San Diego mayoral candidates Councilman Carl DeMaio and Rep. Bob Filner met Wednesday for a debate focused on public safety, an issue that hasn’t been a main talking point for either candidate’s campaign.
The debate, co-sponsored by the San Diego Police Officers Association and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, came just one day after the union representing San Diego firefighters endorsed Filner. Both candidates stressed their support of the San Diego Police Department’s Five-Year Plan, which calls for $11.6 million in funding annually through 2018 to increase the number of sworn and civilian officers, and an additional $8 million in 2017 for a new CAD automatic call system.
DeMaio said his is the only platform with a budget able to sustain this commitment, and that Filner’s support of the plan is unfounded without room in the budget to make it a reality.
“As we save money through pension reform and other efficiencies in my 250-page Roadmap to Recovery, we’re going to put money back into core services like police and fire,” DeMaio said. “I’m the only one running on a plan that actually delivers the dollars necessary to make these investments.”
Filner also stressed his support of the plan, though he said the five-year timeline wasn’t fast enough to create the change needed. He proposed allocating half of the money from the recently extended Tourism Marketing District tax, which raises $30 million each year, toward the Five-Year Plan and public safety in general. Those funds are currently marked for the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s marketing purposes.
Proposition Z also sparked heated comments from both candidates when Filner, a supporter of the plan to spend $2.8 billion improving San Diego’s aging school facilities, asked DeMaio his stance on the issue and did not receive a clear answer. A second question on the councilman’s views from a member of the media panel was left unanswered as well.
While DeMaio would not discuss his stance on Proposition Z, he did express support for San Diego schools, and announced his Clean and Safe School Program, an initiative he and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis teamed up on to reinstate after school-programs, among other things.
“We’re going to restore city of San Diego programs such as arts and culture where the school district has cut theirs,” DeMaio said. “Where the school district has cut important programs at each school, we will be there to fill the gap. And finally, as the school district has cut back on public safety officers, we will expand our police presence to ensure clean and safe environments for all San Diego children.”
Filner touted his years teaching history at San Diego State and his time as president of the school board, as well as his experience putting children and now grandchildren through San Diego public schools as evidence of his support and understanding of San Diego’s educational needs.
“The single most important thing on the ballot in [November], besides of course our race, and certainly for increasing the quality of education in our community, is Prop. Z,” Filner said. “It’s the only way to increase the quality, to get adequate funding. I’m for Prop. Z. I assume you’re against it because you’re not for it.”
Filner also challenged DeMaio’s support of the Convention Center funding plan approved this week, which uses a tourist tax expected to raise $1 billion over 30 years to finance the endeavor. Filner alleged that the money would be going to benefit private hotel owners, and that citizens have no say in the matter.
“The public was denied a vote on how to spend the tax increase, and none of the billion dollars will be used for improving city services such as public safety,” Filner said. “In fact, the way this is currently structured, it is illegal for there to be any public benefit. No money for city services, no money for public safety despite the fact that our public safety services are dangerously underfunded and understaffed. The entire billion dollars will be used to benefit private hotel owners.”
DeMaio responded that the Convention Center project is vital for job creation, and will benefit the economy in the long run.
“This is such an important project because we have to create jobs in San Diego, and our tourist economy requires that we stay in the Convention Center or else we’ll lose important trade shows and conventions and the millions of dollars that those trade shows and conventions bring into our municipal budget,” DeMaio said.
The entirety of the debate will be aired on Oct. 11 at 9 p.m. on 10News.