May 14, 2016 by Omar Passons
I decided that I wanted to give people who don’t have time to listen to everything our candidates for City Council think a clear reason for picking one person over the other. I do pay attention and, for reasons that may not seem altogether sensible, I spend the time to understand what issues impact North Park, the District, the City and the region. With that as back drop, here’s who you should vote for. In late April of 2016 moderated a forum between the two candidates in Mission Hills. And then I wrote about it here. It was the third time I’d heard both Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward speak in public settings about their views for the future of the City and the District (which includes North Park, where I live, and downtown, where major investments in San Diego are happening). Each time I listened intently, I asked questions of importance to making a decision, and I spoke to others in the room after the session was over. These three sessions were separated by about nine months, so there was plenty of time to hone a message, decide what positions to take, and give some real thought to the type of leader each person intended to be.
What I want most out of every City politician is really two things: an interest in learning all sides of an issue and a value system based on which to make decisions. I suppose a close third is to actually make decisions in line with those values, rather than wait to see what is most politically feasible and go with that.
Both men are decent, honorable men who want to make a meaningful difference for our city. My decision boils down to looking at a combination of where the candidates differ on policy (hint: not very many choices) and, more importantly in this case, whether they seem inclined to make decisions and work with their colleagues when on the Council.
For me, ruling out support of the Citizen’s Plan is not a good choice for a city that is in desperate need of revenue. Mr. Bernal opposes the plan, Mr. Ward is waiting to see what the final measure looks like. This puts the nod in Mr. Ward’s column for me. On housing, I tend to agree with Governor Jerry Brown’s recently announced position that we must increase housing supply to really make housing more affordable. It seems to me that Mr. Ward’s positions on affordable housing, on regulations that are more likely to enable increasing housing supply generally, and on implementing the Climate Action Plan are going to be strong both for the District in which I live and for the City of San Diego as a whole. And these views are most likely to help keep the San Diego region competitive in attracting and retaining talent in the workforce. If you can’t afford to live here, no amount of sunshine and great craft beer will make the difference.
As it relates to the business community, I see Mr. Ward’s commitment to dedicate staff specifically to helping small business owners navigate a difficult maze of regulatory offices as a real strength. And with his experience at the state level, he will likely be able to connect that staff person with colleagues at the state who can help with more than local regulatory affairs. Having the support of leaders like Speaker Emeritus Toni Atkins isn’t just a political win, it is a very practical one once he is in office.
Also of importance for a job that involves working well with others, I’ve had meaningful conversations on issues with Mr. Ward in which we don’t hold the same view, and he was able to navigate the issues reasonably without wavering on his views. People are going to disagree, but being able to hear the other side, shift if the reasons are compelling or stand firm if those reasons are not so moving is a good trait to have. I’ve found that quality in abundance in Mr. Ward.
For these reasons, and what I see as a very high level grasp of land use and willingness to learn what he doesn’t know, I’ll be urging the business owners I know and my friends, neighbors and colleagues to vote for Chris Ward in this year’s election.
Good luck, sir.