Ask the Mayoral Candidates

by Carolyn Chase


Clean Water? Beach Closures? "Smart Growth"?

San Diego faces a multitude of issues critical to everyone's quality of life: perpetual population growth, beach and bay closures, commercialization of parks, roads in canyons, sewage leaks and spills, multi-billion dollar infrastructure deficits, tax increases for more traffic congestion - to name a few. Though seldom accounted for, our economy is dependent on a clean environment. Our sanity is dependent on better ways to deal with growth and traffic in the region.

The Mayor of San Diego is arguably the single most important elected official in dealing (or not dealing) with identifying and proposing solutions, and funding (or not-funding) for these critical issues that impact every San Diegan.

What role will growth, environmental, conservation and quality-of-life issues play in either a Murphy or a Roberts administration?

Since environmental issues really weren't debated in the primary, inquiring minds want to know: who will be the best candidate to look out for and make progress on the seemingly intractable environmental and growth challenges facing the city?

On July 11, at the UCSD Faculty Club, City of San Diego Mayoral Candidates Judge Dick Murphy and Supervisor Ron Roberts will answer questions about their approaches to growth, conservation and quality-of-life issues. The questions will be asked by local environmentalists, scientists and community-volunteers. With a pre-event reception at 6:15pm, the program will run from 7-9 pm.

Each candidate will make an opening statement. Questions will then be asked in pre-selected categories, followed by as many questions from the audience as time will allow. Each candidate will make a closing pitch as to why they are the best choice for conservation-minded San Diegans.

The pre-selected categories are: Growth/smart growth/slow growth?, housing, transportation/traffic, transportation/land use, open space/habitat/endangered species, wetlands, coastal issues, water pollution, toxics, environmental justice, cleaner energy/energy efficiency, infrastructure deficits, undergrounding of powerlines, and sustainability.

This event is co-sponsored by: the San Diego Coalition for Transportation Choices (, San Diego Sierra Club Political Committee, League of Conservation Voters of San Diego County, the San Diego Earth Times ( and the UCSD Faculty Club.

Our promise to you about this Mayoral Forum - every question at this event will relate to something that the Mayor can actually have an impact on.

I will be moderating this event. Introductions will be by Dr. Mark Thiemens, Dean, Division of Natural Sciences; Professor of Chemistry; Chancellors Associates Chair, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, who will also pose a question to the candidates on the topic of sustainability.

Admission to this event is free to the public. Please RSVP to: 858/272-0347 or via email to: Parking on campus costs $3/vehicle or $2/two-hour meters. UCSD is served at times compatible with this event by bus routes 41(South County) and 301 (North County). For transit route information, call: 1-800-COMMUTE (266-6883) or visit

Environmentalists pretty much "sat out" the primary. With limited resources, the volunteer groups in my network decided to focus on the council races and leave the Mayor's race to another day. That day has now come, and I find myself chairing the Sierra Club Political Committee meetings deciding on an Mayoral endorsement, as well as networking with dozens of other groups to identify key issues.

In talking and emailing with several hundred folks, I've found pretty much the same break amongst my network of voters as within the primary vote in the City-at-large. I even ran across one Community Planning group member who voted for Loch David Crane, in addition to the handful of folks who voted for Jim Bell. Those folks, who I call the "idealistic greens," are the most conflicted in their choice between Murphy and Roberts.

To many idealistic greens and Democrats, the choice is considered comparable to choosing say, between Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. This gets really amusing to some when you notice that the candidates are also: Dick vs. Ron. The only problem is, which one is Nixon and which one is Reagan? Does either one really care about the environment enough to commit to both the regulations changes and the finances required to make it work? Is there a clear environmental choice in this race?

In my sample, the ones who voted for the Judge in the primary are pretty intent that they will stick with the Judge. There were about the same number who were also intent on sticking with Roberts. But the support amongst the larger numbers of the "less intent" who voted for Roberts was very soft. A lot of the folks who voted for Roberts in the primary are evidently open to Judge Murphy if it concerns additional information about the environment and how he might better deal with growth. Everyone else is pretty much up for grabs. To add your vote to the fray, participate in the San Diego Earth Times online San Diego Mayoral Poll, by visiting,

The November election is not exactly on most peoples' minds at this point. But 90% of my network actually did remember who they voted for. Many, of course, just want me - or other activists - to figure it out for them. Others are doing their own research. The search for understanding where these candidates are coming from and whether or not either one merits an environmental endorsement is the main impetus for this Mayoral Forum.

Earlier this year, the Census Bureau released updated population estimates for all 3,141 counties in the United States. Five out of the top ten counties by gross population increase were in Southern California: Los Angeles County topped the list. San Diego County came in fourth, closely followed by Riverside County in fifth place. Orange County was seventh, followed by San Bernardino County.

There are more people arriving in Southern California than anywhere else in the country. People are stuck in traffic with no relief in sight. We want a Mayor they can trust to ask and answer the hard questions.

One such question was put to me recently: how can we even begin to believe that we can fit in another million people and their cars and think that our quality of life, traffic, and water pollution is really going to be dealt with? I told him to bring that question to the Mayoral Forum.