Chris Cate has now spent more than 100 days in office as a San Diego Councilmember, and one thing is certain:
Despite the demands of the office and the difficult challenges on the city's plate — such as possibly losing the Chargers to LA and land development controversies such as One Paseo — the man has not aged a single day.
Well, maybe that's not exactly shocking. At 32, he's the city's youngest councilmember. So it should take a few more years of council hearings, sub-committee hearings, deliberations, municipal reports, budget analyses, budget transfers, appropriations, motions, actions, resolutions, citizen engagement, citizen protests and media scrutiny before we likely see any gray.
Still, Cate has come onboard at a time of some serious city goings-on. There was not much time for a honeymoon. There likely wasn't even time to adjust his council seat to the proper height.
But — thanks to the exuberance of youth, no doubt — he's loving it.
“It's been a fun ride,” he said. “I enjoy coming to work every day.”
Good thing, that. If the first 100 days is any indication, he's going to need an unshakeable positive attitude.
Take One Paseo. Yes, the $750 million project passed by a 7 to 2 vote (he supported it) but many in the Carmel Valley community where it's planned are far from keen on it. Indeed, 400 people showed up when the council took it up. There was six hours of public testimony.
Six hours!!! (And that didn't age him?)
Already, there's a referendum drive ongoing to put the issue to a citywide vote to nullify the council's decision. Opponents think the project is too dense and will upset the balance of the community. Cate argues we need to develop more innovatively to handle our increasing population.
Councilman Todd Gloria thinks this referendum business is getting out of hand. A number of recent council decisions have or are going to the ballot. For one thing, he's calling for more transparency, to make sure voters know who's behind the efforts. Cate disagrees and thinks the referendum system doesn't need tweaking.
The Chargers? Well, that's got the whole city buzzing, thanks to the Chargers recent announcement that they're looking north. Since that shocker, the city has been moving in high-gear to give the Chargers an alternative, which appears to be a proposed new stadium in Mission Valley.
Cate, a Republican, is the former vice president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and watchdog taxpayers associations normally don't like cities to fork over taxpayers' money to billionaire football team owners.
When he campaigned, Cate said he wouldn't support a new tax for a stadium. And his stance hasn't changed. However, other funding options might be acceptable.
“The devil is in the details,” he said.
So, until the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group announces a financing plan, he can't offer opinions, he said.
The above-mentioned issues are important, but Cate has spent much of his first 100 days focusing on the needs of District 6, he said. D-6 encompasses the neighborhoods of Clairemont Mesa, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, Miramar, Park Village, Rancho Penasquitos and Sorrento Valley.
He and his staff went through every neighborhood, getting feedback and tallying needs. Having this knowledge can help him be strategic in getting the necessary results, he said.
So far, he's addressed 115 neighborhood issues and has been to 167 community events.
He's also proud of working with other city leaders to give city cops better pay and benefits. His dad is a longtime CHP patrolman. Another of his initiatives is to promote small businesses.
Cate's race was widely watched because it was the only council race decided in November. No candidate got the magical 50-percent, plus 1 vote in the June primary.
It was also widely watched because it had the potential to change the makeup of the City Council, which it did. When Cate defeated Democrat Carol Kim, the council's Democratic majority fell from 6-3 to 5-4. That's critical, considering it takes six votes to beat a mayoral veto. The mayor in this case is Kevin Faulconer, a Republican.
It was also widely watched because both candidates are Asian-Americans, and it would be the first time an Asian-American held a council seat in San Diego in 50 years.
He wants to set an example to younger Asian-Americans of how they can be agents of change by getting involved in the political system.
“We're coming into our own,” he said. “We're finding our voice and message.”