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Politics Report: The Mayor Takes Our Questions

Mayor Kevin Faulconer delivers his 2017 State of the City speech. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Something’s going on with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Last week, he said he was taking a “different approach” to his State of the City speech, then accepted responsibility for the inaction that led to the hepatitis A crisis. On Thursday, he showed up at the Metropolitan Transit System’s board meeting to support Democratic City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez’s successful bid to be the new chair.

And Friday, he visited the Voice of San Diego podcast studio to record a special interview. Here it is [1].

In his words, this is what’s happening:

“Look, consensus is important. Results are more important,” he said. “I am choosing results over consensus.”

Faulconer said he’s spent too much time seeking universal consensus. Now, he’s made peace with the idea that not everyone will love every decision he makes.

We got as much as we could from him on homelessness, the Convention Center expansion, the future of Mission Valley, short-term vacation rentals and the search for a new police chief.

But we started with the big news of the week: the new leadership at MTS. Gomez got the votes, but she wasn’t the only one who wanted the job. County Supervisor Ron Roberts, a Republican, had expressed interest in the job too. But Gomez’s bid got a boost when Faulconer, out of character, showed up and spoke in her favor. If it was a poker game, Faulconer’s announcement was him pushing a big stack of chips to the center of the table. Everyone else folded.

We asked him why he would do that for such a progressive Democrat.

“I like working with her,” he said. “I probably shouldn’t say too many nice things, because you know then I’ll ruin her cred with the progressive community. But, look, she’s a fair, determined, direct individual. I think you want that on boards like that.”

On SoccerCity vs. SDSU West: It didn’t come up in his State of the City speech. We asked if he was still as supportive of SoccerCity as he was when he endorsed it.

“I am,” he said.

Is there any shot at the two sides negotiating again? “There’s a shot,” he said. “You know this is politics, this is the art of the possible.”

SDSU’s immediate future: He also addressed ongoing negotiations [2] between the city and SDSU about where the university will play football. It seems the university wants the city to extend its lease, which expires at the end of the year, so it can keep playing at SDCCU Stadium. But the city loses about $7 million a year operating the stadium, far more than it receives from the lease, and there is pressure to shut it down. Faulconer insisted he was only going to make a deal for the short term. “But for the short term, ‘How do we have something that makes sense, and puts the city in a financially better position?’ I’m confident we can get there.”

About the Convention Center and hotel-tax hike: The mayor says this is the most important issue before voters this year. We talked to him about how much the measure has changed and asked why it got so much more flexible [3].

He acknowledged that the hotel tax hike was going forward as a citizens’ initiative to take advantage of a recent California Supreme Court ruling [4] that seemed to indicate citizens initiatives don’t need the two-thirds threshold for approval required of special taxes put on the ballot by local governments.

And that hotel behind the Convention Center?  The partnership that controls [5] the land called Fifth Avenue Landing on the bay side of the Convention Center is trying to build a hotel. If it is approved, the long-planned design to expand the Convention Center there can’t be built. We asked the mayor how that would be settled.

“That’s a subject of a lawsuit,” he said. “I would just phrase it this way: resolving lawsuits are always of benefit.”