This story has been expanded from the issue published in the Nov. 7 print edition of
La Jolla Light
to include further input from the candidates not included due to space constraints.
By Pat Sherman
Three candidates running to replace disgraced ex-mayor Bob Filner in the Nov. 19 special election — Democrats Michael Aguirre, David Alvarez and Nathan Fletcher — fielded questions during a “First Fridays” breakfast organized by the La Jolla Newcomers Club, Nov. 1 at Bernini’s Bistro in La Jolla.
Republican candidate and District 2 City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer was invited, though his scheduler told
La Jolla Light
he had a prior engagement.
“We really wanted him to come as well, but he didn’t accept the invitation,” event co-chair Susan Wille told those in attendance.
The three candidates attending all said public safety, neighborhood services and infrastructure are priorities for them, though they varied on their approach to fund and support these services.
Alvarez, a former community organizer and native San Diegan who has represented City Council District 8 in southern San Diego for the past three years, said he wants to assure that his children have the same opportunities he was afforded growing up in San Diego.
“I really feel strongly that the next mayor will determine what that future will look like … and we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said, though going on to tout progress he said the city council has made to restore some public services, such as hours at libraries and recreation centers.
“I’ve been working to make sure that we have a long-term water supply,” Alvarez added. “That’s the next big legacy project for the city — making sure that we actually have water available for future residents.”
Aguirre, a former San Diego city attorney somewhat marred by the image of himself as abrasive and hard to work with, began by acknowledging that perception with humor.
“As city attorney I was known as a person that had a very low-key personality — ‘mild-mannered Mike,’ ” he joked.
Aguirre said his top priority would be using the city’s $1.1 billion operating budget to protect San Diegans’ safety and security, including fire and police services.
Aguirre said bad roads not only cause wear and tear on vehicles, but “create liability for the city.”
“When populations in communities don’t maintain their roads, that’s the canary in the coal mine that we’re in a period of decline,” he said.
Aguirre, whose children attended The Bishop’s School, returned several times in his discussion to the subject of San Diego’s pension underfunding debacle — and an existing benefit structure known as the “double-dipping” Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) that he believes to be in violation of debt limit and conflict of interest laws. There are still 17,000 former and current city employees that use the old DROP formula, he said.
Aguirre alleged that the primary concern of current and former city council members and mayors has been to “make sure that we fully funded their pension plans, so that they could get pensions as high as $300,000 a year.”