work hard can actually afford to live in this great city of ours advocating for more transportation infrastructure, because it's critical for getting people to and from jobs. So I I'm hopeful that, uh, my presence in this office is a communication of what's possible in this great city of ours and that the vision and the agenda that I'm advancing will be one that allows stories like mine to multiply across every neighborhood in San Diego. Speaker 1: 11:41 I've been speaking with San Diego mayor, Todd, Gloria, and thank you so much for speaking with us. Speaker 2: 11:46 Thank you, Maureen.

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Friday is the first full day in office for San Diego's new mayor, Todd Gloria. He joins KPBS Midday Edition on Friday to discuss some of his plans for his time in office.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments