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What to Watch for in 2015

Who’s going to emerge as a leader in San Diego? What’s the single greatest change that would make it easier to live in our region? We asked a few notable San Diegans to weigh in.

Plenty of year-end stories recap the past. We’ve looked at the most explosive opinions voiced on VOSD this year, the biggest stories we published and followed, the whopper claims and the most RT-able tweets. But now that the calendar’s flipped over to 2015, we want to look ahead at what’s to come.

We asked a few notable San Diegans what they thought the near future might hold. Our panel includes: April Boling, a CPA and one-time City Council candidate; Barbara Bry, founder of Run Women Run and Athena San Diego,and former editor and CEO of Voice of San Diego; Dwayne Crenshaw, community leader and RiseSD co-founder; Ray Ellis, philanthropist and at one point, Sherri Lightner’s rival for her City Council seat; Joe LaCava, a civil engineer; Diane Moss, executive director of Project New Village and Mary Walshok, dean of UC San Diego Extension.

Below are their edited responses to a few questions focused on the year ahead.

Who’s an emerging leader to watch?

Crenshaw: “The obvious and popular choice has to be Chris Cate. Maybe the new face of ‘compassionate conservatism?’ In the not-so-obvious-choice category, I am eager to see Serge Dedina’s leadership in pushing increased civic engagement as mayor of Imperial Beach. Aspirationally, I am cheering for Marne Foster to flourish as leader of the San Diego Unified School Board. Borrowing from the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ I think Marne may surprise many with her heart, brain and courage to take on some seemingly intractable issues and deeply vested interest groups.”

Moss: “One person I will be watching is Anahid Brakke as she leaves the Leichtag Foundation to provide leadership at the San Diego Hunger Coalition. I’m interested to see what insights and energy she will bring to the food security issues in San Diego.”

Walshok: “Reginald Jones, the CEO of the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, is bringing a very different prospective to urban redevelopment, focusing on capacity building and collective impact, and is very disciplined in his approach.”

Ellis: “Chris Cate, San Diego City Council member; Mark Arabo, president and CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association; Stephen Heverly, managing director of Equinox Center; Anahid Brakke, executive director of the San Diego Hunger Coalition and Jose Cruz, executive director of the Barrio Logan College Institute.”

Bry: “The continued success of the San Diego economy depends on entrepreneurs like Sarah Esper, a UCSD graduate, who is also the co-founder of ThoughtSTEM, a company she started in 2012 with two other UCSD Ph.D. students to teach children to code.”

LaCava: “The city of San Diego’s first-ever chief data officer, Maksim Pecherskiy. Pecherskiy holds the promise of unlocking the value in the city’s treasure trove of raw data. His work can allow the city to operate more efficiently, help city departments work more collaboratively and give San Diegans better insight into their city government.”

What development or infrastructure projects should we prioritize in 2015?

Crenshaw: “No more lip service. No more excuses. No more band-aids. Fully funding the Home Avenue and Paradise Hills fire stations identified as priorities in the Citygate report have to top the city’s infrastructure list. Public safety is the city’s No. 1 job. We’re talking about the possible difference between life and death.”

Moss: “We should support better quality of life and increased access to opportunity for all neighborhoods. Green infrastructure – the interconnected network of open spaces and natural areas like community gardens – can cost less to install and maintain when compared with traditional forms of infrastructure. Green infrastructure projects also foster community cohesiveness by engaging all residents in planning, planting and maintenance of the sites.”

Boling: “We need the money and the jobs that the Convention Center generates. People keep focusing on whether the center itself is internally profitable, when that isn’t the point at all. Also, the multi-modal transportation center adjacent to the airport needs to become a priority. If we are serious about getting people out of their cars, there must be alternatives.”

Walshok: “We need to move as quickly as we can on transportation infrastructure that is an alternative to the private automobile. Jobs are north of Interstate 8 and increasingly people live south of Interstate 8. We need much more effective light rail, bus- and bicycle-friendly systems to allow people to move around the county. Right now everyone depends on their car.”

Ellis: “The poor conditions of our roads continues to be a major issue. Major spending is needed in many of our parks, especially Balboa Park. Overall our focus needs to be on prioritizing better in local government so it works for people. And we need a scaled-down One Paseo project that does not negatively impact the quality of life in and around Carmel Valley.”

Bry: “We need to develop a financing plan to support infrastructure repairs and upgrades. To identify priorities, we could crowdsource the answers. The neighborhoods know what they need.”

LaCava: “First, we must respond to the Citygate report and address shortfalls in fire-rescue, whether it is building fire stations or staffing interim stations with two- or four-person crews; every neighborhood deserves the same level of service. Second, the PureWater Program must continue to resolve our permitting issues at Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant and deliver a locally controlled water supply for our city. Third, we must find funding to comprehensively address our city’s infrastructure backlog.”

What’s the single greatest change we could make next year to make it easier to live in San Diego?

Crenshaw: “Proactively, spurring new job creation everywhere, but particularly in communities with lingering high unemployment and limited economic development. Actual investments should be made in 2015 for a summer jobs program, targeted placement and training programs for youth, veterans and other marginalized populations, employer hiring credits, small business loans and shovel-ready infrastructure projects.”

Boling: “It would be easier to live in San Diego if one didn’t have to constantly dodge potholes.”

Walshok: “I feel that we are underinvesting in talent development in San Diego at the technical, production, manufacturing, skilled and semi-skilled professional levels – spheres where community college degrees and certification programs make a huge difference in the employability of an individual. If we made this change in our higher education strategy we could contribute to growing good high-wage jobs for more citizens and through that achieve a renewal of San Diego’s declining middle class.”

Bry: “We need to reinvest in city programs for children. This investment would include expanded public library hours and support for before- and after-school programs like the “6 to 6” program the city supported in the past. Prepare our children to be scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs.”

LaCava: “Perhaps not easier but certainly with more confidence, we have to address the current retention and recruitment challenges of our San Diego Police Department. Not only will this solidify staffing for officers on the beat, it will allow the city to restore proven programs, especially community policing.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Mary Walshok.

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