Checking In on Filner’s Special (Task) Forces

Checking In on Filner’s Special (Task) Forces

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Mayor Bob Filner has embraced a sort-of “it takes a village” approach to governing by tapping various groups of local advocates, neighborhood leaders and members of the business community to help brainstorm solutions to citywide problems.

Appointing various task forces to address certain issues has become Filner’s go-to approach for advancing major campaign promises.

Technically, not all of these groups are considered “task forces.”  One defines itself as a stakeholders group and another calls itself an advisory group.

Nevertheless, the idea is that these small groups of experts or concerned citizens would meet regularly to find solutions to important issues in the the community, such as marijuana access for qualified patients, public restrooms downtown and regulations that trip up local breweries.

These task forces would then share these recommendations with the mayor in the hopes of enacting change.

It’s unclear how many of these groups the mayor has created since assuming office. The mayor’s office did not respond to our request for a full list.

In addition to appointing several task forces, the mayor  launched a think tank to work on issues like the bi-national Olympics bid, CicloSDias — an open street and car-free celebration — neighborhood planning and speeding up border wait times. While the think tank has a budget of just under $1 million, the plan is to make it self-sustaining in the future.

To track the success of these various task forces, summits and advisory groups, we checked in with them to see if contact between the members had been consistent, whether they had shared proposed solutions with the mayor and whether any changes have happened as a result of their work.

Solar Summit

Filner, along with Diane Jacobs and Dave Roberts of the county Board of Supervisors, held a press conference in March to announce that the city, county and school district had formed a “solar summit” to increase solar energy use in the region. Steve Schmidt, communications adviser for Jacobs, said that San Diego County is working to make solar panels more affordable for homeowners and is updating its own energy use policies.

Veterans Jobs Summit

Bill Rider, founder of American Combat Veterans of War said that a Veterans Employment Department has been established within Filner’s office, however, he declined to comment on the status of the veterans job summit that he was helping Filner put together.

The mayor’s office has not responded to requests on the status of the summit.

Binational Mayors Association

On May 21, Mayor Filner attended a meeting for the Binational Mayors Association in Juarez via Skype.

 

At the meeting, the mayors discussed ways to improve trade between the border and how to cut border wait times. Filner was named chair of the Border Mayors Association for affairs on the U.S. side. The next meeting will be held in San Diego at a date yet to be determined.

Livable Streets Coalition

Started: January. The coalition is made up of several pre-existing groups: BikeSD, San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, Move San Diego, City Heights Community Development Corporation, Great Streets San Diego, Walk San Diego, Urban Green and Congress for New Urbanism.

Does it meet consistently? Yes, once every six weeks. BikeSD co-founder Sam Ollinger also said there is also constant contact via email.

Recommendations: The group made a detailed five-year plan to accomplish its goals, including:

• Become America’s most bike-friendly city

• Eliminate minimum parking requirements

• Construct over 500 miles of new bike lanes

• Implement CicloSDias

• Start a bike-share program

Implemented? CicloSDias is happening on Aug. 11. Walter Chambers, founder of Great Streets San Diego, said that Bill Fulton, the city’s new planning director, will help accomplish many of the goals outlined by the group.

Representative from the mayor’s office: Ed Clancy, ex-campaign manager for Filner, organizes the group.

Medical Marijuana Stakeholders Group

Started: January. A formal city task force existed before Filner took office but it had been inactive since 2010.

Does it meet consistently? Member Eugene Davidovich said that the group doesn’t have a specific schedule and that they have met with a member majority three times since January.

Recommendations:

• Create reasonable access for qualified patients

• Ensure that safeguards make medical marijuana available only those qualified to receive it

• Write a new zoning ordinance into law

Implemented? No. The mayor’s office drafted a new ordinance with input from the stakeholder’s group, which was ultimately rejected by the City Council. The rejected ordinance was then sent to the city attorney’s office to be  rewritten.

Representative from mayor’s office: Attorney Lee Burdick

Downtown Public Restrooms Task Force

Started: March

Does it meet consistently? Yes, once a month.

Recommendations: Robert C. Coates, Chair of the the task force, said that the group asked the city to allocate $450,000 in the budget for two modern public restrooms downtown. The group also recommended funding for Port-A-Potties on the corner of 17th Street and Island Avenue in downtown.

Implemented? The City Council approved $400,000 to install two modern public restrooms in downtown. The restrooms won’t be installed until February 2014.

In the meantime, the San Diego City Council approved $50,000 in the mayor’s first budget for the installation and maintenance of six Port-A-Potties on the corner of 16th Street (the facilities were moved from 17th Street) and Island Avenue. The money would also go toward maintaining the permanent restrooms after they’re installed.

Representative from mayor’s office: Attorney Lee Burdick

Craft Beer Task Force

Started: June, though there was an initial meeting prior to that.

Does it meet consistently? Jacob McKean, founder of Modern Times Beer, said that he first met with the mayor a few months ago, then again on June 14. The next meeting will be with the mayor’s office of Economic Growth Services in July to assemble a package of reforms.

Recommendations:

• Spur growth in the craft beer industry

• Remove unnecessary roadblocks to growth

Implemented? Filner has asked the task force to put together a package of reforms. The mayor supported a recent measure passed by the City Council that allows breweries to attach larger restaurants and tasting rooms to their facilities.

Representative from the mayor’s office: The first two meetings have been with the mayor.

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Alex Corey

Alex Corey

Alex Corey is a reporting intern at Voice of San Diego. You can contact him directly at alex.corey@voiceofsandiego.org.

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4 comments
Allen Hemphill
Allen Hemphill

Downtown public restrooms? How about the existing public office buildings of the City, which already exist, and are funded and maintained by the public? The Mayor's personal facilities would be a good start. The public restrooms of the downtown library have always been the default position, but there are MANY public office buildings downtown that SHOULD be open to ALL citizens, before befouling the public streets with extra, expensive facilities.

Allen Hemphill
Allen Hemphill subscribermember

Downtown public restrooms? How about the existing public office buildings of the City, which already exist, and are funded and maintained by the public? The Mayor's personal facilities would be a good start. The public restrooms of the downtown library have always been the default position, but there are MANY public office buildings downtown that SHOULD be open to ALL citizens, before befouling the public streets with extra, expensive facilities.

David Hall
David Hall

So, you're suggesting that City Hall open the restrooms to the public? And to do this, you want security to screen everybody who stops by to take a leak? Really? Name a couple of city buildings besides the library where this would work.

David Hall
David Hall subscriber

So, you're suggesting that City Hall open the restrooms to the public? And to do this, you want security to screen everybody who stops by to take a leak? Really? Name a couple of city buildings besides the library where this would work.