Incumbent San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders, who once served as the city’s police chief, said he’s running for re-election because he “wants to finish the job” he was elected to do four years ago.
“It’s going to require a lot of discipline to finish this job,” said Sanders, adding,"We’ve got things going in the right way and now is not the time to stop, restart and move things differently.”
Opposing Sanders are four determined challengers - Eric Bidwell, James B. Hart, Floyd L. Morrow and Steve Francis. Francis, a wealthy businessman, ran unsuccessfully against Sanders four years ago.
Concerning Francis’ campaign against him this time around, Sanders noted: “Steve’s changed on every issue from being no taxes to taxes, from being pretty much anti-union to asking for union endorsements, from being a pretty large lobbyist himself to now saying he doesn’t want any lobbyists around, from being a pretty huge campaign contributor himself to saying, ‘I’m not asking for any contributions.’ These are some pretty dramatic changes, and I think people really need to ask, ‘Who are we really getting?’ ”
Sanders noted Francis is spending an exceptional amount of time and money in his second bid to become mayor. “He is spending money to be on TV every single night from February until June: That has never happened in this community before,” said Sanders. “His message is tailored because it’s poll-driven, that we’re not better off, which is casting a cloud over the city now making it seem like nothing’s being done, when we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount and the communities have come together to get ourselves out of our problems.”
Tongue-in-cheek, the incumbent mayor said he’s not sophisticated enough to be dissembling in his re-election campaign. “All I can do is a run a city, show the progress we’re making, and people will either decide we’re better off than we were, or we’re not.”
Regarding La Jolla, Sanders said he has confidence that La Jollans could - and should - decide local issues for themselves.
Concerning the prospect of introducing paid on-street parking in La Jolla, Sanders said: “When you come up with a parking district like La Jolla did, that’s a community decision, that’s not the city saying, ‘Hey, we want you to do this.’ The community needs to make a decision whether they want to have paid parking so that it increases the turnover in spots, or whether they’re happy with the way parking is. That’s not something the city should just come in and impose on people.”
Sanders said he’s sympathetic to marine mammals, but added, when it comes to La Jolla’s Children’s Pool, “Seals have the whole coast. I’m not sure Children’s Pool is really designed to be a seal haven. I think there’s plenty of space for them all over and we’ve got a judge saying, ‘You’ve got to dredge that out and use it for what it was given for.’ ”
On the recurrent issue of La Jolla withdrawing from San Diego and becoming its own incorporated city, Sanders noted: “Once again, that’s a community issue, and the community should decide. But I think, when you look at the hoops you have to jump through ... you’ll find it (cityhood) probably isn’t very attractive.”
Concerning the Mount Soledad cross, Sanders commented: “All along I’ve supported that as a historical monument, a war memorial. San Diegans voted pretty overwhelmingly to keep that (where it is).”
Sanders is especially worried that the state of California, which has much more severe budgetary problems than the city of San Diego, will continue its policy of shortchanging local governmental districts when it comes to sending back their fair share of taxes and other revenues collected. “My biggest concern is that the state is going to take funds from the cities and transfer those around,” he said. “if that happens - it’s going to be catastrophic. Their shifting the burden just isn’t fair.”
Asked what his greatest challenge was during his first term in office, Sanders replied: “The city attorney. Simply operating without legal advice. I get a lot of political advice from the city attorney, but I don’t get timely, written legal advice from him. That makes it hard to run a $3 billion corporation, when your own attorney sues you, or serves public records act requests on you, and then turns them over to the press. That’s just crazy.”
Discussing the controversial issue of illegal immigration, and why it has become such an increasingly divisive issue, Sanders said: “I think it’s a combination of fear and conservative talk radio. We’re a nation of immigrants. San Diego has always been an immigrant community because of the proximity to the border. We have a right to protect our borders. But I also think we have to do it in a way that’s respectful of everybody.”
Looking ahead to the next four-year mayoral team, Sanders doesn’t foresee much of a change in issues from his previous administration. “I think the issues are going to remain the same,” he said. “It’s going to require discipline to stay on track with the city’s finances. My focus is going to be on the economy and getting the city’s finances back in order.”
Sanders said he never envisioned being mayor - or even a politician.
“All I ever wanted to be was a cop,” he said. “When I left the police department, I wasn’t looking to become a politician. I saw an opportunity, when things went off the track, to step in and try to help. That’s what I’ve tried to do over the past 28 months.”