In the first half of our Dec 8 interview with new City Council President Todd Gloria, we discussed important issues San Diegans face. He articulated plans to combat homelessness, fix infrastructure, and elevate the dialogue between neighborhoods, city hall, and businesses. We later took a light-hearted approach to the conversation and asked about social media changing politics, what makes his district stand out, and his go-to restaurant in San Diego.
Social Media Changing Politics
Todd Gloria is an avid social media user. He has nearly 5,000 posts and about 3,600 followers on Twitter. The social network is bringing down the walls between constituents and government representatives. We asked Gloria about an untimely incident of water shutting off the night before Thanksgiving that was resolved over Twitter.
There was a water-main break on Nov. 21 in the neighborhood of Normal Heights, part of Gloria's council district. Consequently, water was turned off for that community.
Todd Gloria: "Shutting off the water is inconvenient, but it's particularly difficult the night before Thanksgiving when many people are preparing their Thanksgiving dinner. I was out in the community meeting with constituents, but I received a couple tweets and Facebook messages from families who were impacted by this. It was difficult for them to reach anyone at the city level. I imagine it was because of the holidays when many people travel, so they weren't getting responses. So, I called the public utilities director around 7pm before Thanksgiving and he was able to send folks out there to get the water restored."
"That's what I love about social networking. I have an iPhone, it comes right to me, I'm able to see it and I try to respond as best I can. One of the best parts of being a council member is that you have people's phone numbers.
After a few tweets back and forth and Council President Gloria making calls, the problem was resolved:
"It's a great example of the power of social media. The reason why we have town hall meetings, attend special events, and work seven days a week is because you're supposed to be accessible. I'm there on the behalf of about 150,000 people. Social media helps facilitate communication at no cost. It's a valuable tool. I was skeptical about it at first, I didn't understand Twitter but after four years of using it, I understand it much better. We try to use it to serve our constituents better."
Enjoying the City of San Diego
Todd Gloria has been representing council district three since 2008, but after redistricting his constituency changed slightly. He now represents part of Downtown San Diego and moved from City Heights to Hillcrest to remain eligible for district three governing. With that said, he still shows love for his district.
We moved the conversation away from politics for moment and asked what he loves most about his particular community.
Todd Gloria: "I get in trouble with my colleagues because I'm constantly talking about how I have the best council district! I recognize that subjectively, but I really feel that way. We have wonderful neighborhoods full of character and charm, we're eclectic and have great people. There's so much diversity and people are so respectful and compassionate."
"I think my first job as a council member is to be the customer service department for the city. But it's also very much about being a cheerleader for your district and I have so much to cheer for. Balboa Park is an amazing place. Downtown is vibrant with interesting things going on. The waterfront is spectacular. There's great individual neighborhoods."
"When people anywhere in the city or outside the city find out I'm a council member and where I represent, they know my district. They know Lestat's Coffee Shop, they know Urban MO's. I just feel so fortunate to have great people, great neighborhoods with interesting issues and cutting edge stuff."
Gloria also said his district likes to experiment with new concepts. The DECOBIKE bike sharing program is being implemented within his district. There's also discussions for a sustainable bike corridor in the North Park and Uptown areas of San Diego."Some things work, some thing don't, but that's what makes the job so much more interesting," he added.
Balancing Habits: Restaurants, Fast Food, and Hiking
Similar to our past interview with Congressman-elect Scott Peters, we asked Council President Gloria about his go-to restaurant for dinner in San Diego.Ortega's Bistro, photo credit: fodors.com
Todd Gloria: "That's hard, roughly one-third of all restaurants in the city are in my council district. I love Mexican food so I tend to go to Ortega's Bistro off 3rd and University Ave. It's owned locally by two guys and they do a great job, food's great and reasonably priced. When I'm home I can just walk four blocks to Ortega's, it's a default for me."
"Honestly, I'm out a lot eating. It's coming out in the papers that I eat a lot of fast food. It's been a habit over the years, but it's also a function of my job. Last night racing between events, I hit Jack-in-the-Box on the way, you better believe I did!"
Working as a council representative is more than a full-time job that requires unconditional attention to the city. However, given a day off, our last question asked what an open day for Todd Gloria looks like.
"I'm an early riser, so even on days I have nothing to do, I'm still up pretty early. That facilitates what I would do with free time which is hiking. I love being outdoors and being quiet with the opportunity to think things through. You'll commonly find me hiking at Mission Trails Park, Torrey Pines, or the Balboa Park trails. It serves the purpose of unwinding and getting out of the thick of things for a few hours."
He gave us last words by encouraging San Diegans to pay attention to the city council's progress as they work in a real bipartisan fashion. He brings the conversation back to infrastructure issues and maintaining fiscal discipline. He says he and the public are ready take these issues on.
As a representative of Balboa Park, Todd Gloria reminded us that the 100 year celebration of Balboa Park is coming in about two years. He wishes to highlight the legacy some 40,000 San Diegans left behind in 1915, and maintaining the park for the next century.
What we reveal by talking to Council President Todd Gloria is a down-to-earth politician who lives and breathes his community. He makes himself readily available to serve the city and has been digging into city issues since taking office. If you happen to be at a local fast food joint or hiking a trail, you might just run into Todd Gloria.