The Morning Report
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Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s first State of the City address was a speech designed to ensure everyone clapped.
In other words, it wasn’t a speech filled with bold policy pushes or splashy pledges that might get a mixed reception from the crowd.
Faulconer approached the speech instead as San Diego’s non-controversial cheerleader in chief, a role he’s embraced during his 10 months as mayor.
“We can create opportunities and overcome challenges by bringing everyone to the table,” Faulconer said. “My philosophy is that if you treat people with dignity and respect you can always find solutions.”
Indeed, even the most contentious issues Faulconer broached during his speech had a vanilla twist.
He announced Wednesday night that a task force of local leaders will tackle the future of the Chargers stadium, meaning the city leader whose meetings with team representatives have made headlines will let an outside group recommend the best path forward. It’s a dynamic that gives more San Diegans a seat at the table but also offers Faulconer some political cover amid concerns about the team fleeing and the tax money it’ll likely take to keep it here.
Then there was Faulconer’s update on managed competition, a long-criticized city program that allows private companies to bid on city services in hopes of cost savings.
Faulconer panned the program’s inefficiencies and promised to propose “sweeping revisions” soon. But that’s not too revolutionary, since Faulconer said last June that a government efficiency expert had suggested two dozen reforms. At the time, Faulconer’s announcement of plans to revamp the program won praise from both Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders and Mike Zucchet, who leads the city’s white-collar union.
Faulconer’s other top priorities for the year were equally agreeable.
Here’s quick rundown of Faulconer’s most significant goals for 2015, beyond the Chargers and managed competition.
• Street Repairs: Faulconer said he’ll ask the City Council to approve a plan to double street repairs, which he said would lead to 1,000 miles of street upgrades. He also aims to better coordinate projects in the new year.
Left unmentioned was the infrastructure megabond that Todd Gloria floated during his State of the City address last year while he served as interim mayor. Faulconer’s said he’s not interested in a tax increase.
Also absent from Faulconer’s speech was an acknowledgement of an independent budget analyst’s report released Wednesday that said Faulconer’s plan to dedicate half of the city revenue growth to infrastructure upgrades — a pledge he played up during his speech — would still leave the city behind on such funding.
That means Faulconer’s proposal would help but not solve San Diego’s infrastructure woes.
• Income Equality: San Diego’s middle-class population is shrinking and Faulconer said he wants to better prepare San Diegans to take jobs that pay higher wages. He plans to chip away at that problem via — drumroll — the task force approach. He announced Wednesday that San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. CEO Mark Cafferty, UC San Diego Extension dean Mary Walshok and San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll would lead that effort and make proposals over the next six months.
• City Upgrades: Faulconer noted that he created a performance and analytics department that’s reviewing city operations to ensure great efficiency and performance, and that the city will work with Code for America to revamp its website.
“We will create a city government that’s as innovative as the people it represents,” he said.
These were among Faulconer’s most innovative suggestions, though they were first unveiled long before Wednesday night.
• Police Recruitment and Retention: Faulconer reiterated his interest in upping police pay, though he didn’t say whether he’d be willing to offer straight salary hikes that would require a City Council vote thanks to a 2012 pension reform measure. The latter would be controversial among backers of the initiative.
• Climate Action Plan: Faulconer surprised progressives last year when he announced he’d move forward with a Climate Action Plan that included the binding mandates they advocated. On Wednesday night, Faulconer promised to work to “make San Diego one of the green energy capitals of the world.”
• A Bolstered Southeastern San Diego: Faulconer emphasized plans to try to bring more development to southeastern San Diego, where there are few restaurants or retail outlets. The city is hosting a bus tour for developers and businesses there next month.
Those plans, too, were announced long before the State of the City speech.