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The next mayor will weigh in on many big issues this year, including city water use and infrastructure spending.
Mayoral contenders David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer will hit the campaign trail hard come January.
And once the winner takes office next year, he’ll have plenty of big decisions to make.
Here’s a look at four big things the next mayor will need to focus on in 2014.
The city has a massive backlog of street, sidewalk and storm drain repairs and next summer, a City Council subcommittee is expected to release its five-year blueprint to tackle hundreds of projects over the next five years.
It’ll be the next mayor’s job to figure out how to pay for those upgrades – and in some cases, new additions. He’ll also need to decide which projects matter most. This fall, city leaders revealed the city must increase its spending on stormwater projects an average of $164 million annually to comply with new state regulations. The next mayor could opt to spend all city infrastructure cash on these repairs or try to pull strings at the state level to ease the rules.
The city’s current plan is to borrow $80 million to $120 million annually and gradually increase cash spending on repairs.
The most crucial distinction is that Alvarez openly supports a public vote on a tax increase to fund improvements across the city while Faulconer’s plan relies solely on loans and city cash. He hopes growing city revenues will help add more cash funding in coming years.
The city faces a big deadline in 2015.
The Environmental Protection Agency has long given the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, the city’s lead sewage facility, waivers from two federal pollution standards it’s not consistently meeting.
Upgrades necessary to meet those rules could cost more than $2 billion, a burden that would likely lead to sewer rate hikes for San Diego and other cities and agencies that rely on the Point Loma facility.
The city’s latest permit expires next July and the next mayor will have to decide which approach to take. He may seek another waiver and even try to lobby for legislative changes that would acknowledge city efforts to reduce its use of the Point Loma plant.
The latter effort would likely focus on the city’s experimentation with potable reuse, a process that involves diverting the wastewater to another facility and purifying it so it’s safe to drink.
This spring, the City Council – including both Alvarez and Faulconer – formally signaled its approval of the process but the next mayor will determine the resources the city is willing to put behind it going forward.
Whether the city moves forward with a voter-approved option to put some city services out for bid depends on the next mayor.
The measure approved by voters in 2006 allows the city to outsource services if city officials determine they can be performed more economically and efficiently by a private firm.
But the mayor ultimately decides whether to move forward with competitive bidding, and Alvarez and Faulconer hold opposing views on the program.
Faulconer has said the city could save millions by proceeding with managed competition contracts that remain on hold despite concerns raised about the program.
Alvarez thinks the city could save similar cash through budgetary approaches he views as less hostile to city employees.
This year, a cache of tech entrepreneurs and open government advocates teamed with Councilman Mark Kersey to push a policy that would make government data more accessible and user-friendly.
A City Council committee unanimously voted to create such a policy in November but the city hasn’t adopted the plan yet. Instead, an advisory committee will review it first.
The policy is likely to be approved next year but how it works in practice will largely rely on the next mayor. For example, will he hire a chief data officer? Will he allocate money for necessary tech upgrades in his mayoral budgets?
Before the mayoral primary, both Alvarez and Faulconer released plans that committed to reforms but the cash and staff time the next mayor commits to the open data mission will be crucial.