In March 2009, Mayor Jerry Sanders and city leaders borrowed $100 million dollars to finance repairs of San Diego's crumbling streets and other public infrastructure.
But two years later, less than half of the $100 million dollars has been spent. Already bad roads have gotten progressively worse.
City auditors blame an unprepared and inefficient bureaucracy for the city's inability to spend the money. It initially took the city as long as eight months to award construction contracts, which officials say now has been reduced to three.
An audit released on the city's infrastructure last November concluded that in the long run, the city's poor roads will end up costing San Diegans more money out of pocket for car repairs than it would to keep them in good condition.
But with the city planning to borrow an additional $500 million for more road repairs and other renovations, the city's declared mayoral candidates have focused on San Diego's potholes and other infrastructure problems as a campaign issue.
For this week's VOSD mayoral poll, we asked them the following questions:
"The state of San Diego's roads is a consistent issue at City Hall. But the city has been slow to fix them even when it's had the money. What, if anything, about the city's bureaucratic structure related to road repairs should change? Does the city need to borrow $500 million over the next five years to keep up with repairs? If not, how would you pay for them?"
Carl DeMaio, city councilman
The city's streets are crumbling and everyone knows it. Every San Diegan feels it when they drive over potholes and cracking pavement on a daily basis. Our road conditions are completely unacceptable and I plan to fix it.
There are two major problems with the city's current street repair policies: a lack of funding and a dysfunctional bureaucratic structure that is incapable of managing the city's street repairs.
I have a plan to solve both problems.
I was proud to release my "Save Our Streets" Action Plan earlier this year which is the only fully comprehensive plan from a mayoral candidate to address street repairs specifically.
The "S.O.S." Plan includes many reforms such as:
• Honestly assessing the full cost of the City's street repair deficit and including it in financial forecasts.
• Creating an "Infrastructure Lock Box" to fund street repairs and maintenance: up to $497 million over the next five years. These funds would come from the normal anticipated revenue growth which the city experiences year-to-year, and would require those funds go toward infrastructure. My proposal allows the city to fix roads without going $500 million further in debt.
• Radically change the bureaucratic structure for road repairs by implementing "Innovation Labs" under performance-based contracts to complete repairs.
I will enact additional policy reforms, such as strengthening the street repair warranty policy, enacting tougher penalties on unpermitted road work, closing loopholes, assigning an "Inspector General" for infrastructure, and ensuring fair and open competition for all city road work.
Bonnie Dumanis, district attorney
The city has over $800 million in deferred maintenance of storm drains, streets, and facilities. Every year we don't tackle this backlog, the costs grow as streets and other infrastructure deteriorate further. As mayor, I will not only address the existing backlog, but also ensure that there is a plan in place so that maintenance issues are dealt with in real time.
One of my first orders of business will be to put a team together that is dedicated to clearing out the deferred maintenance backlog. We will work with councilmembers to identify the highest priority infrastructure needs in their districts so that we can develop a specific list, project by project, that is available online with timelines for completion.
I would also look to adopt the best practices of other cities. I'm particularly interested in New York City's TrafficSTAT program where the city tracked each accident that took place in the city to identify crash-prone areas. Our priorities for deferred maintenance need to be in areas that serve the greatest number of people and have proven to be crash-prone. If a segment of road or an intersection is the site of an unusual number of accidents, it may be in need of re-engineering.
Savings from reform efforts like CPR and managed competition should be used to pay for infrastructure needs and pay down the deferred maintenance backlog. The public is demanding that tax dollars be used for services instead of pensions-this is a perfect way to answer those demands!
Bob Filner, congressman
The congressman failed to respond.
Nathan Fletcher, assemblyman
A brighter more prosperous future for San Diego depends on a solid foundation. Roads, sidewalks, parks, water and sewer systems are the foundation upon which great cities are built. Rebuilding our city will not only improve our neighborhoods and lay the foundation to bring San Diego into a new era, but it will also put people back to work by creating good-paying jobs.
But, business as usual in City Hall isn't working. Right now the city has $15 million in the bank to spend on our roads, but due to bureaucratic failures, less than $1 million has been spent repairing our neighborhoods. It's time to stop talking and get the projects started.
I've released a plan for paving the city's streets and building a new San Diego. It introduces some new and innovative ideas, enforces accountability for achieving results, and will put us on path to build the solid foundation we need for the future. But the truth is every candidate will offer a plan. That's not enough. Unless you can turn a plan into action nothing will get done. I've proven I can build and lead a team and deliver real results.
As mayor, I will ultimately hold responsibility for getting our streets repaired. To make sure we get the job done, I will install a new culture of accountability at City Hall. I will put one person in charge of coordinating the city's infrastructure projects and hold them accountable for their performance.
David Cardon, real estate broker
The roads should always be a great concern. How can we think of new ideas when the paths that bring us together are broken and need repair? It is only when we have solid ground to bring us together that new ideas can be formed and developed. Some have 12 inches and some have 18 inches of concrete that you drive on. If we start from the center and work our way to the borders, we can strengthen our infrastructure and resurface our streets and alleys. Landscaping and all other city-owned assets shall be brought to their full potential or sold if deemed obsolete.
Hud Collins, trial attorney
There is nothing about the city's bureaucratic structure related to road repairs that needs to be changed (city roads - potholes, cracks, weeds, etc. all are atrocious and an embarrassment to the citizens and visitors! What is needed is a strong mayor who first straightens out our city's financial emergency and crisis. Nothing can be done, including issuing bonds for $500 million (if that is the amount required). As of this date, we do not even have a confirmed audited opinion and thus cannot borrow anything. As I said before, I have a full pension reform plan which can be instituted within 30 days (which would allow $120 million immediately). After transferring $2.145 billion to the retirement fund (now that it must be reported on the city's ledger side); they would be 100% funding - at that point we would close the defined benefit plan and start a 401(k) for all employees. This would save $2 billion dollars over the next five years. Then we'll have a credit-worthy city and have available money for things like the homeless, road repair, etc.
Sunny O. Enyoghwerho, businessman
Anybody that drives or walks in the city of San Diego knows that our roads are bad. If the city officials care about the people of San Diego, they should have fixed the roads a long time ago. If I'm elected mayor, my number one priority is to fix the roads. If fixing of the roads will cost $500 million a year, in the next five years. I'm not in support of borrowing the full amount. Since I'm not a city official, I do not know the net worth of the city. If the city is planning to spend that huge amount to fix our roads, they should raise part of that money each year, and borrow the rest. I am in support of fixing the roads, but I am not in support of borrowing half a billion dollars a year for the next five years. There are different ways that the city could raise money for the project. San Diego is a tourist city. If I'm elected mayor, I will create a TOURIST DEPARTMENT that will be promoting San Diego all over the world. Tourists will be coming to San Diego everyday to spend their money. The hotels, restaurants, and retailers, etc, will be making money. This will lead to the hiring of more employees. The more tourists we have in San Diego the more revenue the city will generate. Let us make San Diego roads conducive for our taxpayers and our tourists.
Steve Greenwald, compassionate physician, businessman, and civic activist
The infrastructure of our city includes not only roads, sewers and water pipes but also the commercial port enhancement, energy and water conservation...parks, urban gardens, wetlands, beach, bay and river conservation so that the legacy of today's generation will be an excellent basis for the generations to follow...The building of an electric car support infrastructure must be enhanced!! I propose a 500 million dollar bond at today's low interest rates to be repaid over 50 years to finance these infrastructure requirements and to employ San Diego residents to implement the strategies. Road repairs must first focus on emergency occurrences and then resources delegated to the most severe existing potholes and followed by the lessor involved road repair needs
Toby Lewandoski, computer scientist
I am but one person of 99%, we need to have citywide dialogue on this issue, before proceeding forward with anything. As mayor, I will tap into our local citizens and workers for a solution to the problem and fight for job creation and stability. I will lay out all the facts so that the people can decide with correct information which direction best fits our city.
Tobiah Pettus, unemployed
Roads have always been the second pillar of five on my platform. MayorTobiahPettus.com
I will strive to make our roads new again. The reason our city's roads aren't fixed is because the roads are really not "the" important issue to city officials - that is changing.
Right now, the city has borrowed $54.7 million for roads. Stage 1: Mayor/Council agree on the fact that labor "Construction Managers" for demo, paving, and/or concrete need to be hired and the heavy equipment which they require needs to be purchased. Stage 2: Mayor/Council agree to hire labor crews. Designate all remaining money to purchase asphalt/concrete/coating directly... even possibly purchasing the plants. Cutting out all owners/middle men and just running the crews directly will dramatically reduce the cost. Stage 3: Mayor/Council agree on a systematic plan - tourist centers, downtown, airport, Convention Center, then expanding to the entire city. No further bureaucracy involved. As mayor, I will personally oversee this project and our crews will meet my schedule.
No. The city should not borrow $500 million. By the time we repay that, the cost will probably double.
We can pay for America's Finest City's roads through better management. The council designates funds. As mayor, I will run the city. I will lock the city down. Not a dollar will be spent without my approval. I will find the waste. The budget is $2.75 billion. By simply eliminating ~3.64% as waste, we will have $100 million per year towards making our San Diego roads new again. http://www.MayorTobiahPettus.com
Scott Wilson, businessman
Fixing the problem with short term answers such as what we have down in the past, which is just filling in the pot holes with regular asphalt. Does not work. Every time it rains the potholes are back. The rubberized asphalt idea may cost a little more on the short term, but in the long run will save our citizens by not having to replace the holes all of the time, and save on damaged done to our cars, and it's helping the environment by recycling. See more on this issue at www.crazyscott4mayor.com. The 45% fund given to the city from our alcohol initiative act, can help to go towards this problem.
Rubberized asphalt concrete (commonly known as RAC) is a road paving material made by blending ground-up recycled tires with asphalt to produce a binder which is then mixed with conventional aggregate materials. This mix is then placed and compacted into a road surface. There are two primary types of binders for RAC, asphalt-rubber and terminal blend. http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/tires/rac/
Lamii Kpargoi is an international fellow working with voiceofsandiego.org. He will be working on elections issues and media best practices in community relations. You can reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and 619.550.5671.
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