Unemployment isn’t just a statistic. It represents real people. Everyone knows someone who has lost their job. These economic problems create budget deficits and force drastic cuts to education and public safety. These problems are compounded by a body of elected officials at every level that seem incapable of delivering real solutions to the problems our working families face. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Two weeks ago, San Diego’s legislative delegation came together to do something as bold as it is rare. We passed a significant, albeit controversial, measure that will have a substantial impact for decades. We ensured billions of dollars of San Diego taxpayer money will remain in San Diego as opposed to being sent to Sacramento.
This action freed up funds that can be invested in projects critical to our region that include public transit, affordable housing, parks, environmental infrastructure, and even a homeless shelter. This will create local jobs, attract billions in private investment and finish the dream of making our downtown the very best downtown.
Thirty years ago downtown was a blemish. It was an embarrassment to America’s Finest City, and a drain on the city’s general fund. Thanks to redevelopment that has changed, but the work is not done. We had an opportunity to complete the transformation of our city, put tens of thousands of San Diegans back to work, keep our local tax dollars here, and help create real and sustained economic growth that will ultimately preserve city services.
Our efforts were quickly embraced by a broad coalition that includes countless individuals and groups: business leaders, labor organizations, affordable housing advocates, homeless activists, and many others.
I understand that some have objections to redevelopment, but I disagree. We can see in our own downtown that redevelopment works. And after a rigorous floor debate on this topic, two-thirds of the members of the California Legislature also saw the value and cast an aye vote to provide San Diego this opportunity. It was a moment we should be proud of — our legislative leaders coming together in a bi-partisan fashion to do the best they could for the people of San Diego.
Over the last two weeks, there has been discussion and debate about the process that created this legislation. Is it perfect? No. Little in Sacramento is perfect. Case in point — the budget was over 100 days late.
Councilwoman Donna Frye had specific concerns and we did what you should expect elected leaders to do. We sat down and worked together for a solution to move forward. Together we have proposed a rigorous public input process that will be completed before the City Council votes on any project. This ensures each and every community and stakeholder will have a chance to be heard before any project is considered by the full council.
It is also important to note the role of the press. They provide rigorous oversight and ask tough questions. This news outlet, in particular, has been outspoken in its commentaries. They should always question the process and shine a light when they see fit.
But, being this close to an election also guaranteed others would turn great progress into a political opportunity. Some even show up very late to the debate — once they have had time to analyze how a situation might benefit them politically. The public deserves better than this — we should all expect better.
Our elected officials had the opportunity to do the right thing for the people of San Diego. Our predecessors, people like Pete Wilson and Ernie Hahn, had the courage to take decisive actions, even when there was controversy and criticism — and believe it or not, there were plenty of detractors when these pioneers took the first important steps to transform our downtown.
Those of us fortunate to have the honor to serve have the obligation to step forward and take decisive action to serve our constituents. At times it will be applauded. And at times it will be criticized. But at the end of the day, we must seek to do what we believe is best for the people we represent — and deliver real results.
Lifting the redevelopment cap in San Diego was the right thing to do. Lets now begin to best implement this action. We have the opportunity to create local jobs, a renewed vision for downtown, and solutions San Diego deserves. We can’t afford to wait.
Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher represents California’s 75th District. He lives in San Diego.