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On a day when the city of San Diego’s outgoing and incoming politicians detailed their accomplishments and aspirations, Councilman Todd Gloria made the boldest proclamation of all.
“It’s time to put forward a plan for the voters consideration that would dramatically increase our investment in infrastructure, in repairing roads, sidewalks, streetlights, libraries and recreation centers,” Gloria said in a speech after he was sworn in to a second term.
Gloria is now the highest-profile city politician to endorse, at least in concept, a large, voter-mandated borrowing plan to fix the city’s decaying infrastructure. Gloria became council president hours after his speech.
At this stage, the big loan is seen as a catch-all that could solve numerous major problems: pave roads, build and repair new parks and fire stations and possibly even build a new Chargers stadium. (Our Scott Lewis ran down what was at stake recently and spoke with the ex-Economic Development Corp. official who’s spearheading the loan effort.)
As with any big plan, the questions and hurdles surrounding it also are big. Here’s one: Will a borrowing program involve a tax increase?
Enter Gloria. He’s long been an advocate for infrastructure issues: For years, he’s called newly paved roads, “Sexy Streets.”
And Monday, Gloria got a new job. With Councilman Tony Young resigning at the end of the month to lead the local chapter of the Red Cross, council members unanimously voted Gloria as Young’s successor.
Gloria, a Democrat and former staffer for U.S. Rep. Susan Davis, has been a popular neighborhood councilman since he was first elected in 2008. He was unopposed in his re-election effort this year.
But the proposed loan will require a major citywide effort and likely need a public champion to win over enough voters. It’s a role Gloria has never fully embraced, though he seems capable of doing the job.
I moderated debates involving Gloria about the two major citywide ballot campaigns over the past two years. At those debates, Gloria spoke convincingly in favor of a sales tax hike and against a pension initiative. He was probably the best advocate that either effort had.
Those campaigns showed he was engaging and savvy enough to provide a liberal counterweight to outgoing Republican City Councilman Carl DeMaio’s populist conservative drumbeat.
But Gloria didn’t do it. Instead, he showed caution and let others drive debates. Gloria was on the losing side of the sales tax and pension campaigns as well as a play to restrict Wal-Mart Supercenters moving into the city.
If Gloria is going to aim something as big as this infrastructure loan, he’ll need to get more aggressive than he has been over the last four years.
Here are a few more good Gloria-related reads to refresh your knowledge of the new Council president.
• Last week, Lewis laid out Gloria’s big opportunity to lead the council under a new mayor.
• Our Kelly Bennett did a Q-and-A with Gloria as part of our coverage of his district in the spring. You learn, among other things, that Gloria is a fan of hip-hop.
• The communities that Gloria represents changed significantly during the 2010 redistricting process. Gloria’s new district undoubtedly is the most powerful of the city’s nine. It unified the influential downtown lobby with the well-organized LGBT community in Hillcrest and surrounding areas. We put it this way in an August 2011 story:
Leaders of the gay and lesbian coalition that lobbied the city’s Redistricting Commission to strengthen LGBT voting power wanted downtown in their district too, and not only for its many young, gay residents. It is also the base of San Diego’s political establishment: where moneyed development interests mingle with the political elite. It is the linchpin of the city’s tourism industry and engine of its economic future.
And as the voting bloc that has dominated politics in the uptown district for nearly two decades, the LGBT community now stands to benefit.
• And if you want a good rundown of what a council president does, check out this explainer we did a few years ago:
Only the mayor and city attorney have more influence over city affairs under the strong mayor/strong council form of government than the council president, who has powers that are similar in some respects to the Speaker of the House in Congress.
Chosen each year by a vote of the eight members (Editor’s Note: There’s now nine members) of City Council, the council president controls the council agenda, and, more so than any other council member, dictates the flow of debate at council meetings.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly described the leader of the infrastructure loan push. He is an ex-Economic Development Corp. official, not an ex-Chamber of Commerce official. We regret the error.
Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.550.5663.
Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.
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