You won Kevin Faulconer.
As mayor, you get to lead a pretty sweet city — America's Finest, it's been called once or twice — but like any other major city, it's got its share of challenges.
We've identified 10, in no particular order. Please, fix them.
1. Jobs: The region's unemployment rate is 6.4 percent. We don't buy it. Most economic experts believe the unemployment rate doesn't reflect the true employment picture because it doesn't count the people who stopped looking for work. Plus, many of the new jobs being created are lame. They are in tourism and retail, which are low paying. A recent report from the National University System Institute for Policy Research didn't have promising news. Kelly Cunningham, an economist at the university, said his initial forecast for San Diego's economy is that it will continue to grow slowly. His 2013 gross domestic product calculation has the region expanding at 1.7 percent. In 2014, he sees it slowing to 1.5 percent. “This has just been a very slow and stagnant recovery, and frustratingly so," he told the U-T San Diego. “At this point our economy should be performing better.” Mr. Mayor, this is in need of mending.
2. The Border: Yes, we realize you're tuned into the problem here. You mention the need to speed border crossings in your campaign platform. SANDAG pegs the economic loss from the persistent backlogs at between $2 and $2.5 billion yearly. That's a lot of Super Bowls. Making the border crossing more efficient helps the economies of both San Diego and Tijuana. So this is an issue that, well, can't wait.
3. Income Inequality: During the campaign, you made it clear you oppose any sort of minimum wage increase. We understand you believe that streamlining government regulation and lowering tax burdens will attract businesses and help them grow. And that, in turn, will create good paying jobs. OK. Let's see if that works. Because right now, the income inequality is moving at such a clip, it could cause serious problems. Working people won't be able to afford to live here. They won't be able to buy goods, eat at nice restaurants, and gawk at the pandas. In 2007, the real median income for San Diego households was at its highest at $68,430. By 2012, it had fallen to $60,330 — a near 12 percent drop. Gulp! Reversing that trend would be welcomed.
4. Affordable Housing: You opposed increasing the linkage fee — a charge on commercial development to create more affordable housing. You called it a “jobs tax.” Your plan calls for removing burdens, such as prohibitive fees, on contractors so they build units faster and less expensively. You also plan to encourage private and philanthropic investment to help solve the problem and look for other areas besides downtown, where real estate is pricey, to steer such development. Again, let's see how it works. But the situation is dire and getting worse. A new report by the California Association of Realtors shows that only 28 percent of San Diegans can afford the median priced home in our region. According to the San Diego Housing Commission, 41,000 San Diego households are on the waiting list for rental assistance. The wait is between eight to 10 years. So any progress you make in would be appreciated — by many.
5. Homelessness: In the past, you've been criticized for your work on homelessness. In a recent City Beat editorial, it said, “Faulconer's been fibbing about his past commitment to caring for homeless folks; as a City Council member, he's been downright hostile to them.” Ouch. Now's your chance to prove them wrong. San Diego has an estimated 5,700 homeless. San Diego's East Village can look like a third-world refugee camp at times. Your plan, among other things, embraces the so-called “housing-first" approach, in which the chronic homeless are given shelter as well as key services. It's been successful elsewhere. This issue, for those on the streets, is a matter of life and death. It needs your immediate attention.
6. Infrastructure: Take a drive. That's all it takes to realize San Diego has a significant infrastructure problem. Of course, that's hardly news. Both you and your challenger, David Alvarez, pointed to the problem consistently even though you had differing opinions on funding. You both mentioned the need for a neighborhoods-first approach to put a dent in the problem. Find the areas most in need and direct resources there. You both made the same points when it came to fire and police needs. Sounds good. It even sounded good when former Mayor Bob Filner said it. Now, please, do it.
7. Water: This California drought thing is scary. San Diego is one of the more vulnerable major cities, given we import about 80 percent of our water. That means price spikes or supply cuts could rock the region. Yes, this is a regional issue, but we need strong leadership to make substantial change beyond the typical call for conservation. You have to realize this is a long-term, significant issue. Alvarez did. Part of his campaign platform called for ensuring long-term water security. It would be nice if you got on that as well.
8. Sustainability: Time to get real here. Time to incorporate more alternative energy sources into our city. Time to embrace the latest technologies to make our city smarter and services more efficient and accessible. Time to make mass transit more convenient and plentiful. Time to improve biking and walking routes. You're an avid biker and were a player in improving the Bayshore Bikeway, which goes around the San Diego Bay. But now you've got the whole city to bring up to speed. Start pedaling.
9. Open Government: You say you are committed to open government, yet the Voice of San Diego once blasted you for not releasing an email about city business. So which is it? It's a big question. Right now, the city is the dark ages when it comes to information accessibility. Look at Amazon.com. And look at the City of San Diego's website. We applaud your promise to provide more city information more quickly, given we have the technology to do so. A more engaged citizenry makes for a better city. Push the right buttons to make it happen, please.
10. Chargers: It would suck to lose them. Your legacy would take a major hit and we'd have to spend our Sundays at the beach or in Balboa Park. The Chargers are a part of the city fabric and they are — get this — improving. Sure, the problem of figuring out a way to build a new stadium has been around for years, but now you've got the ball. Better run with it. The clock is ticking.