Mayor Todd Gloria pledges to overcome city’s ‘fragile’ state

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SAN DIEGO – Facing an ongoing pandemic and a hefty budget deficit, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said Wednesday that the state of the city is “fragile” while laying out a vision for addressing COVID-19, homelessness and longstanding racial inequities.

Speaking from the San Ysidro Branch Library, Gloria said that prejudice and systemic racism have held back the promise of America. He condemned last week’s violent insurrection by a group of pro-Trump rioters at the U.S. Capitol and urged the country to unite as COVID-19 continues to ravage communities, including San Diego County.

“No one can escape its impact,” Gloria said. “This past year, my partner and my father lost their jobs. My nieces and nephew have been struggling to keep focused on education. I haven’t hugged my mother in months.

“It is not lost upon me that compared to so many of other San Diegans, I’m one of the lucky ones.”

The mayor said the pandemic has exacerbated city budget problems that the last administration under Mayor Kevin Faulconer “did too little to address.” He noted that difficult decisions lay ahead in inheriting a budget deficit in excess of $150 million — and with infrastructure needs in the coming years expected to cost some $6 billion, he said.

“That hole in our budget is greater than what it takes to run our Parks and Recreation Department for a year,” Gloria said. “It means we’re left with fewer resources to fix our crumbling streets, city facilities and stormwater systems.”

Gloria said city officials are working with their counterparts from the county government to open vaccination centers such as the “Vaccination Super Station” opened near Petco Park this week.

Though he cautioned the arrival of vaccines did not mean residents should let their guards down, he said the vaccination centers will “provide easy access for all when the vaccine becomes more widely available.”

Plans for bouncing back from the pandemic’s economic ramifications include a proposal to extend the eviction moratorium and expand similar protections to small businesses, which he said will be brought before the city council next month.

A “Buy Local Online Portal” is also being created to encourage residents to purchase from local businesses in an effort to boost reinvestment in San Diego’s economy.

Regarding law enforcement practices, Gloria said he and San Diego Police Department Chief David Nisleit were in agreement on accountability in policing, and said he would work with the city council to create an independent police review commission to address police misconduct allegations.

Gloria said the department would also work to hire officers “who reflect the diversity of our city.”

“We must acknowledge that not all of our community members feel they are treated equal in their interactions with law enforcement,” Gloria said.

“George Floyd’s murder, and the continuing protests since his death, have made it very clear injustices must be addressed more aggressively.”

The city has also begun a national search for the first director of the newly established Office of Race and Equity, which seeks to mitigate systemic bias.

On the equity front, Gloria said a Climate Equity Fund would be established to pay for sustainability projects in historically underserved communities.

Among the announcements to come out of Wednesday’s address:

  • Gloria said Matthew Doherty, the former executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness in the Obama administration, will help the city launch new “housing-first” solutions intended to address chronic homelessness.
  • The city plans to close two streets to car traffic: Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter and Normal Street in Hillcrest in an effort to “encourage walkability and enhance the quality of life,” Gloria said.
  • This year, Gloria plans to develop a Climate Equity Fund to improve the environmental health of underserved communities. He also called on leaders to update the city’s Climate Action Plan.

The Gloria File

Gloria, 42, was sworn in as San Diego’s 37th mayor in December after defeating former City Councilwoman and fellow Democrat Barbara Bry in November’s election. Succeeding Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Gloria is the city’s first openly LGBTQ person and the first person of color to hold the office.

He’s previously held roles as assemblyman for the state’s 78th State Assembly District, city councilman and interim mayor in 2013.

Gloria delivered a State of the City speech in 2014 after embattled Mayor Bob Filner stepped down.

Thus far in his tenure, Gloria has signed an executive order calling for enforcement action on violators of state and local public health guidance, temporarily extended a franchise agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric after rejecting a long-term bid to provide gas and electric services, appointed the city’s first chief innovation officer and unveiled a portion of the new West Mission Bay Drive Bridge and a pedestrian plaza at Balboa Park.

He’s also been vocal about the pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that killed five people, including a San Diego woman.

The full State of the City address is posted below.

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