SAN DIEGO -- San Diegans will head to the polls tomorrow for a special election to select the city's next mayor. While there are 11 candidates vying for the job, four are considered to be front-runners, including current City Councilmember David Alvarez.
Alvarez, who was elected to the San Diego City Council in 2010 to represent District 8, was born and raised in the city's Barrio Logan community. The 33-year-old Democrat has spent much of his adult life fighting for social, economic and environmental justice and began his career as a social services worker and after-school teacher.
He easily won the endorsement of the San Diego Democrats for Equality, the local LGBT Democratic club, over Democratic rivals Nathan Fletcher and Mike Aguirre. These three, and Republican Kevin Faulconer, are considered the contenders for what likely will become a runoff election for mayor with the top two vote-getters advancing if none get a majority of the vote.
SDGLN recently interviewed Alvarez about some issues of importance to the community such as Balboa Park, Uptown, the LGBT community, and more. Check out his responses in the Q&A below.
What sets you apart from the other candidates? How does being a lifelong San Diegan set you apart?
Voters should know that I am a native San Diegan who strongly believes in the value of communities being active in government. Prior to being a Councilmember, I was active in trying to make my community, Logan Heights, a better place for my family and neighbors and I continue that work today as a City Councilmember. San Diego has given me so much- a wonderful family, a quality education, and the opportunity to serve my community as an elected official. San Diego has invested in me and I want to make sure that San Diegans get a return on that investment.
Why are you seeking this office?
San Diego needs a leader who will fight to make government work for all members of our communities and neighborhoods- not just for special interests. We must invest in our neighborhoods, create jobs, support schools, ensure long-term water security, and make City Hall more open and transparent. To accomplish these goals, we need a Mayor who engages with the public and gives everyone the respect and dignity they deserve from their government. I have a strong track record of standing up for neighborhoods and getting things done at City Hall - as Mayor I would continue that work to lead San Diego forward.
How do you plan to restore order, civility and “sanity” at City Hall?
Restoring civility at City Hall can be accomplished by treating each other with dignity and respect. As a community, we will always have a multitude of viewpoints on many issues. However, the process by which the public has access to decision makers and the ability to voice their opinions and concerns without fear of being ostracized is critical to our success as a city. The dysfunction and disrespect we've witnessed recently is not conducive to us working together to solve problems, and as Mayor I will respect everyone’s right to have a say in how our city moves forward. Making sure that City Hall is responsive, open and transparent for all community members who seek assistance or help with neighborhood issues is a top priority of mine that I promise will be a trademark of my administration as Mayor.
What do you envision for Balboa Park? Are you satisfied with the improvements Mayor Filner made to the Plaza de Panama during his short tenure?
Balboa Park is the crown jewel of San Diego. It is essential that we balance the need to preserve the historical character of Balboa Park while also allowing it to effectively facilitate large events - like the 2015 Centennial celebration - as well as host the millions of visitors who experience its beauty each year. The changes made over the last year have improved the pedestrian experience for all park visitors. In coming years, the priority within the park must be an investment into its infrastructure. Many buildings are aging and in need of repair and we must invest in taking advantage of the opportunity to make each facility more energy efficient and make the entire park more water efficient. Balboa Park deserves these upgrades and investments, and as Mayor I will prioritize them.
Please re-iterate your support of the LGBT community and what plans you might have to include this community in city affairs.
I always have been and always will be a strong advocate for the LGBT community. It is critical that after years of under-represented communities being ignored and neglected by the power structure at City Hall, that all members of our community are included in the decision making process at City Hall. I believe it is critical that LGBT community members be appointed to boards and commissions throughout the city and placed in leadership positions within the city to ensure that LGBT perspective on various issues is always available.
There is much discussion about the future of the Uptown neighborhoods, which have a population of LGBT people, and are some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. What do you think about the Interim Height Ordinance that is in place currently and the future growth of these neighborhoods?
I believe that communities must have the ability to create and retain the community character that makes them unique. However, all communities recognize that future growth changes each neighborhood in a unique way. I have supported the Interim Height Ordinance staying in place until the community plan is updated. As the community plan update works towards completion, the community input and updated standards will help dictate the desire of the community in addressing a number of issues, including any height limitations.
What about Community Plans that need to be updated? Any thoughts on how the City can catch up on these plans, many of which are way behind.
I have worked hard to push a number of community plan updates through since being elected to the City Council. Recently, the Barrio Logan community plan update was approved by the City Council after years of delay, and in the coming months others will continue to move forward. I believe that updating our community plans on a more regular basis is vital to the ability of each neighborhood to plan for the future and strike an appropriate balance between residential, commercial and industrial uses. The way to catch up on the many outdated community plans is quite simple- the updates must be prioritized in the budget process by the Mayor and City Council. As Mayor, I will commit to funding community plan updates at a significantly higher rate than has been done in the past.
Where do you hope to see the City in 4-8 years?
San Diego has a bright future. In the next decade, I believe that we have the opportunity to invest more heavily in our neighborhoods and communities that have been neglected for years in favor of large downtown projects and special interests. By shifting tax payer dollars back into our neighborhoods, we can ensure that each community has enough park space for people to enjoy, streets paved on a regular basis, new fire stations built and expanded library programs for our children. Additionally, attracting more high paying jobs to our region in industries like bio-tech, life sciences and manufacturing will ensure that our economy is diverse to survive a downturn in any one sector of the economy, while also building a stronger middle class.
In closing, Alvarez said that his strong core of beliefs and values are what drives him to work to make San Diego a better place.
"That is something about me that won’t change for the purposes of political expediency," Alvarez said. "What you see is what you get- and that means open, honest, effective and transparent government that our communities can rely on day in and day out."
"I would encourage everyone to remember to vote at the polls on Nov. 19," Alvarez said.
More information about Alvarez's campaign is HERE.
The polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 19. Should no candidate receive a majority of the votes in tomorrow's election, a run-off between the top two vote-getters will be held sometime early next year.
To find your polling place, click HERE.