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Dennis Ridz is one of those guys who really value your rationale as much as your opinion, and it’s a big reason why he decided to run for City Council in District 1.

As chairman of the Torrey Pines planning board, Ridz said he has grown tired of incumbent Councilwoman Sherri Lightner’s inaction. He said she steers away from controversial stances and doesn’t explain her votes to residents like him. He feels ignored.

“I want somebody who’s going to stand next to me as a bulldozer runs us over,” Ridz said. “I need somebody out there. We never had a feeling that she fully supported us.”

But Ridz said his candidacy also depended on Ray Ellis, former head of the city’s retirement system. The two men are registered Republicans seeking to unseat Lightner, and early on, Ellis asked Ridz to drop out.

Ridz said he met Ellis and pushed him on local issues. He wanted to know what Ellis thought was important in the district and specifically, where he stood on a proposal to expand Interstate 5. Ellis told him, “I’ll look into it.”

At their second meeting, Ridz said Ellis voiced his opposition to the expansion. But when Ridz asked him why, Ellis wouldn’t say. “He just didn’t do his own research,” Ridz said.

Ridz stayed in the race because he felt more qualified than Lightner and Ellis. The issues section of his campaign website is by far the most detailed and his ideas are specific. He’s long attended community and City Council meetings, and consumes the dry reports that come with them.

For the proposed Interstate 5 expansion, for example, Ridz said he read all 15,000 pages of the project’s environmental review. He argues the city and local transportation agencies should divert resources toward more public transit instead of bigger roadways. “I take my work seriously,” Ridz said.

Looking toward the election, his biggest challenge is reaching voters. Lightner and Ellis have each raised more than $170,000 as of March 17. Ridz reported just less than $1,000. Lightner and Ellis have the backing of their political parties and other powerful groups. Ridz doesn’t want their financial support.

“I don’t like the idea of you being able to buy your seat on the City Council,” Ridz said. “I want to have clean hands. I don’t believe the other two candidates can say that.”

Ridz said he’s been at shopping centers every weekend but his biggest problem is talking too much about the issues. Instead of giving a 30-second pitch to 30 voters, he’ll spend 15 minutes talking with one. He said he feels compelled to fully explain his positions and why he believes them.

“There’s no ambiguity where I stand on things,” Ridz said.

Ridz’s Top Three Priorities

Improving Transportation: This election comes at a bad time for Ridz. Though he wants to focus on the campaign, he feels drawn toward reviewing Interstate 5’s expansion and Sandag’s blueprint for handling future population growth.

Overall, Ridz wants policymakers to shift their focus toward public transit. He wants Sandag to use gas taxes to subsidize more transit projects, such as light rail, and pressure residents to leave behind their cars for other choices.

Ridz also wants to overhaul Sandag’s governing body. He said its current leadership, a group of elected officials, ignore residents and only take action on politically popular steps. He wants Sandag instead run by a mix of elected officials and civic leaders from planning, development and academia.

“Take the politics out of it,” Ridz said.

Pension Reform / Managed Competition: Ridz supports Proposition B, a high-profile initiative aimed at cutting the city’s retirement costs, and managed competition, a bidding process that pits city employees against the private sector to provide public services.

However, Ridz said he doesn’t think they are the best ways to cut costs. He argues the city would find bigger savings by working with employees more closely on the budget and through labor negotiations.

Civic Engagement: Ridz said he went to every meeting last year about redrawing the city’s political boundaries and was inspired by the Asian community’s turnout. It wanted greater representation on the City Council and mobilized to make its argument well-known.

For Ridz, the meetings underscored a stark contrast between people who are engaged in their community and people who take that activism to City Hall. He wants to make it more convenient for people to make their voices heard.

Rather than asking residents to come to City Hall, Ridz said he would create a full-time ombudsman to reach out to District 1 residents. The person wouldn’t just go to community meetings either. They’d meet with residents one on one, even in their homes.

Best Way to Describe His Pitch

This is what he says: I know the community and its issues better than anyone else. Though Republican, I want to bring people from both parties together and engage residents.

Interesting Fact About His Life

Ridz said he fully supported City Councilman Carl DeMaio for mayor until DeMaio also asked him to drop out of the District 1 race. “His feeling was if Ray didn’t beat Lightner in the primary, he had no chance,” Ridz said.

Now, Ridz said he backs Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher for mayor. “He had 95 percent of the right answers,” Ridz said of their conversation on District 1 issues. “He’s a uniter, not a divider, and that’s what I am. I see a lot of myself in him.”

What He’s Taking Heat For

Ridz isn’t taking heat, and in his case, that reflects a major problem. Many District 1 residents I interviewed last week had no idea who Ridz is and what distinguishes him from the other candidates. With the election almost a month away, he’s still a relative unknown.

Get in Touch with Him

Office phone + email: 858.775.2594 + dennis@dennisridz.com

Website: dennisridz.com

Facebook: No campaign page

Twitter: No campaign account

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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