Oct. 23 2013 08:10 AM

District 8 City Council member is the genuine progressive populist the city needs

David Alvarez
Photo by David Rolland

The Nov. 19 election to replace former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner gives voters a classic choice: left, right and center—and a wild card. On the left is District 8 City Councilmember David Alvarez, on the right is District 2 City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer, in the center is former state Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher and the wild card is former City Attorney Mike Aguirre.

As we said not long ago in this space, Aguirre is the kind of loose cannon San Diego voters need to steer clear of, particularly at this time. Faulconer is a paint-by-numbers Republican who represents the city's most powerful interests and will be an advocate for a well-heeled minority of San Diegans. He, too, is the wrong choice.

Nathan Fletcher, on the other hand, is an intriguing candidate. We gave him a long look last year before settling on Filner as our pick. When he left the Republican Party in the spring of 2012, it made sense strategically: Conservatives had Carl DeMaio, who'd won the party's endorsement, and Fletcher, trailing in the polls, needed to draw attention. But it also made sense ideologically: In certain policy areas, Fletcher and the party had diverged. We liked Fletcher as an independent; it suited him.

But now he's a Democrat, and these days we're not so sure who he really is. At times, his more progressive policy preferences feel forced. At other times, he either hesitates to give a clear policy position or declines to give one at all, as happened recently amid the controversial update of the Barrio Logan Community Plan—his campaign simply refused to answer our question.

Fletcher is a smart man, and his rhetoric can be inspiring. As mayor, we think he'd make a lot of folks feel good about the city's direction. He seems confident and would likely be a strong leader. But in what direction would he lead us? We're just not sure; his place on the ideological spectrum is too vague and murky at this stage.

Unlike with Fletcher, Alvarez's back-story aligns perfectly with his politics. He grew up in one of San Diego's poorest neighborhoods—Barrio Logan— and his highest priority is reinvesting in neglected communities. His advocacy for the little guy in the beleaguered neighborhood was typified by his support for the Property Value Protection Ordinance, which seeks to hold banks responsible for the condition of the foreclosed properties they control.

Alvarez is committed to doing whatever he can to crack down on slumlords, improve public-safety response times, retain cops and increase their numbers, bolster the city's stock of affordable housing, boost the acreage of neighborhood parks (partially through joint-use agreements with schools), attack the root causes of homelessness (poverty and mental illness), focus economic development on sectors that pay livable wages, forge a path to environmental sustainability and give citizens easier access to public information.

If you look at Alvarez's "Blueprint for San Diego's Future," you'll see that it's clearly focused on creating the ideal climate and community infra structure necessary to give children and struggling families a decent chance to succeed. He voiced his commitment to progressive populism in a recent straightforward comment to U-T San Diego: "My role as a leader is to make decisions based on the best interest of the majority."

The concern we hear most about Alvarez is that, at 33 years old, he's too young and inexperienced to lead a huge bureaucracy like the city of San Diego. First, neither Fletcher (also young at 36) nor Faulconer (46) has executive experience. And, second, we believe Alvarez is smart enough to understand that he would need to stock key high-level positions in his administration with people who know intimately how the sprawling, complex municipal government works. He'll need strong, experienced people in the roles of chief operating officer, chief financial officer and chief of staff.

San Diegans elected Filner, a progressive populist who prioritized neighborhoods above all else. It's no surprise that all the candidates are parroting that line in this campaign. But Alvarez is the only candidate (besides Aguirre) whose record backs it up. He's got Filner's ideology, but without Filner's arrogance, personality disorders and delusional view of the world around him.

We endorse David Alvarez for mayor.

What do you think? Write to editor@sdcitybeat.com.


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