Todd Gloria, Tasha Williamson and Barbara Bry took part in a mayoral debate at Politifest 2019. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

We ended last year’s Politifest with a live podcast featuring three of the people rumored to be running for mayor in 2020: Rep. Scott Peters, Assemblyman Todd Gloria and City Councilman Chris Cate. My, how things have changed.

Gloria was the only one of the three elected officials who ended up jumping in the race, and he was soon joined by City Councilwoman Barbara Bry and Tasha Williamson, a community activist. Not a single Republican candidate has entered the contest.

All three sat down Saturday with Voice of San Diego’s Sara Libby, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts for another debate at Politifest 2019 to talk about housing, transportation and homelessness in San Diego.

A few highlights:

Bry said she opposes the Metropolitan Transit System’s Elevate SD, a potential half-cent sales tax that’ll help pay for transit improvements, citing VOSD reporting showing that another agency — SANDAG — misled the public in 2016 about how much revenue another tax increase would raise.

“If we’re going to pass a tax measure, we need to do it on a regional basis after we’ve regained the trust of the public,” she said, “and after we’ve demonstrated that we can make transit work on the blue line, which will connect downtown to the UTC area, which is the No. 1 employment center in the region.”

She’d rather focus on homelessness, she said, and sounded skeptical of the housing-first approach, which seeks to place people in permanent housing, as opposed to temporary housing that comes with requirements to seek treatment for mental health or drug addiction issues.

Gloria, on the other hand, is in favor of what MTS is trying to do. He said the additional money could increase service and frequency of buses and provide smaller-scale capital improvements that might “dispel once and for all the notion that we can’t have quality public transit here and hopefully allow us to inform a broader and bigger effort sometime in the future.”

Gloria complained that San Diego has shown itself to be incapable of doing big things because of a “small-town mentality that we can’t shake loose from.”

Williamson drew some of the biggest applause of the event when she argued that the city cared more about scooters than actual lives.

“We are talking about scooters and bikes so passionately,” she said, “but I can’t get police officers to stop killing people.”

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Jesse Marx

Jesse Marx is Voice of San Diego's associate editor.

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