In September, San Diego City Councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio unveiled the street repair plan he would pursue if he elected. Thursday he announced plans to put that repair proposal before voters on the November ballot.
The plan — “Repave and Eliminate Potholes through Accountability for Infrastructure Repairs” (REPAIR) — would put any revenues above the fiscal 2013 budget for a five-year period into an account marked for road repairs. He says this could generate $480 million without raising taxes.
“This is the exact same approach I took to give San Diegans the opportunity to get pension reform done,” DeMaio said, referring to the Proposition B ballot measure seeking voter approval on June 5.
And if he advances to the general mayoral election and succeeds in putting REPAIR on the ballot, he’ll once again appear before voters alongside an initiative he championed.
The particulars of REPAIR were included in his previously released “Save Our Streets” plan, which is part of the campaign platform he’s taken to using as a prop during recent mayoral debates. He also Thursday released charter language for the ballot initiative.
DeMaio will introduce his initiative at a June 13 Rules Committee hearing of the City Council that will consider ballot measures for the November election. If the council doesn’t support his effort to put REPAIR on the ballot, he says he’ll launch a signature drive once in office.
If elected, DeMaio says he’ll release a revised mid-year budget during his first week in office that would close the $35 million infrastructure deficit projected by the city’s Independent Budget Analyst.
“This initiative will allow us to ramp up funding in the next five years to bring our roads into fair condition, and to maintain them thereafter,” he said.
He said if he’s elected and the City Council doesn’t support “an acceptable funding plan” he would launch a signature drive to put the plan on the ballot.
“I’m pretty confident that we’re going to get what we need through the normal legislative process,” he said.
The City Council in early April approved Mayor Jerry Sanders’ plan to borrow $80 million to fund $75 million for capital improvements, an improvement program that slows the rate of decline of the city’s infrastructure.
“Unfortunately, based on the current policies at City Hall, San Diego’s city leaders seem to be striving for first place in the competition for worst big city roads,” DeMaio said. “We would impose strict accountability on City Hall officials to finally make the proper funding of road repair and maintenance a priority each year in the budget.”
He later praised the mayor’s efforts to improve the state of the city during his term, and cited the council and mayor’s move in late March to streamline public works projects to use city funds more efficiently.
The initiative would continue to allow the city to pursue a bond program for infrastructure repairs, DeMaio said.
Along with what he calls the “road repair lock box,” his plan would also establish a citizens’ review committee to determine which city properties are underused, disposing of those that qualify to fund road repairs.
Selling properties in a down real estate market often means selling properties at a loss to taxpayers.
DeMaio acknowledged this, but said if the funds are used quickly the same economic conditions that created the low return would allow the city to take advantage of cheap construction costs and low interest rates, offsetting the incentive to hold onto properties until the market recovers.
The would-be ballot measure would also allow the mayor to outsource road repair services through fixed-price, performance-based contracts that would in some cases bypass the city’s managed competition program.
Though he released in September the Save Our Streets plan, DeMaio says he didn’t always envision it becoming the basis of a ballot initiative.
A spokesperson for Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, one of DeMaio’s opponents in the mayoral primary, released a statement calling DeMaio’s announcement needlessly divisive.
"While San Diego's crumbling infrastructure is a big problem, this is yet another example of Carl manufacturing a crisis and using press conferences and petitions to push a divisive agenda instead of working with his colleagues to solve the problem,” Amy Thoma said.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis also issued a statement.
"We all know San Diego's roads are a disaster area, and getting them back in shape will be a top priority of mine as mayor," the statement read. "I have concerns about ballot box budgeting because that tactic has had disastrous results at the state level."
Instead, she said she'd work with the City Council to prioritize repairs and increase efficiency.
DeMaio was joined at the press conference announcing his efforts by representatives of his supporters in the construction industry, including Brad Barnum with the Associated General Contractors and Debbie Day with the Engineering and General Contractors Association, along with Jon Cloud of J Cloud Inc. and Steve Coker of TC Construction.