The Aztec touches base with mayoral candidate Mike Aguirre

The Aztec touches base with mayoral candidate Mike Aguirre

by Luke Henning

The Aztec: What would you do to improve transparency in San Diego City Hall?

Mike Aguirre:I will implement a new level of transparency that covers all social media communications that are now used by elected officials to do the public’s business: messaging, personal emails, all the things that have been used to circumvent public disclosure.

And then No. 2, I will implement a legal opinion I wrote when I was city attorney, in which I anchored the right of the public-to-public meetings and public records based upon California’s direct democracy form of government, in which voters have the right to do recall referendum and initiative and by anchoring the right to information and open meetings on the direct democracy powers of the electorate. What that does is give a much firmer foundation to the right to know.

The right to know is guaranteed by both the city charter and the state constitution, so there is a constitutional right to participate in government and I will enforce that right by enforcing the legal opinion I wrote, which has to some degree been ignored since I left office. What that means is this: you have a right to all the same information that elected officials get, and the reason for that is so you can evaluate how your elected officials are doing based upon that information, and right now a lot of that information is covered up.

For example, last week I released research that shows that right now we are spending five times more on pensions per year than on roads. I’ve released information that shows that the annual pension contribution by the city, which is $275 million, exceeds the fire department budget by $40 million. A lot of that was hidden or obfuscated.

Much of what happens at city hall is not only designed to keep you from getting the documents or having open meetings, but it is actually designed to mislead. They hire public relations people who fill the city staff slots and what they do is convince the public that our problems are solved.

It’s not only that we have to increase transparency in city hall but we also have to stop disinformation in city hall.

TA: How would the city planning changes initiated by San Diego planning director Bill Fulton change with you as mayor?

MA: Well, I will strengthen the planning groups so that their right to organize in our neighborhoods would not come from the government, but come from them themselves.

The power of all government is based on the consent of the governed and I would work to get that into the city municipal code, city policy and eventually the city charter to encourage people to play a more active role.

As it relates to students, I want the students to form their own planning group for the city. If they want to, we can help them to redesign the area around the school to give it a more college town feel and have the students be directly involved as a SDSU planning group, just like those in Kensington or Rolando-Redwood. I would have you all involved in the process of deciding what would make it more college-like. What would make it more like a Boulder, Colorado or Ann Arbor, Michigan, because San Diego State is a first rate university and deserves to be organized in a way that would be more cohesive for its make up.

TA: If you were only able to make one specific change or complete one project as mayor, what would it be?

MA: It would be to give us a secure water supply. We are living under a thin water “Sword of Damocles,” which is hanging over our heads with the thin thread that connects us to the Colorado River basin. We have to import 90 percent of our water, so what I would like to do is rebuild our water sheds to improve the 10 percent of water we get here naturally.

I want to increase our water capture from the rain with the folks at home with all the new water capture technologies environmentalists have designed. Of course, I also want people here to be more conscious about conservation, but more importantly I want to concentrate on recapturing what we have here naturally and then work on recycling that, whether through desalination or otherwise, to increase our water dependency so we aren’t 90 percent dependent on imported sources of water.

TA: What would you do to attract more high-skilled jobs to San Diego for college graduates?

MA: I think we need to create more high-skilled jobs. Attracting jobs is a much more difficult thing to expand. I would use the principles that the great urban economist Jane Jacobs subscribed to, which is to take the businesses and try to make them more prosperous.

We have great opportunities with Mexico, and one of the things I want to do with that is create a community forum right on the border so people from both sides can start coming together and planning to figure out how we can create more prosperous enterprises and take barriers that restrain them. There are 4-4.5 million consumers on either side of the border that we can tap into.

I want to also have business experts in my office so I can listen directly to the business community, so I know what we need to do to create more jobs.

Jobs are something that can also be created by students by making it possible for them to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. The high-tech business is a young person’s world. I want to make sure people with good ideas get access to capital to pursue those ideas. I want to see the city invest in the brains of young people outside of student loans. The goal of keeping our students here is a very high one.

TA: Are there any benefits or challenges to short elections?

MA: Oh I think so. I think we should have instant runoff.

TA: For all elections?

Oh yes. I think the mail-in ballot should be limited to four-to-five days ahead of time. You shouldn’t be able to mail it in before, because so many people vote on what set of facts and then learn new facts and can’t recant their vote. I don’t like the long period of time used for elections. What I would like to see is instant run off.

Back when I was at Berkeley, I was elected student co-president because on the day of the election they voted and no one had gotten a majority. The top two then went off against each other and I won by having the more second-place votes.

If you vote on a proportional basis you could get rid of districts completely, and that allows for much more representative government. You don’t have to worry about reapportionment, and minorities get properly represented because they can get more votes. You still have districts but you don’t have them geographic. What happens is you vote for your first and second choice and the election is over.

The reason we need to stop long elections is that politicians don’t govern anymore. Everything is about running for office. What happens then when you get into office is that instead of bringing problem solvers and experts in, you bring in more political people to get you elected. I have no interest in that. When I was city attorney I did none of that. I basically tried to do the best job I can. Unfortunately, doing a good job doesn’t necessarily translate to being politically viable.

President Lincoln was fortunate; he had some victories before his second election, but he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to be reelected and what a shame that would have been. It was a very close call and elections back then were much shorter. You did not have this constant electioneering. It’s kind of like party time all the time with no one taking the time to roll up their sleeves and do something.

TA: Is there any message you want to send to SDSU students?

MA: I am focused on your future and I care about you. Because I have two children who are roughly college age, I’m focused on your welfare. I care about what you are concerned about.

I am fighting against my own generation’s selfishness and the trying to do more for the next generation than what was done for us. We’ve reversed it.

For many generations people concentrated on sacrificing today for a better tomorrow. John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” He was our leader. People like Martin Luther King Jr. urged us to sacrifice the now for a better tomorrow. Even our union leader Walter Reuther told us to sacrifice today’s wages for better compensation in the future.

Now it’s the other way around. Take as much from the future today as you can grab. Our leaders today are basically stealing from your future, and what people don’t realize is that “out of sight, out of mind” is only possible if you don’t care about the next generation, if you are so selfish.

I think that is the biggest difference between me and the other candidates. They are all young nice people, but they are being co-opted by the establishment and the establishment is wrong. That’s where we need the young people to help those who are trying to help them.

Basically, I see the current crowd in city government as just looting the treasury of the city. It’s reprehensible but the media goes along with it. They obfuscate and hide and don’t look for truth. Justice is truth in action, and that’s what we need. Not deception in action which is what we have now. I want to build the future of the young people. I will be looking for them to be actively involved.

 

Photo by Monica Linzmeier, Photo Editor