By William E. Kelly
The four candidates running for the District 3 City Council seat being vacated by Chris Ward in 2020 are Toni Duran, Adrian Kwiatkowski, Chris Olsen and Stephen Whitburn. Each was asked to state the experiences that prepared them to serve District 3, two or three priority issues and how they would address them. In closing, they were asked if an aging population and climate change were threats to San Diego and if so, what steps they recommend to reduce those threats. What follows are the summaries and quotes of their answers by topic in alphabetical order by candidate last name.
Toni Duran: “I have served the communities of District 3 as a representative for Toni Atkins in her Assembly and Senate offices for nearly six years and know the communities, organizations and issues. By working on housing, veterans’, women’s, human trafficking, LGBTQ and arts and culture issues, I’ve dealt one-on-one with ordinary people in crisis and built solid relationships. Having personally struggled with housing insecurity, I have had to move nine times in San Diego in order to find affordable housing. I have experienced many of the problems our community members face and [am] committed to solving them.”
Adrian Kwiatkowski: “I’m a homegrown San Diegan with a track record of results and a history of experience spanning over 25 years as a city volunteer and professional. I have served as a town council president, on a planning board, on a park and recreations council and on a maintenance assessment district. I helped establish a clean needle exchange program, I was one of the authors of San Diego’s Strong Mayor-Council government, helped establish the smoke-free beaches and parks ordinance and worked with the VA San Diego Healthcare System to open the VA Aspire Center in Old Town, a facility for military veterans with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury and most recently helped to continue the protections for the La Jolla harbor seals.”
Chris Olsen: “My experience in public service and the city’s Office of the Independent Budget Analyst has made me ready to lead on the City Council beginning on day one. I know the details of the city budget, city operations, and how to make the city work smarter for all of us. I’ve worked in local government for 15 years including over five years in San Diego. I also teach budget and fiscal policy to students at the San Diego State University School of Public Affairs. I am the candidate who can deliver results.” Olsen said, “San Diego needs to be a leader on addressing climate change, housing, and most importantly, homelessness.” He stressed, “I will always take a balanced approach to tackling San Diego’s most pressing issues.”
Stephen Whitburn: “I have lived in District 3 for nearly 20 years; involved in the vibrant neighborhoods of the district, bustling Downtown, and iconic Balboa Park; engaged with the community professionally as director of the American Cancer Society in Southern California; [and have been] a volunteer, vice-chair of the North Park Planning Committee, vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego, and president of the San Diego Democratic Club. I have also participated in many community group activities and recognize each neighborhood features unique qualities and challenges.”
Duran stressed, “The crushing weight particularly on the working class and the elderly of a lacking supply of affordable housing. It is time to take a comprehensive look at city zoning and land-use regulations slowing the building of new affordable housing and it needs to be a very public discussion between San Diegans and the politicians they elect to make decisions that determines what our city will become over the next decade.”
Duran pointed out, “San Diego has one of the most aggressive climate action plans in the country, but is missing the milestones. We have to quickly get back on track a plan for doing so and the city’s move into Community Choice Aggregation is the right one.
Of homelessness, Duran said, “Homelessness is a critical challenge and the housing-first model (permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing) is the right approach. People can’t improve their lives or handle other needs when they have no roof over their heads.”
Kwiatkowski prioritized the homelessness crisis and the employee and organizational crisis at City Hall stating, “We have to develop real solutions to increase housing stock and availability. I will pursue a holistic approach that includes a little bit of love and a little bit of tough love to address the homeless crisis, I will pursue housing policies that speed up the approval and entitlement process and I support the $900 million housing bond on the November 2020 ballot. We also need to stabilize the city as an organization and manage the employee crisis and stop the brain drain through a combination of pension restoration and having the city re-enter the Social Security system.”
Olsen stated, “Addressing and adapting to climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. I will turn plans into action, working with city staff to develop funding mechanisms that can help achieve real progress on getting us to a sustainable future. Creating new housing opportunities at all income levels can welcome new neighbors while respecting the character of our neighborhoods. District 3 has some of the best neighborhoods in all of San Diego. We need to keep what is great and improve what is not.
Whitburn shared, “San Diego does not have a comprehensive plan to address homelessness. We need one. It’s the only way we’ll make permanent progress on this issue. I’ll make it a top priority for the city to adopt and implement a comprehensive, proactive plan that will efficiently and effectively marshal the city’s resources to end large-scale homelessness.
“Even people who have a home are struggling to make ends meet. We have to build more housing that is affordable to people with low and moderate incomes. There appears to be broad public support for a proposed bond measure to fund affordable housing, which is a good start.
“We also need to fix up our streets and especially our cracked sidewalks, which are dangerous particularly for our older residents who are more susceptible to falls. We can accelerate these repairs with additional revenue from the hotel surcharge paid by tourists, which is lower than that of comparable destination cities.”
Climate change and an aging population:
Duran: “I see climate change as a very real threat and one of my three priorities. With regards to our growing older population, it is expected to have approximately 1 million people aged 65 and older living in San Diego in the next decade – which is double that of today’s senior population. Having the city of San Diego sign on to be an age-friendly community is a positive step forward to ensure that we address the needs of our older community members. This means partnerships between government and local nonprofits will be making positive change around transportation, housing, outdoor spaces and buildings, community support and health services, respect and social inclusion, communication and information, and civic participation and employment.”
Olsen remarked, “I’m ready to turn plans into action to achieve our climate goals. As a city, San Diego also needs to be proactive in making sure our infrastructure and residents are prepared to adapt to shifts that will occur with an aging population. I think many of my campaign’s key issues, such as improving access to housing and transportation, definitely overlap with concerns about aging. We need to preserve and build neighborhoods that allow multiple generations of families to live near one another and move around easily with a variety of different mobility options. This has the dual benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and allowing family members to care for one another.”
Kwiatkowski: “Yes, climate change is real and population growth needs to be managed effectively. They are both threats and opportunities to, and for, San Diego. We are not prepared enough and our city can be a leader in our state, which is a leader in the country on climate change. The city needs to set an example by having a zero-carbon footprint as an organization before 2040. We need to manage population growth via smart density in the urban core near mass transit and walkable, bikeable, scooter-able housing and commercial density.”
Whitburn: “Demographic and climate changes pose unique challenges to San Diego for which the city is not yet prepared. The number of San Diegans aged 65 and older is expected to nearly double over the next decade. Many of these seniors will be retired and have fixed incomes, and the need for affordable housing will be even greater than it is today. Many will become less mobile as they get older, and there will be an increased need for housing near shops and services, safe pedestrian walkways, accessible community spaces, and additional transit options. Furthermore, rather than allowing older residents to become isolated, we should create opportunities for seniors to use their valuable experience, knowledge, and time to improve San Diego through civic engagement. The city must also contribute to efforts to reduce climate change. The city should continue to implement its adopted climate action plan.”
–William (Bill) Kelly is a freelance community reporter who has lived in San Diego for 22 years. He can be reached by email at [email protected].
–Graphic by www.CanStockPhoto.com.