City officials hoping to accomplish more after ambitious 2014 - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

City officials hoping to accomplish more after ambitious 2014

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - It might be considered mundane or nuts-and-bolts governing, but officials with the city of San Diego plan to get back to basics in 2015 in hopes of accomplishing some unfinished tasks.

This comes after a year that started and ended with leadership changes. Then-Councilman Kevin Faulconer was elected mayor in a February special election and took office the following month. He immediately named San Diego Police Department Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman as the agency's first female chief.

More recently, the City Council ousted Todd Gloria as its president and elevated Sherri Lightner to the panel's leadership position.

Looking ahead to next year, Faulconer and Lightner have both expressed an interest in getting things done.

"(The year) 2015 is going to be a year of action as we work to improve San Diego's neighborhoods and focus with renewed vigor on solutions to issues, from streets to infrastructure to jobs to housing, that are important to making a San Diego that's full of opportunities," Faulconer said.

The mayor plans to deliver his State of the City address Jan. 14 at the Balboa Theatre. One of the chief topics is expected to be the future of the Chargers football team, which has been pushing for a new stadium for a dozen years.

The city also needs to get its infrastructure bond program -- which has been held up by litigation -- back on track and complete negotiations for a pay raise for police officers.

Gloria, then serving as interim mayor, advanced an ambitious agenda in last year's State of the City address, only some of which was fulfilled.

The highest-profile plank on his platform, an increase in the minimum wage for people working within city limits, was adopted by the City Council, but implementation was suspended when opponents in the business community collected enough petition signatures to force a public vote -- probably in June 2016.

Arguably the biggest news stories in San Diego in 2014 had nothing to do with government, but the age-old San Diego standbys of fire and water.

In May, warm winds from the east blew around a dozen wildfires out of control, most of them in the North County. By the time the last flames were extinguished, around 50 houses and commercial buildings had been destroyed and tens of thousands of acres of land scorched.

A teenage girl was charged with setting the most destructive blaze, the almost 2,000-acre Cocos Fire in San Marcos. The girl is set to go to trial in March on an arson charge for starting the fire, which engulfed 40 structures, most of them residences.

San Diego -- like the rest of California -- spent 2014 under severe drought conditions. With state water deliveries shrinking, area officials issued mandatory conservation measures, including requiring residents to irrigate lawns and wash cars only on certain days of the week and at certain times.

Despite December's heavy rains, the restrictions are expected to remain in place well into next year as water authorities monitor the weather to see if the storms continue.

A series of sexual harassment lawsuits against the city of San Diego and former Mayor Bob Filner remain unresolved heading into 2015. The city did, however, approve a $250,000 settlement with Filner's first accuser, Irene McCormack Jackson, his former communications chief.

City lawyers wrapped up litigation brought by the actions of former police Officer Anthony Arevalos, who demanded sexual favors from women he pulled over for alleged drunken driving in the Gaslamp Quarter a few years ago.

The city and its insurance carriers shelled out nearly $10 million in expenses and settlements of 14 lawsuits involving the imprisoned ex-cop.

Among other stories in the past year:

-- The Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla led a consortium of organizations and companies researching the Ebola virus, which ravaged three West African countries and was brought to the United States for the first time.

-- The county Board of Supervisors embraced a regional approach to researching and treating Alzheimer's, now the third-leading cause of death in the region.

-- Armando Gabriel Perez pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing his estranged 19-year-old wife in a City College restroom in 2010 in what's considered to be one of the most heinous local crimes in recent years, and will face life in prison when sentenced next month.

-- Leaders of the Mexican gang Los Palillos, or The Toothpicks, were convicted of a series of murders, kidnappings and other crimes and sentenced to life in prison.

-- Julie Harper, a Carlsbad woman who claimed she fatally shot her schoolteacher husband after he raped her repeatedly over a decade, was acquitted of first-degree murder and will be retried on lesser charges next year.

-- Sean Patrick Banks was sentenced to 37 years to life in prison for raping two women, including one he met on the Christian Mingle website.

-- A post-recession building boom continued throughout the region as student unions were completed at San Diego State University and Cal State San Marcos, a 500,000-square-foot medical center opened at Camp Pendleton and the long-awaited Waterfront Park opened at the County Administration Center, while construction started on a downtown courthouse.

Notable deaths in San Diego over the past year included former Padres All-Star Tony Gwynn, who died from cancer at age 54; Padres radio announcer Jerry Coleman, who passed away at 89; Science Applications International Corp. founder J. Robert Beyster, 90; and television personality Larry Himmel, 68.

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