The Issues Mayoral Candidates Can’t Avoid at Wednesday’s Debate

Here’s what candidates will need to talk about at the upcoming debate

By Lauren Steussy
|  Thursday, Oct 20, 2011  |  Updated 5:58 AM PDT
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The Issues Mayoral Candidates Can’t Avoid

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Wednesday night, two of San Diego’s mayoral candidates will duke it out at the Balboa Theatre – bringing to the surface a few issues brewing in San Diego’s political cauldron.

NBC San Diego political reporter Gene Cubbison chimed in with Voice of San Diego political experts Liam Dillon and Scott Lewis on the top three issues bound to come up at the debate. Congressman Bob Filner (D) and State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (R) will take the stage on Wednesday night. The debate is partially sponsored by A Better San Diego, a group of about 40 labor, faith and community groups.

Pensions
City employees’ pension fund presents a major gap in what the employees were promised and how much money is actually in the fund. The gap has already been a major issue for the candidates and will likely be a hot topic at Wednesday’s debate, Cubbison said.

Fletcher has supported a ballot measure that would end promised pensions for new city hires except for police officers – opting for a 401-(k) plan instead. The plan would also put a five-year freeze on pensionable pay.

Filner opposes this measure and plans to cap pensions at a certain amount every year – but he hasn’t said whether he’ll raise taxes to support pensions.

Infrastructure
Roads in San Diego are a mess – and one that everyone can see. Fletcher has addressed the issue, and produced a report for how he would fix it. Filner has not spelled out a plan for how the city might infrastructure improvements, Dillon said.

“The backlog of streets, buildings and storm drain repairs totals $840 million and the size of the entire problem could be billions of dollars more,” states Dillon in a recent story.

The two candidates at the debate Wednesday may have different ideas on how to fund the problem.

Stadium and Convention Center
Though many would like a new Chargers stadium, funding for the stadium may be hard to come by. Paying for one might require taxpayer dollars, Lewis said. Neither Filner nor Fletcher appear too eager to raise taxes to support the stadium.

Currently, Mayor Jerry Sanders has proposed a joint-powers authority that would put the new stadium project and a way to finance it on a county-wide ballot.

“The key is creating an economic engine to cover the $38 million in annual payments on $400 million worth of borrowing in the bond market – about half the stadium’s cost,” Cubbison said.

Land Use
Candidates may have to take a stance on how waterfront land should be used – for industrial purposes or recreation and housing. In Barrio Logan, for instance, upcoming plans will either favor new residences or industrial business owners.

Using the area for industrial purposes may benefit the labor market – but some may prioritize affordable housing.

The debate will start at 6:30 p.m. and doors open at 5:45 p.m. at the Balboa Theater on 868 4th Ave. in San Diego. 

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