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Campaign notebook: Movement to the Middle, but not Schenk, endorses DeMaio

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In a tandem of business-related announcements, the DeMaio campaign this week announced it had secured the endorsement of the nascent, nonpartisan political group, Movement to the Middle.

In the process, Councilman Carl DeMaio’s campaign suggested he had received an endorsement from Democratic former Rep. Lynn Schenk, now with Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE). Schenk clarified Friday that she had merely agreed to serve on a job creation coalition if DeMaio was elected, but hadn’t offered to support his candidacy.

The group of successful business leaders in the city emerged in the spring when it announced, on the same day it was formed, that its members would follow Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher’s lead and drop their party affiliation. The group then endorsed Fletcher’s candidacy, saying his way of disagreeing with opponents without being disagreeable had inspired their support.

When the same group of business leaders announced its support of Fletcher, DeMaio dismissed it as a publicity stunt that demonstrated Fletcher’s candidacy was driven by entrenched downtown insiders who were opposed to his outsider approach.

After months of anonymity, most of the members have now endorsed DeMaio. Members of the group include Scott Dickey of Competitor Group, Keith Jones of ACE Parking, Camille Sobrian Saltman of Connect, and frontman of the new Padres ownership group, Ron Fowler of Liquid Investments.

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Competing plans

Another week, another set of policy plans from the city’s mayoral candidates.

Republican Councilman Carl DeMaio released Monday, in advance of a related debate Wednesday night, his plan to increase biking and walking in the city. The quality-of-life plan is the latest in DeMaio’s series of movements away from a strict “pensions and potholes” message he promoted leading up to the June primary.

While the fiscal hawk DeMaio was shifting his focus to quality-of-life issues, Democrat Rep. Bob Filner released a small-business development plan that, among other things, hopes to cut regulatory hurdles facing the business community.

Together, the two releases highlighted what’s become the story of the election: Two candidates seen as representing the poles of the ideological spectrum are making their case for the city’s moderate voters. (Filner, more in keeping with his political identity, also released an arts and culture plan this week.)

DeMaio sold his plan, “A Walkable, Bikable Future,” as an extension of his commitment to repair the city’s below-grade infrastructure — a plan he says relies on the savings associated with his fiscal reforms, especially the voter-approved pension reform Proposition B.

He says he’ll make San Diego the world’s most bike-friendly city, primarily through land-use decisions and his commitment to update the city’s approximately 40 different community plans, many of which are years out of date. He’ll also make biking safer by investing in bike-friendly infrastructure and encourage bike-sharing programs, with a short-term goal of getting the city listed as one of the country’s 50 most bike-friendly cities.

In his small-business plan, Filner pledged the creation of a “culture of yes” at City Hall that looks to make the lives of small-business owners easier by approving permit requests and other related regulatory hurdles in a timely manner. He also called for the creation of a Neighborhood Investment Council to drive local investment by tapping into microbusiness loan programs and venture financing. It would also focus on driving reinvestment in neighborhoods and for affordable housing.

It also provided specifics on his idea of a Neighborhood Investment Corporation, the replacement to downtown-focused redevelopment that Filner has discussed at length in debates. It would search for neighborhood-oriented financing by pushing for new market tax credits, creating infrastructure finance districts, Mello-Roos community facilities and maintenance assessment districts.

He’d also require that 15 percent of all city contracts are awarded to local businesses.

DeMaio’s plans for small business and general economic development have long been described in his “Pathway to Prosperity.”

Filner’s arts and culture plan pledges his commitment to the “penny for the arts” spending program. He commits to spending on arts programs 1 cent out of every 10.5 cents raised through the city’s transient occupancy tax, or roughly double the current arts-related expenditure.

He’ll also use his position to ensure funding for the Arts and Culture Commission, host a roundtable between the arts and business communities to foster synergies between them, promote youth-related arts events and to develop with the Port of San Diego an arts-focused walking tour along the downtown bayfront.

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Candidates debate non-automobile infrastructure

DeMaio and Filner took the stage Wednesday night at the University of San Diego to discuss their plans for increasing the city’s bicyclist and pedestrian friendliness, its use of public transportation and parking, and commitment to encouraging dense neighborhoods.

It also featured Filner’s challenge to DeMaio that the two of them should have a bike race of to-be-determined distance, the winner of which would become the next mayor. DeMaio said he’d accept the challenge if Filner released his tax returns.

DeMaio’s remarks on the issue tended to point back to his campaign pledge to restore the city’s fiscal health and use the saved funds to repair its infrastructure deficit. You can’t build bike-friendly infrastructure without money, he said.

"I'm happy to take the ridicule that the congressman constantly brings up, that says 'He just wants to talk potholes!'" DeMaio said. "You bet! Because that will be the strategy by which we are able to have complete streets, bike plans and all the other amenities."

DeMaio also said he approached the BikeSD coalition asking for a map of routes it wants prioritized to be made bikable, and pledged to complete that project in the first 12 months of his term.

Filner, between pledges to undo SANDAG’s 30-year plan — which doesn’t begin spending on public transportation for another 20 years — said the city’s commitment to quality-of-life issues needs to begin with the mayor’s enthusiasm for and commitment to them, installing a culture of innovation at City Hall.

Filner promised the creation of a new agency — APLUS, the agency for prosperity, livability and urban sustainability — that would house community planning and implementation, economic development, land use, transportation, housing, the Capital Improvement Program and mobility.

“What I’m going to do is get people excited about a city of villages, excited about complete streets, excited about biking,” he said.

DeMaio said he’d cut regulations in a way that’s consistent with the community plan in order to make sure the city had the infrastructure it needs to foster dense urban development and walkable lifestyles.

Filner was relentlessly on the attack throughout the debate, criticizing DeMaio for voting against each piece of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ proposed budgets, which Filner reads as a vote against the funding for each of those departments but DeMaio says were ideological votes against imbalanced budgets, and for his harsh rhetoric against public unions. DeMaio never returned the favor, except to point out that Filner’s line of attack showed a temperament ill-suited to running a city.

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