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San Diego’s special mayoral election finalists Kevin Faulconer and David Alvarez have framed their debate on the city’s future by talking about fixing underserved neighborhoods.

Former Mayor Jerry Sanders also embraced the narrative in a television ad for Faulconer. Sanders touted Faulconer’s “Neighborhoods Fairness” plan to pave more streets and boost police patrols.

“Best, Kevin’s plan starts in communities that have been neglected too long,” Sanders said in the ad.

Sanders’ comments are curious given that he was the mayor for seven years. Wouldn’t that mean he was the one “neglecting” neighborhoods?

And Sanders had a different message as recently as last December. He didn’t think San Diego neighborhoods had been neglected at all. At the end of his term, Sanders’ personal approval rating was very high. But voters also talked about wanting a change of direction at City Hall. At the time, I asked Sanders about that disconnect (emphasis added):

I don’t know. I think that one of the things that we’ve seen just in general, is that politics has kind of turned this into an us-against-them sport. The haves and have-nots. I think a lot of people feel like they haven’t gotten what they deserve, even though we have paid a lot of attention to neighborhoods. I look at the libraries we’ve put in, in those neighborhoods. I look at the (road) paving. I look at all that. It’s very easy to turn it around by saying, “We’re done with business and now we’re going to focus on neighborhoods.”

Sanders then derided the Neighborhoods First message of his now-disgraced successor Bob Filner.

“I don’t think it means anything,” Sanders said.

This week, I asked Sanders, who now heads the local Chamber of Commerce, about his changing rhetoric on neighborhoods. He said his first priority as mayor was to restore the city’s credit rating amid its financial crisis so the city could then talk about neighborhood investment.

“With the economic downtown, infrastructure backlog and other things, we did the best we could to fund libraries, repair streets and make other infrastructure improvements, as well as put money back into departments like parks and recreation,” Sanders said in a statement. “Kevin Faulconer’s street and neighborhood repair plan is a great next step to ensure that all neighborhoods get the attention and investment they need.”

For his part, Alvarez has lobbed numerous criticisms at Sanders on this issue, saying the former mayor prioritized big downtown projects to the exclusion of basic neighborhood services.

Here’s the full Sanders television ad for Faulconer.

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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