During the 2008 San Diego City Council campaign, CityBeat invited all the candidates, in four council races, to chat with us over an adult beverage. Only three of the 10 or so hopefuls dared to imbibe alcohol in our presence, and one of them was Todd Gloria, who chose Bourbon Street bar in University Heights for our interview location and had a beer while we talked. Before that meeting, we'd been leaning toward endorsing his opponent, Stephen Whitburn, who was considered to be the more populist candidate, and who also, we should add, enjoyed a beer when we talked with him. Many progressives feared that Gloria would be in the pocket of developers if elected.
But Gloria wowed us. It wasn't just his humor, charm and charisma that seduced us, although that part of his game was undeniably impressive; it was more his brains and the ease with which he could take any topic we threw at him and effortlessly dissect it. It was clear that Gloria was genuinely engaged with the issues facing the city and prepared for public office. Though we liked Whitburn, Gloria was an easy choice.
The recession made sure that we wouldn't really find out whether or not Gloria was in the developers' pockets, but he's certainly shown that he's no radical rabblerouser. His vote to give hoteliers control of the San Diego Convention Center was an example of his willingness to play ball with the power-suit set. Still, all in all, we'll take what Gloria's offered. He showed us a lot when he campaigned against Prop. B this past fall. We were there in Hillcrest one evening when Gloria debated Lani Lutar, president and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, over Prop. B and, in our view, won going away.
Gloria on Monday was voted in as the City Council's fourth president, meaning that he'll wield much power when it comes to what issues get their day in the sun, and he'll set the tone and articulate the agenda for the legislative branch of city government. For us, he was best equipped for the job, considering both substance and style. He lunged out of the gate strong, backing a bond measure that would raise money to fix the city's long-neglected infrastructure; we won't know if we'll support it until we see the details—maybe it'll include money for a football stadium, which is a deal-breaker for us—but we like the boldness.
But now it gets tricky. First of all, will Gloria be on the council for only two more years, rather than the final four of his allowable time? He'll likely run for mentor Susan Davis' seat in Congress when she decides to step down. That could be as soon as 2014. If so, can he lead the council and run for Congress at the same time?
There was a lot of talk of bipartisanship on Monday. We'd like Gloria to go full-on liberal with every policy vote and agenda item, but we understand that most San Diegans are closer to the center politically. Still, as they say, elections have consequences. While we can't let perfect be the enemy of the good, Gloria has to lean left and put colleagues David Alvarez, Marti Emerald and Sherri Lightner in charge of key committees.
How will Gloria work with Mayor Bob Filner? Filner's framing his approach as putting neighborhoods ahead of Downtown. Gloria represents Downtown. We're backing Filner's neighborhood focus, and as long as Gloria views Downtown as a neighborhood where people live, rather than the place where the power suits do their business, everything should be fine.
We were thrilled when, in his inauguration speech, Gloria made combating homelessness his first priority after the infrastructure bond measure. Now he has to follow up by insisting that funding be found for next winter's emergency homeless shelter. It's not ideal accommodations for human beings, not by a long shot, but it fills up every year, and that means it's better than the cold streets at night. Even after the vaunted Connections Housing homeless-services center opens, there will still be a need. We trust that Gloria understands that.
We're prepared for Gloria to disappoint us occasionally, when the political math points him in unfortunate directions, but when we step back and see that we have Filner and Gloria leading the way, considering that it could have been Republicans Carl DeMaio and Kevin Faulconer? Are you kidding? We'll drink to that.
What do you think? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.