San Diegans will decide this November who will be the next mayor of the city and they are choosing between two Democrats, Assembly Member Todd Gloria and City Council Member Barbara Bry.
The candidates are vying to replace current Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has reached his term limit.
Todd Gloria has served as interim mayor and two-term San Diego City Council member. City Council member Barbara Bry is in her first term and has worked as an entrepreneur. Learn more about the candidates here.
To help voters decide, NBC 7 hosted the two candidates for a debate where they answered questions about their policies and why they should be chosen to lead the city.
NBC 7 anchor Catherine Garcia and political reporters Priya Sridhar and Danny Freeman moderated the debate on NBC 7 that can be viewed here.
Question and Answer Portion of Debate (Part 1)
Mayoral Debate: COVID-19, City Budget
The coronavirus pandemic has made a big impact on San Diego’s city budget. Because of a drop in tourism and the recession, tough decisions may have to be made in order to balance the budget. Councilwoman Bry and Assemblyman Gloria explain what their priorities would be when dealing with such a budget shortfall.
Question: “We have start with the city budget. Whoever wins the election inherits an enormous drop in tax revenue likely due to the coronavirus. Mrs. Bry coming year the estimated total losses to the pandemic will likely be over $300 million. How would you as mayor recover from such a loss and without more federal aid, would this mean essential services or infrastructure could be on the chopping block?”
Barbara Bry: “So, thank you. Great question, and first, it's important to know that in this fiscal year the city received about $250 million in federal stimulus money. So, we've been able to maintain neighborhood services without any significant cuts in the budget. (one time in stimulus funding) one time. Yes. As mayor it is my priority to restore fiscal discipline. That means looking at bloated middle management. That means looking at our city leases. It means figuring out the disastrous 101 Ash street purchase, which my opponent promoted when he was on the City Council. What we're seeing during the pandemic is thousands of city employees are working remotely very successfully and many would like to have this flexibility after the pandemic ends. I want the city to be a model for an effective remote workforce which will reduce traffic congestion and help us meet our climate action plan goals more quickly. I'm not going to be beholden to all the special interests that are supporting my opponent. So I’m going to be able to make decisions in the best interests of our residents to make sure that our neighborhoods are served first.”
Todd Gloria: “Thank you, Danny. I would point out that i served as the city's budget chair for six of the eight years I was at city hall. When I arrived in 2008, we dealt with a great recession, with nine-figure budget deficits and working together with colleagues in the community we were able to turn the deficits into surpluses and help fill our reserves. Reserves we can now use to help navigate through the current economic down turn. It's important for viewers to know prior to the pandemic and the resulting recession, the city was already running a significant budget deficit over $70 million. Which shows fiscal discipline has not been on display over the last four years at city hall. Quite the contrary. In terms how we'll navigate going forward, I always have an open and collaborative approach. Working closely with the community to make sure we preserved the most urgent, necessary services, specifically public safety. Worked with our employees to figure costs savings that we can achieve to try and minimize impacts to neighborhoods and residents and of course find ways to tighten our belts, reduce excessive spending happening in recent years and find more ways to bring more revenue into the city. I think there are a multitude of options with whether it's making sure that our short-term vacation rentals are paying their fair share of taxes to making sure that we don't engage in disastrous land deals like the purchase of an indoor skydiving facility without appraisal for roughly twice for was its worth. You see areas of new revenue as well as areas to reduce costs. This is how we solved this problem before, it’s how we will solve it again, it’s going to be uniting everyone together and understanding how we can move the city forward. I’ve done it before. I can do it again.”
Mayoral Debate: COVID-19 and Race
Communities of color and lower-income communities have been some of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession. Assemblyman Todd Gloria and Councilwoman Barbara Bry explain how they would work with these communities and small businesses to revitalize their economies.
Question: “The virus has not only hit communities like Barrio Logan with illness, but the economic slowdown has cost massive amounts of unemployment, which has led to people being unable to pay rent. As mayor what would you do to help these communities as they try to recover from the pandemic?”
Todd Gloria: “Shortly after the onset of the pandemic I’ve done what I always do in terms of leadership style, which was bring together a large group of local leaders, over 30, to form a task force led by congressman, Scott Peters and Paola Avila our Vice President at our Chamber of Commerce. These experts from the public and private sector, public health professionals and small business owners developed my proposal which we call “Back-to-Work SD” which you can find on my website. It's a comprehensive plan for what I would like to do as mayor to get our economy back on track and specifically address the inequities that we see in terms of the recovery as well as impacts of COVID-19. I would give you a quick example of one of the things I think we can do. The city spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually on contracts and services. Much of that money is spent outside of our city. I recommend a bi-local effort where we would concentrate those purchases in the City of San Diego in order to help stimulate more economic activity for local small businesses, hopefully allowing them to hire more San Diegans, who in turn will take their paychecks and spend it in our city. This is a locally driven economic stimulus plan that I think can help get our economy back on track and with an equity lens would make sure we’re addressing our communities that been hardest hit by the pandemic, which we know in many cases are our Black and Brown communities. I believe we have a sensible plan that can get our city back on its feet and hopefully be able to implement it as your mayor.”
Barbara Bry: “It's clear that COVID-19 has exemplified existing in equities in our system. And I brought together a group of real people small business owners, high tech and biotech entrepreneurs and community leaders to help develop our “Road Map to Recovery” which we released in June, several months before Mr. Gloria and his team were able to get theirs done. I viewed our road map in recovery as a work in progress. We will continue improving it as we get more feedback from the community. But I felt it was urgent to get something out. This comes from my business background, from my entrepreneurial background, important not to wait several months, typical at city hall and takes forever to do things but get something out quickly for the community to look at and to provide feedback on. My road map to recovery focuses on growing new parts of our economy, particularly high-tech and biotech, which create good service sector jobs around them, which support many different kinds of small businesses. My road map also includes the importance of universal internet access. We've seen during the pandemic everyone whether you're a young family or a senior, you need access to the internet for shopping, for health care, for social interaction, for learning. So, this is essential that all San Diegans particularly small businesses have this, and that as we focus on small businesses, we need to make sure they have the digital tools to succeed. Many small businesses have had to transition how they operate during the pandemic. I understand this, I’ve been in the business world. This has been a shock and many of them are struggling to survive. The federal assistance has been fleeting. The local assistance could be improved, and I want to set up a small business task force as mayor that's going to review every city regulation to make sure that it doesn't impinge upon the ability of the small businesses to thrive. We were quickly able to allow small businesses to operate outside. It could have been done much more quickly than it was and in a normal world as I talk to restaurant owners, it was taking them years to do what we were able to do in a matter of days and weeks, and it shouldn't have been the case. We should be looking through the lens of small business every day, as we operate our city and thinking, how are we going to help them succeed?”
Mayoral Debate: Education
The pandemic has affected schools around San Diego. While the mayor does not control the school district, they can often help set priorities for the system. The two candidates explain how they would help make sure students of all backgrounds have equal opportunities for education.
Question: I've been a San Diego High School teacher for 11 years. When the pandemic hit our school like other schools was challenged with the task of moving our on-campus learning environment to online learning environment. It brought a litany of new issues including those that underscored disparity especially among the socially economic disadvantaged students. As mayor, what steps would you take to ensure educational equity for all of our students no matter socioeconomic background, whether they’re English language learners, learning challenged, etc.?
Todd Gloria: “That's an important question. I think for a long time we've had mayors in San Diego say this is not my responsibility. We have a separate school board that has to deal with these issues. I think that's a mistake. Mayor, end of the day, is responsible for building a better city. You can't have a great city without great public schools. Part of my Back-to-Work SD plan starts with our schools recognizing our economy cannot reopen until our schools do. Allowing our children to have in-classroom instruction allowing parents to go back to work. The question of inequity, part of why I want to engage on this issue. I want to recognize that we all see it. There are different educational outcomes for San Diego students whether they live north of I-8 or south of I-8. The mayor of San Diego is the biggest bully pulpit in the region. How could you not use that microphone to speak on behalf of our children, to try and give them a better chance at a future? That’s what happened for me. I was part of a working-class family that was able to succeed in San Diego because the community invested in me and created pathways of opportunities. My fear is that our economy is increasingly making people’s story like mine impossible. And people need an advocate in the mayor's office who’s going to work to do this. Whether making sure we bridge the digital divide for young people, making sure there are enough after-school opportunities for our young people, summer job experiences. These are all ways that a mayor can be involved in making sure we tear down barriers and make sure every San Diego child has an equal shot at a bright future.”
Barbara Bry: “Yes. So, first of all as a mom and grandma, and the mother of a Special Education teacher in the area, and my son-in-law teaches in a dual emerging program in San Diego, this is something we talk about a lot at our outdoor family barbecues these days. And that's why my school engagement coordinator position is so important. I recognize that the new economy is going to be dependent on having a workforce equipped for science, technology, engineering, and math jobs. I recognize young people growing up south of I-8 have not historically had access to these jobs and that's why my school engagement coordinator will work with schools and employers so, from a young age, children understand all of the job opportunities that are available to them, and as they get older they get access to paid internships. And it's exciting that we're going to have a high-tech and biotech center downtown. It's really happening with the purchase of the Manchester Complex by a new real estate investment trust and unique buildings open for business in 2023. So, these jobs will be accessible on public transit for young people growing up south of I-8. And it is my passion and my commitment to transform how -- how these -- what kinds of opportunities are available to our children. And as I mentioned before, my Road Map to Recovery, a key part is universal internet access for all families and small businesses. As we entered the pandemic, we found many families did not have internet access, did not have a computer or an iPad or a device where their children could learn from home. I will say that San Diego Unified has taken a lot of positive steps to help, but the city can do a lot more going forward making sure everyone has internet access and that every child growing up in San Diego has opportunities to thrive in our new S.T.E.M. economy.”
Mayoral Debate: Police Reform
Question: “In the aftermath of the George Floyd killing and protests cities across the country moved to lower the budget of their police departments. New York, Austin, L.A., Boston, D.C., to name a few. Despite a democratic supermajority on City Council, San Diego raised our police department budget. Will lowering the budget of our city's police department be a priority of yours as mayor?”
Barbara Bry: “First of all, Danny, public safety is the number one priority of local governments, and that includes police, fire and lifeguards. To be clear, I did not vote to defund the police. I support having an appropriately funded police department with well-compensated police officers, so we can attract and retain the best. My goal as mayor is to have San Diego once again be a leader in neighborhood policing so that police officers can get out of their cars and get to know their communities. At the same time, we have to hold bad police officers accountable. That is why I support Measure B on the November ballot of the establishment of an independent police review commission. I have supported this measure since 2018 when we did not have enough votes to get it on the ballot. It is an independent commission, and residents who feel they are the victim of police abuse will have a safe place to turn. And I believe that is very important in creating trust between residents and police officers. And I’m very honored that Andrea St. Julian, author of that ballot measure and president of the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association endorsed me for mayor. She understands the political risk I took back in 2018 when this idea seemed novel, and not a safe thing to support.”
Danny Freeman: “Mr. Gloria, you've said un unequivocally you don't support defunding the police but could be in favor of shifting resources like mental health or homeless calls away from police and “could be reflected in a city budget.” Isn't that the same as defunding the police?”
Todd Gloria: “No, I don't support defunding of police. It's an oversimplification of a very complex subject. Wearing my old council budget chairman hat, I can see numerous areas where there will be additional costs to meet community expectations for law enforcement in the 21st century. Like my opponent, I also support measure b and encourage San Diegans to vote for it when going to the polls this fall. To have a properly functions independent police review board is going to cost additional money and I’m fully committed to making sure even in our difficult budget environment we make that investment. Recognizing it is a wise investment to enjoy the trust of the communities we're sworn to protect and to serve. Also, a cost of potential and the need to further provide training for law enforcement officers making sure they can do their jobs as well as possible. As well as a need to compensate law enforcement officers to perhaps have them live in the communities they serve in. Far too many cannot afford to the city in San Diego further distancing the distance between the communities and law enforcement officers. Those are additional costs. Some savings would could come from not having law enforcement be our primary responders to mental health calls, our primary responders to homeless outreach, our primary responders to calls of truancy from schools. We can ask trained professionals who know how to work in those issues specifically to do that work first. I think in many cases, that would result in savings. End of the day, I will look at the entirety of our city's budget including the police department making sure we have a department that works best for San Diego, maintains us as a safe city and meets expectations of an evolving community that understands and recognizes that we have asked too much of law enforcement and this is an issue of agreement. Both community activists who are in the streets demanding change and law enforcement recognize, what we've asked of law enforcement is no longer appropriate. I want to lead a community conversation to figure this out. I believe because I’ve been able to pull together different groups, I’ve supported and endorsed by Dr. Shirley Webber, assemblymember, my colleague, a leader of police reform state-wide and as well as police officers who understand that I’m the best choice to be the next mayor of San Diego. If they can agree in my candidacy and recognize that I can bring them together I believe we can actually get change done on this issue.”
Danny Freeman: “Following-up on that. To that point there, you are endorsed by the San Diego Police Officer’s Association. The Democratic party, earlier in the summer asked all democratic elected basically reject those endorsements. Curious to hear your perspective. Can you be tough on police while also having the Police Officer’s Association endorsement?”
Todd Gloria: “Absolutely. Listen, Danny, my record shows a willingness to work on these issues when it's hard. The last reform to our police review board was one I did in concert with former council president, Myrtle Cole. I worked in Sacramento passing significant reforms to policing in our state's recent history. I understand the issue personally. If I’m elected I will be the first person of color to serve as mayor of our city, and I understand what the concerns are in the community, and I am committed to making sure we meet the expectations of the community recognizing that too often policing doesn't always feel fair but is exactly what it should be like. I laid out a plan for social justice on my website understanding this issue is far more than policing, Danny. When we talk about structural racism in our community that also involves housing, that involves education, involves economic development. It deserves a comprehensive conversation that fully includes experiences of black and brown San Diegans.”
Danny Freeman: “And Mrs. Bry, a chance to respond quickly on that point.”
Barbara Bry: “Yes. First of all, I laid out a details overview on my website of how I will address public safety. And it starts by stepping back and looking at the kinds of calls police get. Who was the appropriate professional to go out on that call? It's true we do ask police officers to do things they were not meant to do or trained to do. I think that's very important to acknowledge. And my platform is about growing the pie, and I have a major platform about economic justice, ending the pay disparity gap at city hall. Making sure that city contracting is done equitably. Developing a small business ecosystem in Districts 4, 8 and 9, and fully supporting the new office that Monica Montgomery advocated for, which we've already voted to support in the new budget. So, I believe that my background in terms of creating jobs and in equity, listen, for much of my life I was the only woman in the room, or one of a few women in the room. I understand what it's like to fight the odds. That's why I’ve spent a large part of my life trying to level the playing field and empower other women. I've started a theme at San Diego for women in the tech and life sciences community. I started run women run to elect more San Diego women to office, and as a City Council member I started the workplace equity and civility initiative to address sexual harassment and pay inequity issues. This is a key part of my whole life.”
Mayoral Debate: Smart Streetlights
Privacy concerns were brought front and center when it was learned that hundreds of streetlights with cameras had been installed around San Diego without alerting the public. They have already been used in some investigations. Both candidates explain how they would prioritize protecting the public while balancing it with public safety.
Catherine Garcia: “We want to stick with policing one more moment and talk about the smart streetlight camera program. Footage recorded by those streetlights used at least 35 times, for example, in investigations and protests over racial injustice back in June, police investigating vandalism and looting. I want to talk whether you support the cameras used for policing or not be used at all.”
Barbara Bry: “So, I have voted for an ordinance at the public safety committee that will come to the full council that establishes an independent commission to review all the technology, the current technology, and new technology that we might acquire. Until we have that in place, the cameras have been turned off, and I think that is appropriate. I think the cameras do have a role to play in law enforcement and what's important is that the community understands how the information is being used, and that there be appropriate civilian oversight. That will happen in the next few months as this ordinance comes through to the council for a final vote. And then goes into effect.”
Todd Gloria: “This is typical backwards San Diego. Where you acquire equipment before establishing a use policy, inclusive of the community's concerns. This is not the first time this happened. Other invasive surveillance technology acquired by the city and not only becomes subject to community concern, objections, and litigation. We need a use policy before acquiring this equipment to be transparent about how we will respect innocent individuals' privacy. It's an important tool. It has a useful purpose making sure our neighborhoods become safer, but to the extent, we've allowed this to appropriate in a lack of transparency to the community erodes the trust of the communities we're asked to serve and that's a problem. We have to have better management at city hall to get this work done right. End of the day I want law enforcement to have the tools needed to keep us safe but should involve more thoughtful processing involving the community at the beginning, not afterward.”
Question and Answer Portion of Debate (Part 2)
Mayoral Debate: Housing Crisis
There have been many ideas brought forward to help solve California’s housing crisis. Each candidate explains how they would go about solving the crisis and high cost of housing. Councilwoman Bry says single family zoning needs to be protected while Assemblyman Gloria says every option needs to stay on the table.
Danny Freeman: “A state-wide push in Sacramento to do away with single family home zoning, not necessarily ban but provide more options for property owners or developers to build. Ms. Bry, you say by supporting ideas or bills like this your opponent wants to kill the character of San Diego neighborhoods. Will local cities or neighborhoods equitably prioritize affordable housing if the state doesn't push them?”
Barbara Bry: “Let me tell you what will happen if we eliminate single-family zoning. Developer speculators will go first to neighborhoods where housing is less expensive. They will snap up homes. Build expensive, multifamily units. That will lead to pushing out resident and gentrification. Here is my plan on how to build more housing that San Diegans can afford: first, revamp our development services department. Time is money. It takes too long to get a permit. Second, the pandemic offers us opportunities for adaptive re-use of office and commercial space as more people work remotely. This is much less expensive than building new units. Third, enforce our existing laws against short-term rentals. Bring back 16,000 housing units. That's $1 billion worth of housing. Many of them, small units in beach communities, hillcrest, north park, south park. Units that were affordable for working families and young professionals. Fourth, continue to support density along with transit, which I have done as we've updated community plans, and fifth, I will develop a down payment assistance plan for first-time home buyers. All of these together will result in more housing that working families can afford, than Sacramento’s and my opponent's efforts to eliminate single-family owning and take away local control of land use. Just last week, the City Council unanimously approved a project in Mira Mesa called “three loops.” If the legislature had passed their bill the local community would not have had the leverage to negotiate with the developer to get the community benefits it deserved in accepting the increased density.”
Danny Freeman: “Mr. Gloria, you're shaking your head. Your perspective on this. Live, you supported SB 1120, but hedged on SB 50. If you were mayor, would you prefer Sacramento led or local led decisions on zoning to approve affordable housing?”
Todd Gloria: "Listen, Danny, this crisis is enormous. Most of your viewers that are watching right now are concerned about a renting freeze, can't foresee being able to buy a home in San Diego and many considering leaving the city because they don't see a future here. I don't believe in eliminating anything. I think we need every option on the table to get changes necessary to give working families in this city a fighting chance at a future in San Diego. My opponent often likes to talk about this issue in terms similar to what the president likes to say about housing. Frankly, we don't need Donald Trump's approach to housing to solve our problems here in San Diego. We have to have a focus on producing more housing for working- and middle-class San Diegans. The folks who don't earn enough to afford the luxury stuff that is being built and the folks that don't qualify for the low-income stuff the city helps provide. The focus on that missing middle will give more middle-class San Diegans a fighting chance in San Diego. That's a priority in my administration. With regard to Sacramento's involvement, be honest. Sacramento has long had a role in housing in our state. The coast's act. There are a number of ways the state's involvement. It's important, because, Danny, not every city is like San Diego, many cities across California are shirking their responsibility when it comes to building their fair share of housing. If those communities continue to do that, I do not believe San Diego can shoulder the entirety of the state’s housing prices all on our own. I think every city has to do its fair share and that’s why I supported legislation in the capitol."
Danny Freeman: "Mrs. Bry, respond to something Mr. Gloria said about you basically sounding similar in some cases to the president when it comes to protecting our suburbs and neighborhoods. Do you agree with the president on that, with that language? Or is that -- political spin here?"
Barbara Bry: “I think this is political spin. So, let me say this, Danny. I knew politics was bad. But I never expected that my opponent would exploit the deep divisions within our country, to send mailers targeting republicans telling them I’m too progressive, and ads targeting democrats telling them I’m too conservative. So, listen, I’m a problem solver. And my whole life has been about bringing people together. To solve problems.”
Catherine Garcia: “Mr. Gloria, give you a quick moment to respond and then I’ll move on to the next question.”
Todd Gloria: “She's not bringing people together. The fact of the matter is, when my opponent uses terms like, ‘There goes the neighborhood’ or ‘They're coming for your home.’ These are dogs’ whistles to people to know exactly, they know exactly what she's talking about. Exactly why the president uses the same sort of rhetoric. In that rhetoric, it divides our community and makes progress on housing affordability nearly impossibility and you see people not engaging in that rhetoric.”
Mayoral Debate: Homelessness
While the overall number of people who are homeless in San Diego has fallen since last year, there are still thousands of people on our streets. Councilwoman Bry and Assemblyman Gloria explain how they would work to house and support our homeless population.
Question: "Hello. I'm a small business owner here in Southeast San Diego. I've grown up in San Diego all my life and as of recently seen a major homeless problem in our communities all over San Diego County. I'm stepping over people to this day and more than ever before. I just want to know; will you have a comprehensive four-year plan on dealing with the homeless?"
Todd Gloria: "I would say that I hear that in every corner of the city. It's a tragedy. It was mentioned, numbers may say head count is going down, but I can't find a San Diegan that feels as though that's the truth. Many of us feel the city is spending more than they ever have on the problem but it's not getting better, the problem is getting worse. It's important to note that cities across the nation are having success in trying to end homelessness. San Diego is not among those, but we should try to be one. And when I look at those cities seeing transformation of change there are common denominators making up a plan I would like to advance as mayor. In most cities you see extreme executive-level involvement. It must be clear this is the priority of the mayor and, therefore, the priority of the city. That often is how you get things done. Through strong leadership. Then you must demand data and transparency. Because if we're spending more than we ever have and not seeing the progress expected, it’s reasonable to assume a lot of that money is not spent in ways we know get and keep people off the streets. If you can prove success, you should get more city financing. If you can't, you should get none. I believe we have to better partner with our county. The county has a health and human services agency with substance and mental health programs, the city has a housing commission. When you combine housing and services that’s how you end homelessness. Two more quick things’, two-thirds of our regions homeless are in the city of San Diego but a third are in the other cities in our community. The mayor of San Diego must lead a region-wide effort that involve cities like Chula Vista, National City, El Cajon, Escondido, Oceanside to make sure we are lining our initiative to get more people off the street and lastly we have to build more housing's many homeless suffer from mental illness and substance abuse but many are seniors on fixed income, or low-wage workers who can't find a place to live. Take the five factors mentioned we can get substantially closer to a community that successfully addresses this issue and tell you one thing is for sure. Not getting it with purchasing indoor sky facilities and setting up indoor tents. Not best practices but the practices of the current administration."
Barbara Bry: "First of all, I won't make an empty promise. When my opponent was sworn in for a second term on the city council in December 2012, he promised to end chronic homelessness downtown. I'll hold up data from the downtown partnership. At that time there were 593 unsheltered homeless individuals downtown. When he left office four years later that number had more than doubled to 1,400. So, my opponent supports what's called the housing first strategy. And I do not. I am honored I am endorsed by father joe and my strategy focuses on treating each as an individual and addressing root causes. Sadly, for a growing number of people is mental health and substance abuse. The gentlemen stepping over homeless individuals in the streets is seeing individuals who suffer from mental health and substance abuse. We need a seamless system, which we do not have today. On March 3, I was crossing a street corner in the southern part of the city, and a gentleman walked up to me and said, ‘I’m homeless. Can you help me?’ I called 211 San Diego and was put through various people and given various phone numbers to call. I'm a council member. I was able to get this gentleman into the Alpha Project to get the help needed. His story, a year ago lost his job. His wife left him. He was living with his sister, drinking too much. Admitted had violent outbursts and she dropped him off a mile away. There are more and more people like him who deserve to be treated with a seamless system. Why wasn't there one phone number that I could call that would be answered 24 hours a day by an individual, by a human being to get this gentleman the help that he needed? The convention center has proven to be successful in getting the county and city to work better together in getting individuals the help that they need, and this is because of the increased outreach, which was what the building of the navigation was thought to do. Not built to house people. It was built, bought to do outreach. And that increased outreach is helping with the current situation. We have a lot more to do. I'm very data-driven. Programs that perform will get money. Those that don't won't. But we have to acknowledge that it's about addressing the root causes, just giving someone a place to live is not going to solve the problem."
Mayoral Debate: Ash Street
101 Ash Street has become a major point of contention between Councilwoman Bry and Assemblyman Gloria. A real estate purchase made by the city several years ago has remained unused as it undergoes repairs and renovations. Each candidate explains why the public should still trust them to be responsible with taxpayer dollars when it comes to major purchases in the future.
Danny Freeman: "And the very complex purchase lease agreement that ended up costing the city taxpayers a lot of money. As the Voice of San Diego put it, we leased lemons. Mr. Gloria, you were a city council member at the time of the purchase, and you were in favor of the purchase and now say you regret your vote. Why should San Diegans trust you with massive real estate deals in the future?"
Todd Gloria: "That particular vote, the representation to myself and to my colleagues, it was purchased on a unanimous vote, was the building was in good condition. That we could move employees in nearly immediately and save $40 million. Four years later those statements have not proven to be true. Danny, it's not just about 101 Ash. There is indoor sky light facility I mentioned multiple times now. There's the city maintenance yard on Kearny Mesa on an avenue purchased by the city but not operable. I voted for one of these projects. My opponent voted for all three. Point is all of them have been bad real estate deals. The question, where do we go from here? My commitment, we will fix these problems but starts with a complete overhaul of our real estate assets department. Clearly when you have multiple real estate deals, one gets a lot more attention than the other, but all have been a misuse of taxpayer dollars. Recognizes the fact that the current administration has done a terrible job respecting taxpayer when acquiring and managing real estate. So, count on my administration to make sure we completely overhaul the real estate access department, that we get 101 Ash Street dealt with and these other real estate deals. Ultimately, this has been a bad period of this administration clearly cannot manage real estate. The next administration can only do better and I expect to clear that very low bar set by the Faulconer Administration."
Danny Freeman: "Mrs. Bry, you tried to make this a central issue within your campaign. You did vote for that remodel and Mr. Gloria was far from the only person to miss this initially back when the purchase first went through. Is it fair to lay the blame completely at one council member's feet?"
Barbara Bry: "First of all, I was not on the council when 101 Ash street was bought. Mr. Gloria, you bought the building. I've watched the public testimony. You enthusiastically supported a purchase. Even though you had information that the city was paying $60 million above what it could have gotten the building for to do a complicated lease purchase. I took the time to read the -- hold up page one of the lease. This is an extraordinary lease. Page one indemnifies the seller from all liability. No rational buyer would sign anything like that. If the city signed a rational lease, we wouldn't be in the trouble we're in today. What was happening back then, seems, is that special interests were pushing the purchase of this building for different reasons. It has been called the worst real estate deal by the city ever. Mr. Gloria enthusiastically supported it. You are responsible for the situation the city is in today. As mayor I have a way out, a lot of interested people, a lot of parties with a lot to lose. A lot of people who would like to get around the table and figure out a way out of this for the city. Moody's a credit rating service written a lengthy report about the transaction and believes there may have been criminal activity and fraud involved. But all you have to do, viewers, go back and look at the public testimony. Mr. Gloria enthusiastically supported the purchase of the building where the city was paying above the appraisal and had a complicated financing transaction and indemnified the seller in a way you would never do buying a single-family home or a condominium."
Danny Freeman: "And Mrs. Bry, loaded terms, criminal and fraud. I want to make sure to get Mr. Gloria's perspective. His was one of many votes."
Todd Gloria: "Yes. Thank you very much for that. You know, again, just look at it. I bought a building along with unanimous vote of my colleagues in 2016. In 2018 my opponent, voted in City Council broke that same building, taking the $40 million envisioned saved by moving into 101 Ash and taking $30 million to remodel it. A building two years before said to be in good condition. Council member Bry didn't ask why this was necessary. She voted to pile $30 million more into a building she now says is a complete lemon and importantly didn't read the contracts for the sky diving facility, which was purchased without her appraisal and now the subject of a federal investigation. Importantly on the avenue property, purchasing a maintenance yard that actually can't fit city vehicles inside of it is an easy thing to understand, yet all three of these tests, her business and private sector experiences did not allow her to catch these errors. As a consequence, the city taxpayers are paying for it. We can do better and I promise to do better as a city."
Barbara Bry: "So, first of all, I voted for the improvements because the building only made economic sense if more many employees could work there. I have been on top of this purchase from the beginning, demanded answers why is as it saw sitting empty. When I got to the city hall. Because of all of this stuff, we found out that the city overpaid for the building. The city is locked into a financing structure that it cannot refinance even though interest rates are lower. These are all things the city council at that time agreed to. The city council back in 2016, before I joined the council, agreed to what is now the worst deal in city real estate history ever. Regarding what the navigation center, the appraisal has come in above what the city paid. This is in a very good location downtown and it is being actively used now as a resource for homeless individuals and for outreach."
Mayoral Debate: Rapid Fire
Rapid Fire Questions
The candidates answer some rapid fire questions including what they will see as a success at the end of their first year, something they admire about the other candidate, and if they agree with the new Sports Arena facility plan put forward by current Mayor Kevin Falconer.
Question from Catherine: "A couple of rapid-fire questions that we wanted to put before both candidates just to give you a sense of who you would be voting for if you vote for them. We’ll start with this one – we’d like you to please finish this sentence: At the end of my first term, I will consider my time as the Mayor of San Diego a success if I accomplish blank. We’ll start with you, Ms. Bry."
Barbara Bry: "If we have thousands of high-tech biotech works in downtown and paid internships for young people growing up south of Interstate 8."
Catherine: "Thanks very much. And Mr. Gloria, please complete that statement for us."
Todd Gloria: "If we stabilize city finances and be able to start making smart investments and repairing our infrastructure and growing in on housing that’s available for working and middle-class San Diegans."
Catherine: "Alright, thank you. So, here’s the next one. Could you please name something the other candidate has done well? Mr. Gloria?"
Todd Gloria: "Well, I happen to know both of Councilmember Bry’s daughters and they are extraordinary women and they speak well for her in her raising of those children."
Catherine: "And Ms. Bry, what is something that Mr. Gloria is good at or has done well?"
Barbara Bry: "Well, I think he’s a good dancer but on a more serious note, I think he cares a great deal about San Diego."
Catherine: "I think it’s safe to say that you both do. So hopefully, viewers would be able to take that into consideration, as well. Here’s another one I wanted to ask you – should current Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s sports arena facility plan be implemented as it is? Do you agree with it? Ms. Bry?"
Barbara Bry: "First of all, I think the mayor was very premature to do an RFP for the land until the 30-foot height issue had been resolved, so let’s see what the voters decide in November. I am voting no on it. The city council just updated that community plan a few years ago. The 30-foot height issue should have been brought up at that time. There’s a lot of other development that’s going to take place in that area, particularly in the old post office site and the Navwar site. The Navwar site is federal land so it’s not subject to a 30-foot height limit and I think the development of that area should be considered holistically."
Catherine: "Mr. Gloria, your thoughts on the sports arena plan?"
Todd Gloria: "Well, like a lot of this administration’s real estate deals, I disagree with the sequencing. I think that the ballot measure should have been considered first and then recruitment for a competitive bidder. Though, it is what it is. I support Measure E. I hope San Diegans will vote to support it to give us a new opportunity for a better future in the Midway community. I would note that the Midway community, themselves, support this measure. I would say that any future development on that site must meet some very high standards. No. 1, it must make good sense for taxpayers in a financial perspective. It should include a lot of housing that is affordable for working San Diegans. It ought to address the infrastructure challenges in that already-congested neighborhood, and it must be a beautiful design worthy for a city as beautiful as San Diego."