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An interview with 2020 San Diego mayoral candidate Todd Gloria

San Diegans will choose a new mayor on Tuesday, November 3. Hear what the candidates had to say.

SAN DIEGO — News 8 sat down in January 2020 with Todd Gloria, current state Assemblyman for the 78th District of California who is now running for San Diego Mayor. We asked him multiple questions that are important to San Diegans. 

They included:  

  • One of the biggest issues in San Diego is the housing crisis. Whether it is a shortage of inventory or residents being priced out of the market. What is your plan to deal with this issue?
  • What do you see as the biggest issue right now with San Diego’s infrastructure? What is your plan to improve the overall quality of San Diego’s infrastructure? 
  • Climate change is an important issue for many San Diegans. Where can San Diego improve when combatting climate change? 
  • How will you deal with the differences and the particular needs of San Diegans when it comes to the White House’s policies on immigration and the border? 
  • Why should San Diegans vote for you?

Check out the full interview with Todd Gloria. A full transcription can be found below. 

Todd Gloria (D)

Carlo Cecchetto [00:00:01] I am Carlo Cecchetto here with state assemblymember for the 78 District, Todd Gloria, running for mayor of San Diego. We're going to get right into it as we have been. We're facing a significant housing crisis in California and in San Diego. Of course, there aren't enough homes available and the ones that are here are too expensive. People are moving out and people are going homeless. How do you want to solve this problem?

Todd Gloria [00:00:22] Well, I appreciate you correctly identifying this as the biggest issue in this city, from homelessness to people simply not being able to afford the rent or ever foresee being able buy a home in San Diego. [00:00:32]It is unquestionably the biggest problem and what the next mayor has to tackle head on. What I've said is that we have to get a lot better at producing more housing generally. But housing, particularly for low income and middle income San Diegans. [12.0s] So low income, we're talking about the homeless and formerly homeless. [00:00:49]We need strong mayoral leadership in cities across this nation are ending chronic homelessness. Unfortunately, San Diego is not among those communities. But we can be; with strong moral leadership, with data-driven decision making, we have to hold those, receive public money accountable for the funds that they get and prove that they're getting people off the streets and keeping them off the streets if they can do that. They should get more money. If they can't, they should get less or they should get none. We have to build more housing, period. We have to partner with the county. The city has a housing commission. The county has a behavioral health and human services agency. When you marry housing with services, that's how you end homelessness. [34.5s] And Carlo it's important that we enlarge this conversation. It's not sufficient in this problem in the city of San Diego. All 18 cities in our county, unincorporated areas must be working off the same sheet of music, if you will. And the mayor of San Diego has the biggest bully pulpit in the region. And I want to use that bully pulpit to bring everyone together so that we don't just solve this issue in the city of San Diego, but we do it in Chula Vista, in Escondido, in Oceanside and other places where we know there are thousands of people who are unsheltered. Moving attention to the working and middle class, you know, I'm a native San Diegan. I'm a third-generation San Diegan. And my mom and dad were a maid and a gardener. They were able to work hard and buy a home in this community, put their two kids through college, the first in our family to ever go. I think most of your viewers would find that story impossible in 2020. And the next mayor of San Diego has to say that's not acceptable and we should work to change that. I'm a renter myself. I grew up here. I went to college here. The people, the taxpayers of this, community helped subsidize my education. And yet even I, with a good salary that I make, can't afford to buy a home. So I get it. I understand. And as mayor, I'll be laser-focused on making sure that we are updating our community plans. These are the governing documents that guide where development should go. I don't believe in building anything, anywhere, building a bunch of housing out in the backcountry where we know they are fire-prone areas makes no sense. Building high skyscrapers in our coastal communities. That's the most expensive kind of housing. What we need are housing that working people can afford. What I often hear complaints about is that I earn not enough to afford market-rate housing, but I earn too much to qualify for any of the programs that are out there. We should use some of the strategies that have effectively built thousands of homes for low income San Diegans and use those same strategies for middle income San Diegans. [00:02:58]Ultimately, I want to make sure that kids like me who grew up in this community see a future for themselves here, can see buying a home here, raising a family, building wealth. If we can do that, then you can have a great city. You can't have a great city. If people have their eye on the door thinking, I can only stay here so much longer until I have to move away. [15.3s] And again, the mayor, as the city manager of the city, a stronger form of government, we will oversee, the mayor oversees. The Development Services Department has the executive ability to make sure that we're issuing permits in a timely fashion, cutting through red tape and making sure those savings are reflected in the rents and the for sale prices of the homes that are being built.

Carlo Cecchetto [00:03:31] Sounds like you've thought about this a little bit. 

Todd Gloria [00:03:33] I'm sorry. I'm really passionate about this subject and it's part of why I'm running. You know, [00:03:37]this is a hard issue. If you don't bring passion to it, we're not going to solve it. I want to be a lot of passion to the issue of solving chronic homelessness and building more housing for working San Diegans. [8.0s]

Carlo Cecchetto [00:03:46] This next question is something you've experienced as a city council member here in San Diego. Mayor Kevin Faulconer's big infrastructure initiative has been road repair. They've talked a lot about it. Thousands of miles repaired. What do you think the biggest issue is for infrastructure in the city of San Diego? And how are you going to attack that?

Todd Gloria [00:04:02] Well, from my standpoint, I love the question because [00:04:04]people often try and tell me infrastructure is not a sexy subject and therefore we don't talk about it. And I disagree. I think it's a very sexy subject. We got to talk about it more because if we do, we elevate its priority, get more focus on more attention, more progress. I think roads need to be repaired. And obviously that is probably the most intimate way that San Diegans interact with their city government. And Lord knows the roads are not in the condition they need to be in. But I think of it a bit broader than that. We have to build a world-class transportation system to match the world-class city that we are and that we should continue to grow into being. [30.2s] What I mean by that, we need to travel the world. And you've traveled to many of our peer cities you see vibrant, active transportation options, good quality public transportation that people choose to ride instead of being default into riding because they have no other option. Right now, [00:04:49]I think San Diegans really only have one choice. I'm getting from A to B, and that's in their car. And what I would like to see is an opportunity for really a freedom of choice that you can match the mode of transportation to the trip you're going to take so that you have a safe and convenient way to walk to where you need to go, if that's appropriate, that you can take public transit that's quality, affordable and efficient for working. San Diegans. That you continue to drive your car when it's appropriate. And hopefully in a situation which is not so much traffic, that makes it nearly impractical. [26.4s] How can we do this? Well, we passed a bill in the Legislature, Assembly bill 805 by Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher a couple of years ago. It reformed our local transit, regional transportation authority, SANDAG, and its governance structure. And it puts the mayor of San Diego in charge of that agency. Now, our current mayor doesn't use that authority, and that's a bit baffling to me because that's a billion dollars of annual spending. As mayor of San Diego, I would absolutely use that authority. I would help to lead SANDAG to make sure the city of San Diego gets its fair share and that we're building that world-class transportation system that is really a hallmark of choice, of freedom of choice. And lastly, Carlo, this really gets into the climate change question. As you may know, over 40 percent of the emissions into the community come from transportation. If we're not building this network that I'm describing to you, we can't meet our obligations under our landmark climate action plan nor obligations under state and in some cases federal law. So this is a climate imperative as well as a infrastructure imperative.

Carlo Cecchetto [00:06:11] It makes sense that you put those two things together, transportation and climate change, so much so. And it's funny because you lead right into our third question, which is climate change is on top of everybody's mind. What are we not doing enough in San Diego to address it? And it sounds like you would just build out on transportation. We're not doing enough there. It's a big impact. Are there other areas where we can improve?

Todd Gloria [00:06:32] [00:06:32]There's lots of areas. And actually, it takes the first and second question. You have housing policy, you have transportation policy, the overlap between those two is climate policy. [6.6s] Now, your viewers may remember I actually served in the mayor's office. I did it for about eight months in 2013 and 2014 after the resignation of Mayor Bob Filner. During that time, besides pulling the government back together and getting us back on track. I had to do the day to day duties of the city's chief executive. And one of the things I did was author our city's landmark climate action plan. This is a bold, audacious plan. People somewhat criticized it back five years ago as maybe being too bold. But fast forward to today. A lot of cities in the San Diego area have adopted the same plan. The state of California has adopted the same plan. Six other states and Puerto Rico have followed our lead. What I'm trying to say is what seemed unthinkable just a few years ago is now being replicated elsewhere, it shows you what happens when San Diego leads. And my campaign is very much about making sure San Diego leads more often. To your question, [00:07:24]we have adopted that climate action plan of moving to 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2035. But I don't feel like the last five years this current administration and city council have acted with the urgency that's necessary. To give you an example,we are slowly moving towards community choice energy, basically giving consumers a choice on where they get their energy from and hopefully purchasing it for more renewable sources. The city spent five years studying that when we knew full well that this is what the city needs to do. The next mayor is going to have the opportunity to build on actually ramping this up, of really bringing it online and bring those renewable energy sources into San Diego. [35.2s] But also, Carlo, importantly taking the proceeds that come from that enterprise and reinvesting them back into our neighborhoods to make sure that green policies and green living aren't just the opportunities for the wealthy who can afford a Tesla or to put solar on their house, but really that every community can benefit from that. So you see electric charging stations south of I-8, that you see green jobs coming into other communities where maybe there isn't enough employment opportunities. This is what community choice energy can do. This is what city policy adopted five years is making five years ago is making possible and with a bit more urgency, with a bit more bold leadership, I think we can maybe make that goal sooner than 2035 and then move on to other things that are important. And again, that really is about housing and transportation, the convergence of those issues to keep San Diego a leader in the fight against climate change. What sets us apart from many other communities is our natural resources, our beautiful climate. This is worth fighting for and it isn't a zero-sum game. We can be good on the environment and good on the economy.

Carlo Cecchetto [00:08:55] They are intertwined. Mayor Kevin Faulconer has a well, let's call it an interesting relationship with the White House, especially when it comes to issues related to immigration. Those are kind of tricky waters being where we are and how interdependent we are with Mexico's economy. How would you navigate those waters?

Todd Gloria [00:09:13] [00:09:13]Well, I do not support President Trump. I think what he is doing is very detrimental, not just to our regional economy as one that is on the border and dependent on our binational mega region, but also eroding the morality of our community and harming families in San Diego. Many of our city's residents live bi-national lifestyles. They live on both sides of the border. They may live on one side, work on the other. Their children may go back across frequently. [22.3s] I think that the mayor has done a decent job of really illustrating the economic benefits of our border, but hasn't spoken out about really the policies that we're seeing out of Washington, D.C. from the Trump administration that again, that are harming our community. The mayor of San Diego is the mayor of the largest border city in the United States. And again, that's a bully pulpit from which to speak. And [00:09:56]we should be speaking about this not just in economic terms, although that's really important. And really speaking about the fact that the border is an asset, not a liability, but also using this bully pulpit to make very, very clear that putting children in cages is not appropriate. That is absolutely wrong. That focusing on a border wall that we don't believe is going to be helpful is harmful, particularly when we're dealing with cross-border sewage, which is actually a much more direct threat to our community. [22.8s] And every nickel that's going to a wall that's not useful is money that could be going to make sure that we have clean water and open beaches here in San Diego County. So I see a lot of need for activism at this level to really speak out and speak the truth to the administration that is so wrong-headed on the border. And I think they're wrong-headed in, not just for whatever reasons most people describe, but [00:10:39]we know the border. You and I live here. We're just down the road. You and I understand how this works. I don't think people in Washington understand that. The mayor of San Diego has an obligation to make sure more people understand why the border is important, again, not just for our economy, but for the lives of thousands of San Diego that live binational lifestyles. [15.3s]

Carlo Cecchetto [00:10:56] Finally, Assemblymember, Todd Gloria, why we want to let everybody just have their elevator pitch. Give me a minute. Just to look at our voters. Tell them why they should vote for you to be the next mayor of the city of San Diego.

Todd Gloria [00:11:08] Well, I have a chance to answer this question a lot, as you might imagine. So here's what I say. You know, [00:11:13]I'm a native San Diegan. I'm a third-generation San Diegan. And that means I know where our community has been. I'm the son of a hotel maid and a gardener, which means I know just how hard it is to make ends meet in this town. But more than anything I have a vision for where I'd like to take our city. [12.3s] There are many challenges in our city, we've talked about some of them, potholes to housing affordability, to homelessness. [00:11:31]Broadly speaking, I think our city's main challenge is that we are a big city that too often operates like a small town. And we have to break from that mentality and embrace the fact that we're the eighth-largest city in the country, the second-largest in California, and that we should take care of the small issues like scooters and vacation rentals and really tackle the big issues like health, homelessness, housing affordability, infrastructure. [19.1s] Your viewers know that I can do this job. They saw me do it for eight months under the most difficult of circumstances. I'm asking them for the opportunity to do it for eight years under more normal circumstances. And I think in doing so, [00:12:03]we can be among the cities that end chronic homelessness. We can build a world-class transportation system. We can meet our obligations under our climate action plan. And most importantly, we can build more housing that is priced for working and middle-class families, families like mine that have had lived the dream here in San Diego, but whose story should not end with my generation in San Diegans. It's so important that we build pathways going forward so that my niece and nephews can have a place to live here in their hometown. [25.6s]

Carlo Cecchetto [00:12:30] All right. Todd Gloria, thank you very much for your time, we appreciate it.

Todd Gloria [00:12:32] Thank you Carlo. Thank you.

To see the interviews with the six other candidates, click here.

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