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San Diego’s four major mayoral candidates have broad jobs ideas. To help you understand what they’re proposing, we’ve defined their plans, explained their key ideas and called out potential weaknesses in a series of posts. See our previous posts on Carl DeMaio, Bonnie Dumanis, Bob Filner and our introduction.

The Candidate: Nathan Fletcher

The Word: Ambassador

More than any other candidate, Nathan Fletcher is selling himself as a job creator.

Unlike DeMaio, his pitch doesn’t focus on ideas so much as his ability to promote San Diego.

“The number one thing on there is: Mayor is a regional economic leader,” Fletcher said in an interview. “This is a very different way to look at the office of mayor.”

The Ideas: Fletcher’s proposal talks about lobbying the military and the National Institutes of Health, and leading economic development in the San Diego region, not just in the city.

He’s also big on slogans. He wants to brand San Diego as the “World’s Most Innovative City,” a reboot of Fletcher mentor Pete Wilson’s “America’s Finest City” nickname from the 1970s. Fletcher believes the new branding will help position San Diego as a leader in the life sciences and technology industries, the same way Wilson’s idea helped the city advance past previous political corruption scandals.

The other distinctive element in his plan is defined goals. Fletcher has set five targets for his job creation strategies and says he’ll measure his progress each year. By the end of his second term in 2020, he wants to:

• Help create 130,000 jobs in the San Diego region.

• Increase patents generated, venture capital investment and exports all by one-third.

• Increase median household income by one-third over current projections to just under $80,000 a year by creating more highly paid jobs.

Like DeMaio and Dumanis, Fletcher plans to appoint a jobs czar. Fletcher will call him the Deputy Mayor for Economic Competitiveness. The jobs czar would report on the economic impact of each decision before City Council.

The Weaknesses: When you take a closer look at some of Fletcher’s job creation goals, they lose a little luster.

Take his job numbers. Planners estimate the region will create 104,000 by 2020 anyway. Fletcher counts those jobs as part of his 130,000 estimate. So Fletcher really is pushing for 25,000 new jobs.

But even that goal has a problem, explained Marney Cox, chief economist at the San Diego Association of Governments. Sandag estimates that by 2020 the region will be near full employment. That means anyone in San Diego looking for a job in 2020 will have one. If Fletcher wants more jobs, Cox said, he’ll need more people.

“Whether it’s 25,000, 50,000 or whatever it might be, if you create a job, somebody has to fill it,” Cox said.

Greater population, Cox warned, could mean greater stress on San Diego’s infrastructure and government services than the region is planning.

Similarly, Fletcher’s proposal for greater venture capital investments looks less bold than advertised. He wants the region to top $1 billion in venture capital by 2020. But San Diego already has reached that goal in eight of the last 13 years, according to industry statistics. That indicates venture capital investment in San Diego could be more cyclical instead of relying on the region’s politics.

Fletcher’s responded to these critiques by noting that if he meets all his goals, he’ll have upped the region’s economy and standard of living far beyond where it is now.

“If we have chance to add more good paying competitive jobs, that’s a good thing,” he said.

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 liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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