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The candidates to replace former Mayor Bob Filner are lining up to make their appeals to neighborhoods. Nathan Fletcher told Voice of San Diego last week he’d keep the focus on communities alive. Councilman Kevin Faulconer made a similar pitch Wednesday morning when announcing his candidacy.
But what about the immediate future? I sat down with Councilwoman Marti Emerald – who, by the way, is not running for mayor – to talk about about what her constituents can expect without an elected mayor in office.
On Funding Neighborhood Improvements
Filner’s budget set aside some $3 million for parks and other projects directly benefiting City Heights. Emerald said residents can expect that kind of investment to continue while Council President Todd Gloria fills in as interim mayor.
“It’s my intention to keep those resources flowing,” Emerald said. “And talking with Todd – of course he represented City Heights before me, and he loves the community – he has assured us he’s going to be very supportive in the work that we’re doing.”
Emerald said the city will continue to take out deferred maintenance bonds over five years to cover street repairs, and might consider passing a public safety bond in 2016 if the general fund won’t let the city begin work on new fire stations next year.
On Building a Skate Park
One of the better-known Filner promises was one to build a skate park in City Heights. Emerald said the project is moving forward.
Her office and the community have identified a city-owned lot on Landis Street for the project. The city is currently clearing the way to get approval to use it. Emerald said she’s also identified the bulk of the funding needed, mostly through special park fees.
She said she’d like to see the park open shortly after the Copley Family YMCA leaves the lot for its new digs on El Cajon Boulevard next fall.
“We don’t intend to let any moss grow under our feet,” Emerald said. “We want to get moving on that project so we can get it open for the young people.”
On the Bus Pass Pilot Program
Another project pushed by City Heights youth was a pilot program that offers free bus passes to students at some area high schools who are at risk of dropping out because they lack transportation. Filner allotted $200,000 for the program.
Emerald said the city and community programs would review how the program goes. If it results in better attendance, they’ll ask schools to fund additional years with the increased daily attendance money.
On Taxi Reform
Emerald said she’s waiting for guidance from the mayor’s office on a feasibility study Filner commissioned to look at returning oversight of the taxicab industry to the city. Taxi drivers banded together this spring to call for better wages and working conditions, placing blame on the Metropolitan Transit System, which currently oversees the industry.
Gloria’s communications adviser, Alex Roth, said taxi reform is “on a list of dozens of issues that we’ve inherited that Todd is looking closely at.” He said Gloria’s team would have more information in a few weeks.
On the Race to Replace Filner
Emerald said she’s pleased Gloria is not running for mayor.
“What he’s doing is a huge job and you don’t need distractions when you’re trying to do the kind of work that he’s doing,” Emerald said. “And he’s not just fixing things from Filner. When Walt Ekard came in, he told us there’s years’ worth of problems that really need to get worked on. We can go a long way in these next several months by addressing some of those organizational issues, make the city more efficient, help departments communicated better. I think Todd is doing the right thing and I hope that others will watch and learn from that lesson – that we all have our jobs to do.”
Emerald said she’d like to see a female candidate come forward.
“But more than anything, I would like to make sure that whoever is elected is open to all ideas, is about building a coalition and a collaborative to get things done, and is willing to do the heavy lifting it’s going to take to keep moving the city forward.”