Protecting Pension Reform: The City of San Diego is a leader when it comes to creating and implementing common sense pension reforms, but there is more to do and we have to protect the voter-approved reforms we’ve made.

I served as volunteer board president of the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System (SDCERS) at the direction of former Mayor Jerry Sanders.

Back then, the City’s pension crisis was driving San Diego toward bankruptcy, and our credit rating was in the tank. We changed all that and our City is in much better shape today thanks to strong leadership and a series of positive changes.

At SDCERS, my fellow board members, including labor leaders, business executives, Democrats and Republicans, named me vice president and then president of the Board. Together, we developed and implemented sound financial and operational reforms that made the pension system more secure for city retirees and employees, and saved San Diego taxpayers millions of dollars.

I then helped lead an effort to pass Proposition B in 2012, the Comprehensive Pension Reform measure voters overwhelmingly approved. It will save taxpayers $1 billion – money we can put back into our police and fire departments, our roads, our parks, our libraries, and other services the City provides.

Pension reform, unfortunately, is under attack by some union leaders. My promise to you is simple: I will fight to protect pension reform and the will of the voters.

I also support the Mayor Faulconer’s plan to create a pension “rainy day” fund for years when investment returns do not meet expectations.

I also want to ensure the City is appointing Trustees to SDCERS with the proper experience to make sure our reforms are secure.

The  ity and SDCERS also need to maintain appropriate levels of communication to avoid costly litigation. There are also inconsistencies among our City Charter and ordinances and SDCERS’ fiduciary duties, which need to be proactively addressed.

As a City Councilmember, I will focus on these issues and improvements, and I will fight to protect pension reform.

Roads & Infrastructure:  After years of neglect, many of San Diego’s roads are crumbling and, unfortunately, the City’s backlog of deferred maintenance does not stop there. Our parks desperately need attention, along with our aging water system and other infrastructure.

Addressing the City’s infrastructure backlog is one of my top priorities, and repairing our streets should be our highest infrastructure priority.

I strongly support the Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s initiative to double street repair efforts and repair over 1,000 miles of roads in the next 5 years.

I also support Councilmember Mark Kersey’s Rebuild San Diego measure, or Proposition H, on the June 7th ballot. It will provide approximately $4 billion over 25 years for roads and infrastructure repairs – without raising taxes.

These are important steps and I will pursue even more changes.

I support, for example, allocating additional resources for street repairs to increase the average “Overall Condition Index of City Streets” to ensure we reach and maintain positive ratings. Based on a 2011 street assessment report, 25 percent of City streets are in poor condition. Spending $1 on pavement preservation when a street is in fair condition eliminates spending $6 to $14 on rehabilitation or reconstruction of a street in poor condition, a City audit says.

We are going to be smart about repairs and maintenance in our neighborhoods and we are going to make it a priority.

The City also needs to do more to maintain our aging parks, water and sewer infrastructure and sidewalks.

If you haven’t, please see my plan to create a locally-controlled, drought-tolerant and affordable water supply.

To improve the City’s ability to execute projects, I support the Mayor’s initiative to repair the City’s repair program through enhanced financial monitoring to bring accountability to projects, financial reforms to spend tax dollars quicker and more efficiently, and technology efforts to bring the City’s capital improvement program into the 21st Century.

In addition to making the City’s repair program more efficient, the City must better implement a “one dig strategy” to improve coordination between projects. Without proper coordination, a recently paved road may be dug up to fix an aging water main, resulting in a second street repair and additional disruptions and costs in our neighborhoods.

Rebuilding our neighborhoods will be a major priority for me as your councilmember.

Ray Ellis’ Education Plan: I have spent 20 years volunteering with several non-profits to help children and their families lead better lives. Although the City Council does not directly oversee public schools in San Diego,providing a quality education for our children is an important public goal that requires the support of everyone in the community, not just parents, teachers and school administrators.

I am concerned about our schools and committed to improving education, and there are changes I can and will make on City Council.

As a member of the City Council, I will do everything I can to advocate for our children’s future, including enhancing the collaboration between non-profits and businesses to improve education.

Here are 7 recommendations I will advocate for if elected:

  • Make college prep courses available to all students who want to attend a local college or university: The scientific research and technology sectors are booming in San Diego — especially in District 1 — and these businesses and nonprofits typically need workers who have a bachelor degree or higher. If we want our children to have promising futures in San Diego, we must do everything we can to prepare them for our local labor market. San Diego Unified has already aligned its graduation requirements with UC and CSU admission requirements, but we can do more as a community to link our students to the curriculum and learning experiences they need to thrive at the next level. We can do this by leveraging the talent we have in our own backyard.
  • Limit the terms of school board members: So they focus on increasing student performance, not on building professional political careers. The current system makes it easy for incumbents to become too comfortable and focus on their interests instead of on what’s best for students. As we review our City Charter, which sets forth the format and structure of school board elections, we should evaluate a new system for school board elections that provides the right incentives to those leading our public schools.
  • Provide all students equal access to learning resources: including computers, science equipment and libraries. The La Jolla-Riford Branch Library has a fantastic model for us to follow. Its Life Science Collaboratory provides residents of all ages the opportunity to learn and experiment in a real biology lab. Our city libraries are key to filling opportunity gaps among the diverse population of San Diego school children. By properly managing the city budget, we can build on Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s success expanding library hours and programs. We also should expand public-private partnerships to bring more coding courses, science equipment and computers to classrooms and after-school programs across the city.
  • Work with local nonprofits to bring back music and arts programs in every school: Financial mismanagement at the state level has led to severe underfunding in local schools, leading districts to cut programs and activities that are deemed nonessential. In addition to providing for a robust STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, we need to include other enriching subjects. Many local nonprofits are already working to fill this void, but it will take sustained leadership to extend music and arts offerings to every school.
  • Ensure security in and around our schools so students can focus on learning rather than on avoiding drug dealers, gang members and bullies: Students can only thrive when their schools are safe and free from the negative influences of the outside world. We want our children to be focused on learning and not outside pressures.
  • Increase collaboration between school districts and the City on shared spaces: We have a tremendous need throughout the City to increase park space and athletic areas. While cooperation is occurring, there is room for improvement.  Imagine UC 2020, for example, presents and excellent opportunity for San Diego Unified School District and the City to work together in south University City to improve Standley Park and adjacent schools. Working with our neighborhood schools, parents, community planning groups and other community stakeholders, I want to develop a process to identify similar opportunities, prioritize potential projects and implement changes that benefit neighborhoods, schools, children, parents, teachers and coaches.
  • Walkable and Bikeable Communities: There are many benefits to making our communities safer for bikers and walkers, not the least of which is making it easy for our children to walk or ride their bikes to schools. This requires an updated approach to traffic circulation in our communities as well as increasing public safety during peak periods. Getting to and from school and after-school programs should be as safe as possible for children and parents. Success on this front would also have a positive impact on school attendance and help students lead healthy and active lives.

Water: I’m running for City Council to create a sustainable water supply, fix San Diego’s deteriorating roads and infrastructure, improve neighborhood services, and create good-paying jobs.

Our regional water supply reliability is an ongoing problem and I am proposing we meet this issue head-on. As a volunteer board chair of a local environmental non-profit I have been actively involved in this issue, focusing on ways to improve water sustainability.

I have helped educate water users about opportunities to conserve water and save money, and I will continue to do so on the City Council. Education is critical but it is only part of the solution.

We need to pursue innovative solutions to increase water supply, enhance the water quality at our beaches and bays, and repair our aging water infrastructure.

My recommendations include promoting, incentivizing and expediting the following:

Conservation & Efficiency

  • Installation of smart meters on commercial and residential properties so customers can see usage in real-time and detect leaks early.
  • End wasteful practice of potable water being used to irrigate ornamental landscaping and medians.
  • Use of technology, such as Aquarius Spectrum meters, that identifies vulnerabilities within the City’s vast water systems, which allows for prioritization of repairs and correction of issues before emergencies occur.
  • Incorporate sustainable green building practices that save water, energy and reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs).
  • Evaluate use of rate structures that incentivize conservation while providing stable revenue streams during extended periods of drought.
  • Collaboration and partnership with other public agencies, the private sector and NGOs to achieve ratepayer savings and efficiencies.
  • Drip irrigation versus spray and flood systems.
  • Rain collection and wastewater recycling/closed-loop systems for non-potable reuse (used for irrigation, toilets, laundry and cooling towers) as is planned for a handful of communities, including Casablanca in Rancho Penasquitos.

Clean, Safe and Reliable Water Supply

  • Investment in our aging infrastructure to prevent sewer spills, reduce loss of water and maximize tax dollars with innovative solutions such as CuraPipe, and ensure reliable and safe delivery of our water supply.
  • Investment in locally-controlled, drought-proof supplies that reduce our dependence on expensive imported water, and green infrastructure, which provides multiple benefits and long-term taxpayer savings.
  • Build a diversified water supply portfolio, including potable reuse, onsite recycling and reclaimed water (purple pipe) where appropriate, as well as determine the costs and benefits of desalinization.
  • Manage water, including stormwater and wastewater, with the understanding that it is a precious, valuable resource.

San Diegans have demonstrated we can conserve, and we should keep up that water ethic. But with our growing population, we must use technology, including homegrown innovations, to produce a locally-controlled, drought-proof, sustainable water supply and reduce our reliance on expensive, imported water.

One Paseo Project: I have consistently stood with and advocated for our community on the One Paseo Project dating back to 2012.   I continue to be impressed by our community’s involvement in One Paseo, something we’ve seen since the beginning.

Working together we have made significant progress toward a more suitable outcome for our community. As a member of the Del Mar Mesa Community Planning Board, we expressed our strong concerns as far back as 2014. In January 2015, I wrote op/ed in the Union-Tribune outlining a more balanced approach, and the compromise reached looks very similar to the modifications I proposed. Please see the letter several of our neighbors in Carmel Valley wrote in support of my position and leadership role in protecting our community.

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board voted 5-5 on a motion made on the revised One Paseo Project at its January 13, 2016 meeting.  Therefore the motion did not pass.  While the terms of the settlement agreement have been met, community concerns remain.  Many of these concerns are outlined in a January 16, 2016 letter from the Planning Board to the City of San Diego.

One of the concerns I hear consistently from neighbors has to do with emergency response times west of the Interstate-5.  This issue has been a concern since the very beginning of the process.  Consequently, I have been working with community leaders and the City to address this important issue.  A Fast Response Squad (FRS) could be part of the solution.  This strategy is working well in other parts of the City.  I will continue to work with the community and city leaders to make sure this and other issues are addressed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *