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Our daily roundup of San Diego’s most important stories (Monday-Friday)
Mayor Todd Gloria took the reins at City Hall on Thursday, becoming the first person of color and member of the LGBT community elected to the city’s top post.
After he was sworn in, Gloria touched on themes he emphasized during his campaign, calling for the city to ensure opportunity for all San Diegans and to tackle its foremost challenges.
“It’s time for us to dare to be a truly great city, a city where your ZIP code doesn’t determine your destiny, a city that embraces what makes us unique and celebrates who we are, a city that tackles major challenges head on and doesn’t let distraction get in the way. No more San Diego specials,” Gloria said. “San Diego is a big city. It’s time we acted like it. So, over the next 100 days, we will dispense with the small issues that past leaders have struggled to resolve so that we can focus on the biggest problems facing our city.”
Gloria pledged to roll out aggressive strategies to address the public health and economic challenges that have also hit the city’s budget hard during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the city’s housing and homelessness crises, in his first 100 days in office.
After Gloria’s swearing in, the city also welcomed five new Democratic City Council members: District 1 Councilman Joe LaCava, District 3 Councilman Stephen Whitburn, District 5 Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert, District 7 Councilman Raul Campillo and District 9 Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera.
Their rise – and Gloria’s – mean Democrats now have decisive control over city government. Councilman Chris Cate is now the only Republican on the City Council.
The new City Council selected Jen Campbell as San Diego’s next Council president in a 5-4 vote late Thursday night, following hundreds of phone calls from residents urging them during an hours-long meeting to support Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe instead.
It was the first decision of the Council’s new 8-1 Democratic super majority, revealing divisions within an an ascendant liberal coalition that nonetheless has near uniform control over city government.
Campbell now controls which issues reach the Council’s docket, and appointments to Council committees. She’s stressed her ability to work with anyone at City Hall and positioned herself as a moderate candidate for the leadership role.
“My entire vision of Council president is to make sure each council district can improve as a community while advancing the goals of our city,” she said during the meeting. “I look forward to protecting the health and safety of our community.”
Both Campbell and Montgomery Steppe helped pass major policy changes in November, with Campbell backing a voter-approved measure to remove the coastal height limit in the Midway district, and Montgomery Steppe championing one that created a new oversight body to investigate misconduct allegations against SDPD.
“There has been conversation about me not building consensus, I’ll just be frank – I am about bringing equity to this city,” Montgomery Steppe said Thursday. “There won’t be that conversation without tension, conflict, but it sharpens us, and it makes us stronger.”
But Montgomery Steppe – who has pledged to make racial justice and equity the focus of city policy – lost despite winning the backing of the liberal establishment’s two most powerful institutional forces, the San Diego County Democratic Party and the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council. She pushed the race for Council president, which typically occurs among interest groups in private, into public instead, with progressive activists pushing lobbying on her behalf.
That public campaign defined the race in stark terms that can’t be easily rolled back, and made for an especially significant vote for the five newly elected councilmembers.
Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, the party’s chair, wrote an open letter supporting Montgomery Steppe, for instance, argued the race could kill the party’s movement for racial justice.
“For everyone but insiders this conflict is clear,” he wrote. “Two people vie for this office. One of them is White, the other Black… One of the candidates has taken cruel positions on homelessness and stands against the movement on the issue of police. The other has become a symbol of hope for a downtrodden, underserved, and at risk community, begging for justice and equity.”
Campbell got the votes anyway, and with newly elected Democrats Councilwoman Marnie von Wilpert, Councilman Raul Campillo, and Councilman Stephen Whitburn siding with Campbell as their first actions as elected officials. Councilman Chris Cate, the only Republican, also voted for her, while Montgomery Steppe received support from newly elected Councilmen Joe LaCava and Sean Elo-Rivera, and Councilwoman Vivian Moreno.
In our final deep dive into Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s tenure, Andy Keatts delved into his record on housing production.
Faulconer “mostly made good on his pledge to seek supply-side reforms intended to make it cheaper and easier for developers to build homes in the city’s urban core,” Keatts reports.
On Faulconer’s watch, community plans passed more quickly and they allowed neighborhoods to accommodate far more housing. He also “changed the dialogue, and the political calculus” by embracing building and development, one observer noted.
But the impact of those changes isn’t clear yet. Housing production in San Diego remains behind its peer cities and other cities in the region. And despite the focus on production, Faulconer did not similarly embrace reforms meant to fund and generate housing for low-income San Diegans.
In case you missed our other examinations of Faulconer’s legacy on major issues, here’s a refresher:
When the state imposed another stay-at-home order, there was instant confusion about the new rules. One of the persistent points of confusion: Why did the state ban outdoor dining?
Scott Lewis wondered too.
Then, Lewis writes in a new column, California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly tipped the state’s hand earlier this week: The state isn’t declaring that outdoor dining is particularly risky. Rather, it wants Californians to stay home and only go out for essential purposes, a seemingly much simpler message that Gov. Gavin Newsom and others have for some reason been unable or unwilling to easily clarify.
Monday’s Environment Report mischaracterized the maximum number of truck trips generated by a proposed Mitsubishi project before the Port of San Diego board. It would generate up to 176 new truck trips per day. On Tuesday, the board delayed a decision on the project.
The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.