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San Diego’s three major mayoral candidates have made repairing the city’s broken roads and building new neighborhood infrastructure cornerstones of their platforms. To help you understand what they want to do, we’ve defined their plans, explained their key ideas and talk about what they’ve left out in a series of posts. This post is the second in our series. Read about City Councilman David Alvarez‘s plan here.
Former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher is promising voters he’s going to do three things about the city’s infrastructure woes: stop things from getting worse, put someone in charge and then deal with the problem. He calls it his Neighborhood Investment Plan.
Stop Things From Getting Worse: It costs about $160 million each year to keep San Diego’s network of streets, storm drains and buildings from deteriorating. This year, the city’s spending tens of millions of dollars less than that.
Fletcher, a Democrat, said he’ll immediately bump city spending to $160 million – that’s $10 million more than a previous pledge he made.
Put Someone in Charge: Fletcher wants to hire a kind of infrastructure czar, a person who would be responsible for overseeing all the city departments involved in neighborhood improvement and revitalization efforts.
The city just did something similar. Last week, the City Council approved a major reorganization of city bureaucracy, including the creation of a high-level position to handle infrastructure issues. Fletcher’s two major opponents, David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer, are on the City Council and voted for the reorganization.
Fletcher said he didn’t know whether the new infrastructure position fills the same role he envisioned.
“I’m not on the City Council, you realize that, don’t you?” Fletcher said. “I don’t want to be smart (with you), but I saw broadly what they’re doing. When I’m mayor I’ll take a look at what they did and I’ll see how it matches up with our plan. But what I want is one person who is in charge of it.”
Fletcher also didn’t have a stance on two major ongoing infrastructure discussions at City Hall. He didn’t know the details of the city’s illogical sidewalk policies. Nor did he say how he’d address huge projected costs to upgrade the stormwater system with stringent water pollution regulations kicking in soon.
“I know that this is a serious issue and it’s not one that’s being addressed enough,” he said.
Deal With the Problem: Fletcher pledges to address these issues by the end of 2014. That’s when he says he’ll present a plan to fix city infrastructure.
“It’ll take the bulk of 2014,” he said. “Even working on it every day, even with the mayor saying this is the highest priority of the city, this is the most important thing we do, directing every city department, every city resource and literally working on it. It’ll still be a lot of work because it’s a huge backlog.”
It’s going to take more money than the city has committed now, he said. Fletcher’s not ready to back a giant infrastructure bond that city leaders have been discussing. But he’s signaled he’s going to support it. To generate a lot of money, the bond would require voter approval and a tax increase.
“I think I’m realistic in the sense that it’s not entirely going to be one slice of revenue,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a combination of things. I think there’s a really strong probability that [the bond] would have to be part of it. But I don’t want to predispose what the outcome of the financing plan will be.”
The Bottom Line: Fletcher doesn’t dispute that his plan to fix the city’s infrastructure amounts to putting together a plan to fix the city’s infrastructure while in office.
Voters should trust that he’ll do it because he’s pledged to make it a priority and because he has a record in the state Legislature of making things happen, he said. Fletcher also doesn’t think his opponents’ infrastructure plans are significantly more detailed than his.
That’s a fair enough critique. But at this point, Alvarez and Faulconer have demonstrated that they know more about the city’s infrastructure problems than Fletcher does.