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On Wednesday evening at the University of San Diego the two candidates in the San Diego Mayoral race focused on the quality of life of the San Diegans.
IVN attended the debate and reported the event through a live blog.
In an auditorium full of more than 250 people, Congressman Bob Filner and San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio debated. Contrary to most debates where the candidates have to cover many topics in a short amount of time, on Wednesday they had the opportunity to focus on one subject – improving the quality of life of San Diegans. The event, organized in partnership between the University of San Diego , Walk San Diego, the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, Move San Diego, and the Urban Land Institute, was indeed centered around 4 words: Walk, Bike, Move, Live. It is through these activities that these organizations want the future Mayor of San Diego to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants.
The debate’s moderator, NBC San Diego anchorman Mark Mullen highlighted from the beginning the issue, “quality of life doesn’t happen by accident.” And in a city that has been car centered for so long, shifting toward a more walk-able and bike-able way of life will be a challenge.
From the beginning, the two candidates have shown a mutual commitment to improve the city’s infrastructure that would favor cycling and walking. During his answer to the first question, Mr. Filner acknowledged that the Bike Walk Plan Mr. DeMaio was holding in his hands was a good plan. This plan, released on Monday, describes in details Mr. DeMaio’s vision of street environment shared between cars, bikes, and pedestrians. This plan borrows some ideas from the unfortunate mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher.
Mr. DeMaio insisted on the poor condition of the roads in San Diego, “ranked 8th worst in the country,” with a repeated use of the word “pothole.” He emphasized the work of the current City Council in its management of the city’s debt and asserts $478 million of backlogged money will be necessary to repair San Diego roads. These massive road upgrades will be the opportunity to deeply change San Diego by applying alternative street standards such as complete streets.
Mr. Filner, as he has done in previous debates, insisted on his long experience as a public servant, especially his service on the Transportation Committee in the Congress. For him it is by definition the city’s job to maintain the roads. His focus will be to bring City Hall the leadership necessary to get the people of San Diego excited about the metamorphosis of the city. The idea of “excitement” repeated at numerous occasions during the debate seemed to be, for Congressman Filner, the key to get the whole city moving and biking. He wants “a city that builds us as human beings.”
Both candidates insisted that more cooperation will be needed within the City Hall to get everything done efficiently. Mr. Filner wants to create the APLUS, he remains open to new ideas for the name, department. This department will handle land use, mobility, housing, and local employment so future development can be made holistically and transform San Diego into a city of villages.
Mr. DeMaio insisted that under his management departments will have to cooperate. No more brand new roads immediately destroyed by the water department that had plans to change the sewers on the same road. But he advocates for more liberties for each neighborhood to decide what they want and how they want it.
The candidates in the San Diego mayoral race took time away from answering questions at a few occasions to compete in a few skirmishes about who was more sold to special interests than the other. This left some issues unanswered but over whole it will be expected, independently of who the winner is, to see San Diego change radically to improve the quality of life of San Diegans.
The candidates managed to kindle the audience when City Councilmember Carl DeMaio accepted Congressman Bob Filner’s offer to bet the mayoral seat on a bicycle race. It would save time and money for everybody said Mr. Filner. What is sure is that if the San Diego mayoral race was won on a cycling track, it would be the biggest commitment to a more bike friendly city that the candidates could offer.