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Mayoral candidates mixed in responses to Sanders' speech

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San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders opened his final "State of the City" speech Wednesday with unusual flourish, showing a video of two children running through the city's streets to the sounds of Eminem's rap song, "Lose Yourself."

The crowd assembled at Balboa Theatre whooped, cheered and applauded loudly during the video, but at least one audience member was not as impressed.

(Watch the speech.)

"I kind of joked that 14 children were injured in the making of this video because they all fell in the potholes as they were running," said City Councilman Carl DeMaio, also a mayoral candidate. "I'm half joking of course, because I think that we need to balance investments and economic infrastructure with a return to core infrastructure like street repairs and sidewalk repairs, and that's what we're missing."

DeMaio also criticized some of the actual words of Sanders' speech.

During his speech, the mayor promoted his work on pension reform and the structural deficit.

"By the time I leave office, we'll have put our pension problem to bed once and for all," Sanders declared.

"The plan I propose in April will clear the path for a five-year forecast that shows balanced budgets for the foreseeable future, and, with the City Council's support, our structural deficit will finally be solved," he said later.

But DeMaio was less convinced.

"I think on the financial reforms, declaring victory and then saying we're done, that's certainly not where we are," he said. "There's a lot more that city leaders have to do to fix the city's wasteful spending and fix our financial problems."

Two of the other mayoral candidates at the speech, state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, were more positive.

Neither would name anything specifically they did not like, and instead touted the progress Sanders has made.

"(The speech) showed all the accomplishments Mayor Sanders has been able to do to get our fiscal health in order, to have vision and move our city forward," said Dumanis, whose mayoral candidacy was endorsed by Sanders. "I look forward to having the opportunity to take it to the next level."

Dumanis cited multiple things about the mayor's speech she liked.

"I think he mentioned several projects that have been accomplished, that are under way, and holding the line on taxes, as well as making sure these capital expenditures are not at taxpayer expense," she said.

But when asked if there was anything she did not like, she deflected the question.

"I think there's more work to be done, but I think he's going to give it his all to the very end," she said.

Fletcher also approved of the speech, repeating "I thought it was good" three times.

"I think the mayor laid out a plan to once and for all solve the structural budget deficit, to deal with the unresolved pension issue, which means the next mayor has the opportunity to turn the page on the problems of the past and really talk about the San Diego that we want looking forward," he said. "I think this mayor has been forced to deal with the problems of the past, and I think he deserves credit for having made progress with those."

Fletcher said he liked Sanders' highlights of the progress he has made, but also took the opportunity to point to his candidacy for mayor.

"When he came in and took office, we had so many inherent problems, the city was potentially on the verge of bankruptcy," Fletcher said. "To see six years of steady progress to have run through the managed competition process, put in place the budget reforms and dealt with the pension issue, I think he sets the stage for the next mayor to come in and really start talking about where do we want to go in the future. Not a return to the problems of the past, but where do we want to go."

When asked, Fletcher also would not cite anything in the speech he did not like.

"I thought it was good, I thought it was good," he said. "I really hope he makes progress on all the civic projects. As a San Diegan who lives here first, I want to see our city be successful and thrive."

Congressman Bob Filner, the only Democratic candidate for mayor, was not at the speech. Media outlets reported he was in Vietnam to support victims of Agent Orange, but his congressional staff would not confirm that information.

All four major mayoral candidates will participate in a debate hosted by The Lincoln Club at 5 p.m. on Friday in the U.S. Grant Hotel. It will be the first debate attended by all four candidates.

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