Todd Gloria Takes Charge as Council President: IVN Interview Part One

Todd Gloria elected council president Credit: JoAnn Fields,[/caption]

In wake of former council president Tony Young announcing a resignation from city government for a new job last month, a new council president was selected on Dec 3. Councilman Todd Gloria of district three was unanimously selected by his colleagues to assume the role of city council president. The new position puts Todd Gloria in charge of setting the council agenda and second-in-command of the city next to the mayor.

Todd Gloria and SDFD
Council President Todd Gloria and SD Fire Department food drive, Dec 8.

IVN caught up with him Saturday morning, Dec. 8, after he participated in a food drive for City Heights. He gave out turkeys for families alongside the San Diego Fire Department IAFF Local 145. In the first half of our interview, we discussed combating homelessness, improving infrastructure, and enhancing community involvement.

A Movement Against Homelessness

At the San Diego city government inauguration ceremony, Todd Gloria jumped straight into the issues ahead. In his acceptance speech, the first issue he brought up was homelessness. We asked him how city leaders can combat homelessness with limited resources at City Hall.

Todd Gloria: “The plan I’ve laid out does not involve only city hall resources. What we will do in order to accomplish the goal I have of fighting homelessness downtown in the next four years is a collaboration of public, private, and non-profit resources. We are already doing some of that work.”

“We’ll see the opening of Connections Housing in a few days. That is city property and city monies coupled with non-profit funds from groups like Family Health Centers and PATH, and private sector contributions and philanthropic donations to open what will be a 365 day-a-year presence serving the homeless. This will really be a game-changer from our current approach which is to set up temporary tents for 16 weeks during the winter time.”

San Diego City Infrastructure Improvement

As soon as he assumed his second term on the council, he brought up problems with city infrastructure. Speculation formed that he would be putting forward a bond measure to cover $900 million worth of needed infrastructure projects. We asked him the details of how he and the council will be approaching this issue and how to frame a potential bond measure.

Todd Gloria: “I don’t believe it’ll be city hall leading on this issue. My comments were intended to bring out the conversation that has been happening in the business communities and in the neighborhoods with the hope of bringing the two together.”

“For example the Economic Development Corp. has been working on this for years. I took a trip with them to Phoenix in 2009 to look into their citizens bond initiative to see if we can bring that same concept to San Diego. The Citizens Budget Alliance works with planning groups to prioritize infrastructure problems. I see these two efforts complementary but not working together [in San Diego]. I think once we bring those two forces together along with taxpayer groups and town councils, we will have a coalition to get this done.”

“The effort is going to come from the neighborhoods and communities because they’re the ones who have to identify what needs to be done. From my experience in the first four years on the council, a number of projects the city has in its books are not necessarily shared priorities with neighborhoods. We start with that [nearly] billion dollar figure, then take out what we already have plans for. Take out public utilities and water utility work that we already have money for. Then you take out the projects that aren’t priorities. If communities say ‘our lives will not be improved if this gets done’ then scrap it.”

“When we have those figures, we can come together and identify how to pay for infrastructure improvements. It may be that we can do it with our own resources or projected economic growth. It also may be that new revenue is necessary. We have to have leadership to encourage this conversation. We’ve streamlined our infrastructure process so it’s quicker and cheaper. We also have managed competition with these functions so we’re working efficiently and minimizing waste. The city will be able to execute effectively with the expectation that whatever the voters support, we’ll get it done.”

Enhancing San Diego Community Involvement

Part of the solution to improving city infrastructure relies on community involvement. However, fostering effective input from constituents is another challenge. The council president explained how he’s been elevating the power of San Diego citizens in the city’s decisions.

Todd Gloria: “It’s starts with actually talking about issues like infrastructure. Like the “sexy streets” effort! As silly as it may sound, it’s about trying to attract attention to a problem people often don’t prioritize that’s critically important. It’s about putting that in an inauguration speech. I don’t think many would mention sewer pipes and storm drains, but I know it’s critical to the success of San Diego.”

“We have to prioritize within the city hall process. What I have done as chair of the Budget Committee is establish a process known as CIP, capital improvement program. Our CIP projects are now being headed by community planning groups. These are citizens elected by their neighborhood to be the voice in the planning process. These folks are now working on a pro-active basis, not a reactive basis.”

“For example, they’ll say: ‘In the next fiscal year we intend to have these projects, do you like them or don’t you? How can we adjust accordingly?’ This is the first year we’ve ever done this. It ties into this bigger issue that I’ve been advocating for: If we can hit this level of proficiency with our citizen leaders and neighborhoods, they’ll be able to help us tackle the biggest problems.”

“First step is talking about the issue. Second, empowering the neighborhoods’ voice in this process. Lastly, it’s to connect them to the resources. We want to link them with the business community and other groups who have been talking about this effort alone. I think individually one side or the other will not have success, but collectively they will. That’s what I’m trying link up.”

Stay Tuned For Part Two of Our Interview With Council President Todd Gloria

In the second half of IVN’s interview with Council President Todd Gloria, we’ll talk about how Councilman Tony Young has shaped leadership roles, bipartisanship within the council, how social media is transforming politics, and what to enjoy in San Diego with time off.

Todd Gloria has been praised by his colleagues for his past term and work in the Budget Committee. When it came to San Diego’s most pressing issues, he showed great articulation. Homelessness, infrastructure, and community involvement have been challenges in the city for some time. He has laid out plans to reach necessary goals and effectiveness will be evident in the coming years.