La Jollans will vote to help choose the next mayor of San Diego on primary election day — Tuesday, March 3, 2020 — ahead of the Nov. 3, 2020 general election.
La Jolla Light recently sat down with the top three candidates running to fill Kevin Faulconer’s vacancy — Barbara Bry (D), Todd Gloria (D) and Scott Sherman (R) — and asked each questions compiled by Light staff and La Jolla community leaders and residents.
According to a Feb. 11 San Diego Union-Tribune/10News poll, Gloria has the support of 29 percent of likely voters, followed by Sherman with 18 percent and Bry with 13 percent. (Regretfully, a combination of space and manpower limitations prevented the Light from including the three other candidates — Tasha Williamson, Rich Riel and Gita Appelbaum Singh — who each had 5 percent support or less.)
La Jolla Light interviews with the candidates for the District 1 City Council seat (being vacated by Barbara Bry) can be found on the Light website at bit.ly/2HiADph
The Light’s interview with Scott Sherman — San Diego mayoral candidate and current District 7 City Council member — appears below. Also, see the Light’s interviews with other mayoral candidates:
• Barbara Bry: lajollalight.com/news/story/2020-02-20/san-diego-mayoral-candidate-barbara-bry
• Todd Gloria: lajollalight.com/news/story/2020-02-20/san-diego-mayoral-candidate-todd-gloria
• Interview with Scott Sherman:
Why did you decide to run for mayor of San Diego?
Scott Sherman: “Mostly because I was being asked by a whole bunch of people. I was kind of looking forward to going back to the private sector. I even had a chalkboard on my desk counting down the days. But every time my wife and I went out in public, people would come up to us and say, ‘Hey, you should run for mayor, we’d really like to support you.’ That’s how I got into this the first time — people asking me, not because I wanted to run — so I figured I might as well do it again. And there are some things that need to be talked about.”
What’s the biggest issue(s) the City faces?
Scott Sherman: “Homelessness and housing, by far. We’re doing a lot on the compassion side here at the City. We’ve done tent structures and parking structures and permanent supportive housing, affordable housing, storage facilities. But we really haven’t been enforcing the laws that are on the books. I mean, it’s not a crime to be homeless, but if you commit crimes while being homeless, they’re still crimes and need to be enforced so we can compel people to seek the help that the City provides.
And in housing, we have to concentrate on middle-market housing. We’ve been doing a lot on the supportive-housing side, the taxpayer-subsidized housing side, and 47 percent of the cost of building housing is government regulation and red tape. That gets passed along to the consumer. So we end up with a lot of luxury housing. So we have luxury housing and taxpayer-subsidized housing and nothing in the middle. So the people in subsidized housing can’t get out, because there’s nowhere to go. And the people waiting end up homeless and on the street.
Both my kids live out of state because they can’t afford housing here.”
What makes you uniquely qualified to deal with it?
Scott Sherman: “I was a small-business owner for 27 years before I got into politics, so I appreciate where the dollar comes from. Too many times, people and government refer to the City’s money and the City’s land. I keep having to remind them that, no, it’s the taxpayers’ money and the taxpayers’ land. I had an insurance agency, so customer service and that fiduciary responsibility with my customers was first and foremost, and I’ve been carrying that attitude over to City Hall. I’ve been there for seven years and I’ve been chair of the audit committee for five. So I know the nuts-and-bolts of how the City does and doesn’t work, and how it can be fixed.”
Do you think La Jolla could ever become its own City if it wanted to?
Scott Sherman: “It would be pretty tough to accomplish. I know there’s been talk about it. There would have to be a vote and there would be court challenges. It would be pretty tough.”
Tony Crisafi, chair of La Jolla Community Planning Associations, asks: If Measure C (a citizen initiative designed to increase the lodging tax, expand the convention center, and fund streets and homelessness programs) passes, how will you ensure that homelessness is properly addressed, fairly funded and evenly dealt with Citywide?
Scott Sherman: “The funding aspect would come from Prop C, so I’m in favor of Measure C. We’d make sure we put that money into the appropriate services and into law enforcement and the enforcement aspects of it. District-wide, I’ve been leading by example on that issue. We have permanent supportive housing in my district, District 7, where it’s never existed before. But you need to assure that, since homeless is a Citywide problem, that it needs to be dealt with on a Citywide level.”
Jodi Rudick, executive director of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association, asks: What are your plans to support small, brick and mortar businesses in light of what some have called the “retail apocalypse”?
Scott Sherman: “Yeah, the Internet has been very damaging the retail industry. The best thing government can do is reduce the taxes and the fees and the regulations that add burdensome costs onto small businesses, which either they have to pass it on, or sometimes they can’t and have to go out of business. Business Improvement Districts can go a long way as well.”
John Newsam, president of the Bird Rock Community Council, asks: How do you see achieving a best balance between the need for more lower-income housing and the community wish to curb inappropriate development in certain areas, such as on the coast?
Scott Sherman: “Yeah, that’s why you make sure you do density around mass-transit hubs. That way, you keep that construction and that new housing in an area where you can live, work and play — which is away from the coast and those areas. And mass transit is mostly away from the coast and inland. So if you do it around mass transit, it shouldn’t affect the coast at all.”
Melinda Merryweather, former head of Incorporate La Jolla, asks what will you do to remove the pollution at The Cove and the horrible smell so we can use our beaches again?
Scott Sherman: “While we do what we can on a City level, a lot of that has to do with state and federal regulations about marine-mammal protection and those type of things. But La Jolla is a tourism destination, and we’ve got to work to be able to do something to clear out the stench and those types of things. It piles up. There are days I’ve been to dinner in La Jolla, and you’re sitting out on a patio and it’s pretty rough. It’s tough to do. But we have to work within the parameters of what we can do as a City that has to deal with a state.”
Janie Emerson, chair of La Jolla Shores Association, asks: What is the biggest fiscal challenge facing the City in the future (other than the Pension problem) and what is your plan to solve it?
Scott Sherman: “Other than the pension problem? Because the pension problem is one of our biggest issues. I mean, we’re $360 million-plus every year. The best we can do is start streamlining the process at City Hall. There’s so many redundancies and so many burdensome regulations and so many requirements to overspend on contracts. If you look at prevailing wage, which is union contracts, that adds 20 percent to the cost of every single project we do at the City. If you could curtail some of that, we would have a lot of money to work with at the City. But when you’re building affordable housing and it’s costing $575,000 a unit to build, $80,000 a unit is prevailing wage, and $40,000 of that is government regulation and red tape, that’s $120,000 per unit you could save right there.”
La Jolla resident Karen Dyer asks: It is rare to see police patrolling and there appears to be little enforcement. As an example, traffic violations such as running stop signs, reckless driving, and speeding are a common occurrence. Trespassing in the canyons and on personal property is becoming more and more common. You will recall that trespassers set a fire in one of the La Jolla canyons and treated millions of dollars of property around the canyon. Yet, even after this trespassing issue, the police refused to go into the canyons even with written permission from the canyon owners, the La Jolla Alta Master Council. If you are elected Mayor, how will you address the growing crime problem in La Jolla and Pacific Beach. We have heard much about the causes, but we want to hear your plan and timeframe for addressing these issues.
Scott Sherman: “The activity in the canyon is likely due to hardcore homeless. I’m very familiar with this type of homeless as we have similar problems in District 7. Those homeless aren’t homeless because they are the working poor struggling to pay rent or victims of domestic violence. They are the hardcore homeless, with drug addiction or mental illness. Many are criminals and don’t want help, living off the grid for a reason.
A few years ago, I was part of a two-week clean-up behind the Home Depot in Grantville. Police found a bike chop shop there with over 300 stolen bikes and a prostitute den (in exchange for heroin). When we showed up to remove the operation, one guy jumped into the river and swam to the other shore because he had warrants out.
It is documented that many of the canyon fires are caused by homeless camping and underscores the need for real enforcement, rather than enabling this behavior. We must protect homeowners and their property as well as protect the homeless.”
Cassandra Dove, a 20-year-old La Jolla resident voting in her first general election, asks: How will you prioritize the environment as mayor and help San Diego be an example for the country as a city taking action to fight climate change?
Scott Sherman: “Good for Cassandra. I will make sure we adhere to our Climate Action Plan and make sure we try to achieve the goals set therein. The one issue we have in our Climate Action Plan is that there’s not enough flexibility to it, I think, to achieve the goals. There are some areas we might want to look at to achieve more flexibility — in the zero-waste areas and some of those things — to help strengthen it. But it’s been passed by the Council and it’s a good plan and we’re working diligently to implement it — though not as fast as we should be sometimes.”
— Learn more about Scott Sherman at sherman2020.com