San Diego

Questions Raised About Role Of San Diego Climate Plan Manager

The city of San Diego's new "Climate Action Plan" is drawing mostly positive reviews, but critics say it could be more pro-active on conservation.

Others suspect a hidden political agenda could come into play.

City officials are now in the process of recruiting a "Sustainability Program Manager" to coordinate the climate plan released in draft form back in late September.

It has the backing of Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the city council, along with endorsements from business and environmental interests.

It calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by half and drawing all electricity from renewable sources by 2035. 

A contentious requirement for energy efficient upgrades on homes for sale eventually went by the boards between the council’s draft and Faulconer’s finished product.

An “Under the Radar” item in this week’s edition of the San Diego Reader speculates that the program manager’s position will be a cushy "patronage" job that’ll “go heavy on public relations" and marketing.

“Compensation is not specified,” says the Reader dispatch, “but expected to be rich for the advancement of Faulconer's political fortunes.”

Sustainability advocates draw a different conclusion.

"The PR piece of this and the outreach piece of it is going to be a priority,” agreed Steven Heverly, managing director of the Equinox Center, “but I don't think it's going to be as high a priority as somebody who's educated in the issues and understands the issues specifically as they relate to San Diego and climate action."

Political observers believe the mayor's advisers would remind him of a public relations risk.

"If it is just a PR person or it is a political crony-type of appointment, I think the media will shine the light on it right away, and Mayor Faulconer is much smarter than that," said political consultant John Dadian.

In response to the Reader, Matt Awbrey, the mayor's deputy chief of staff, said: “This story doesn’t have much basis in reality.”

He pointed out the position was created at the urging and approval of the city council, and that candidates will be judged on eight criteria other than marketing and public education skills.

While no salary range posted for the climate program manager's position -- the city's recently hired communications director gets $140,000 a year – the outreach ad cites flexible benefits, city-funded life insurance of $50,000 and 22 days of annual leave.

It notes that a master's degree related to business, economic development “or other government service or sustainability is highly desirable." 

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