On one recent day, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis exited the passenger seat of her car on a road near San Diego State University.
“Down I went in a pothole,” Dumanis told the crowd at a mayoral candidate forum last week. The crowd ooohed in response.
A young couple, Dumanis said, rushed over to help her back on her feet. She guessed the pothole was bigger than a fist.
Like every other major mayoral candidate, Dumanis has made catching up on the city’s $900 million infrastructure backlog a top priority. She decided to let this incident slide, despite skinning her knee.
“I didn’t sue the city,” she joked.
We’ve written a ton about San Diego’s road and infrastructure problems.
The local business community is now making an effort to develop a possible solution.
The plan would identify and finance repairs for crumbling streets, new affordable housing developments, fire stations and other community improvements. Its supporters hope a lengthy development process will garner neighborhood support.
“If you live in Tierrasanta, you’re going to know what it does for you,” said Andrew Poat, a former San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. official who is spearheading the effort.
Poat said the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce is reviewing the proposal this month. If it gains support, he wants to begin shopping it to Mayor Jerry Sanders and City Council members. The full plan, modeled after successful infrastructure ballot measures locally and in Phoenix, is heavy on community input and oversight. The dollar amount needed to finance the project will come from that effort, Poat said.
Assuming it costs more money than the city has available, it could borrow money or increase taxes to pay for it, Poat added. He’s eyeing the 2014 ballot.
Sanders’ plan to finance city infrastructure repairs and improvements suffers from ever-changing goals and a haphazard planning process. The mayor is asking the City Council to sign off on a plan to borrow as much as $500 million and ramp up funding so that streets and other infrastructure stop declining in 2017. City Councilman Carl DeMaio has proposed a November ballot measure that guarantees new tax revenue go toward road repairs. He’s the only mayoral candidate to release a specific infrastructure financing plan so far.
The Poat-led effort seeks to take a step back and develop a more comprehensive strategy of city needs before committing substantial funds.
Our partners at NBC 7 San Diego picked up my story last week on inadequate infrastructure repair funding. Sanders’ office wouldn’t talk to me, but told NBC that the city is repaving an unprecedented number of roads.
There’s at least one big problem with the mayor’s argument.
By its own standards, the Mayor’s Office is more than $100 million short each year on funding infrastructure repairs out of its day-to-day operating budget. That’s just to keep things from getting worse. Even when you add $500 million in loans, it’s still not enough money. In short, no matter how much the city is spending now — and how many roads it’s repaving — San Diego needs much, much more.
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Liam Dillon is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?
Please contact him directly at email@example.com or 619.550.5663.
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