Clockwise from top left: Community activist Tasha Williamson, Councilman Scott Sherman, Councilwoman Barbara Bry and Assemblyman Todd Gloria / Photos by Vito Di Stefano and Adriana Heldiz

Assemblyman Todd Gloria still doesn’t support SB 50, the controversial state housing measure.

Councilman Scott Sherman would use the bully pulpit of the mayor’s office to beat back the ascendance of unions within City Hall.

Community activist Tasha Williamson would fire SDPD Chief David Nisleit.

Councilwoman Barbara Bry declined an interview.

We interviewed all of the major San Diego mayoral candidates who were willing to speak to us, and they each made a bit of news while sharing some of their personal and professional history.

You can listen to them all below, and read on for some of the standout moments from these conversations.

Barbara Bry

Bry’s campaign did not respond to weeks of interview requests. At a debate last week, she told a Voice of San Diego reporter that she would not attend a podcast interview because she believes Voice of San Diego has not covered her fairly.

Todd Gloria

Housing has become perhaps the defining issue of the mayoral race, and Gloria has leaned into it. But it’s a vote he might have to take in Sacramento this year that could reverberate locally.

SB 50 would force cities to let developers build a lot more housing near transit stations, jobs and good schools. Gloria said repeatedly last year that he did not support the measure, but didn’t close the door on supporting it if it were amended in the future.

Now, the bill’s author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, has unveiled changes to the bill that would let cities adopt plans to increase housing development on their terms, with some conditions, if they want to avoid the bill’s top-down edicts.

But Gloria said those changes aren’t enough to change his position. He still opposes it.

“Like you, I’m still trying to understand what (the changes) do, and on their face I’d say ‘no’ (I don’t support it), but I owe some due diligence … I have shared my observations about what I think could be done to make SB 50 better.”

The bill needs to pass the Senate this month to stay alive, but isn’t due for a vote in the Assembly anytime soon. Gloria said he doesn’t like the way it measures distance from transit stations, that it upzones areas irrespective of a neighborhood’s context and that areas could be upzoned because of their proximity to transit service that could be cut during the next recession.

“It could be that those all get resolved in the Senate before I ever see it in the Assembly committee, and maybe it dies on the Senate again,” he said.

Gloria’s campaign was also plagued this summer by a failure to file campaign paperwork that resulted in a small fine by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. But the issue revolved around money in an Assembly committee that Gloria could, technically, donate to the county Democratic Party, which could in turn spend it on his mayoral campaign, effectively circumventing some local campaign finance rules.

Gloria said he has no intention to do that, but pointed out that it would be perfectly legal for him to do so.

“Well to be clear, that would be legal. But to date, we have not done that. And I don’t foresee needing to do that. But you know, it would be legal to do that,” he said.

“It’s legal. It’s allowable. Other candidates have done it, including candidates who are running for office in this cycle. I don’t think it’s quite fair to have different rules for particular candidates, i.e., myself.”

Scott Sherman

Breaking: After years of denying it, Sherman acknowledged he’s a politician.

“I think I’ve been in the business long enough to where it’s official,” he said. “I used to say I’m not a politician, I’m just surrounded by them. But now after seven years, that’s getting to the point where you can pretty much consider myself a politician.”

Sherman’s pro-housing views have been embraced by parts of the Democratic Party’s urbanist wing, but he made clear he’s not with them on bikes and transit.

“I’m not against bike lanes altogether – it’s when they conflict with and cause problems for the majority of people and how they get to and from work,” he said. “If you look at, you know, the people on the Council who say, ‘We need to bike to work, we need to get people out of their cars and into bike lanes,’ if you go to their parking spaces on a Council day, every single one of those parking spaces has a car in it.”

Similarly, he said it doesn’t make any sense for public agencies to move money currently eyed for road projects to transit investments, despite the city’s commitment to increase transit ridership.

“You don’t want to be taking money from one place and put it into something else,” he said. “And people have to understand that a lot of us can’t do things on mass transit. You know what I mean? The single mom or the single parent, hauling their kids around or going to school with car seats and all those kinds of things. You can’t get on mass transit and go there.”

Nonetheless, Sherman said he supports the Climate Action Plan, which calls for half of residents living near transit to bike, walk or take transit to work by 2036, even if he thinks some of it is unobtainable.

“It’s the rules of the road as it is now,” he said. “I have some reservation about some of the goals, but it is on the books and it’s something to aspire to.”

That plan also called for the city to establish an energy utility to hasten the transition to renewable energy; Sherman voted against it and said he’s still skeptical.

“Everybody was talking about SDG&E, and wanting to say how bad it is, this is a monopoly,” he said. “I understand that, and I’m no fan of SDG&E. I would love to see actual competition. But this is a government-run utility. We have utilities that we run poorly already. Why would you think that having a government-run utility would work? The solution to me doesn’t make any sense, to go from a government-regulated monopoly to a government-run monopoly.”

He also criticized the emphasis on creating union jobs at the new utility, along with Council actions to build a new water treatment facility and impose Airbnb regulations that were complicated or held up by union lobbying.

“The mayor has a bully pulpit that can be used and gets a lot more attention brought to the subject,” he said. “The control that unions currently have and have had for the last few years at City Hall, is really over the top.”

Tasha Williamson

At last year’s Women’s March, Tasha Williamson both decided to run for mayor, and announced her mayoral run.

“I listened to every single politician speak, and none of them spoke to us,” she said. “None of them spoke to people dealing with poverty, people who were dealing with wealth gaps, people who were dealing with inequitable education, none of the people who are homeless, people who are veterans, people who are disabled.”

Williamson walked us through her childhood in Los Angeles and her early years living in San Diego, where her experience with children in the education system drove her into activism. She’s since became a high-profile activist on police violence, demonstrating after controversial police shootings and coming to the aid of families experiencing trauma from gun violence.

She said she wouldn’t retain Nisleit as police chief if elected.

“He has done things to our community, south of [Interstate 8], the community south of the 8 that hasn’t been done north of the 8,” she said.

Williamson also said there’s been no change in the years since an SDSU study found racial disparities in SDPD traffic stops.

“We are stopped and when we are stopped, we are made to feel like we have no say,” she said. “And so that is where the trust has been broken? And I understand that there are crimes that are happening, but Southeastern does not have the highest crime rate, but we are still treated like we do. And so those are the things that have caused me to have great pause with this chief because he has not changed the culture of his department.”

On homelessness, Williamson said she supports the “housing first” model, and emphasized that mental health and addiction can only be treated only after putting people in a safe home.

“We can create communities, communities for people where they feel safe, where they feel that they can get the supports that they need and where we can have them lifted up in wraparound supports based on an assessment per individual, not in a box where we just dump people. … We should be making sure … that we deal with mental health a little bit different and we deal with drug addiction a little bit different.”

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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