Four San Diego Mayoral candidates address a variety of issues at Carmel Valley forum

By Joe Tash

Attendees at a mayoral forum in Carmel Valley on Thursday, Nov. 7, got a glimpse of the philosophies and styles of four of the candidates as they tackled such issues as combating childhood obesity and promoting solar energy.

Four of the 10 people vying for the city of San Diego’s top elected office in a Nov. 19 special election showed up for the forum, hosted by the San Diego Coastal Chamber of Commerce at the AMN Healthcare building, while six others did not, including two of the leading candidates, Nathan Fletcher and Kevin Faulconer.

On hand were former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre, San Diego Councilman David Alvarez, restaurateur Sina “Simon” Moghadam, and builder/Realtor Harry Dirks.

The absence of the other major candidates didn’t sit well with some of those in attendance.

“This is a huge area, Carmel Valley,” said Maryanne Petrilli, who works for a life insurance company. “You can get your picture taken with a baby but you can’t come to this?”

Petrilli, who said she had already marked her mail-in ballot, asked the candidates whether she could get a new ballot and change her mind, noting that the candidates who attended Thursday’s forum had a one-in-four chance of earning her vote.

County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said that if voters have marked their ballot, but not mailed it in, they can check a box on the envelope to indicate the ballot is “spoiled,” send it in, and a new ballot will be mailed to them. However, voters who have already mailed in their ballot to the registrar’s office won’t be able to change their vote.

The candidates are seeking to fill the remainder of former Mayor Bob Filner’s term, who resigned in August amid allegations of sexual harassment by a number of women.

Each candidate briefly introduced himself before questions were taken from the audience of about two dozen people.

Dirks stressed his background as a business owner and manager. “I’m a responsible, trustworthy person, that’s my nature, my hallmark, when I do business with people.”

Aguirre — who ruffled feathers at City Hall during his tenure as city attorney — joked that he was known for his low-key style and avoidance of controversy. But he said he would focus on improving services for the city’s neighborhoods. “As mayor I will not underfund roads in order to overfund pensions.”

Moghadam, who like Dirks is a first-time candidate, pledged to downsize city government to only the most essential services. “There’s an old saying, politicians promise bridges. But who checks if there’s a river? Do we need it? The city makes a lot of promises, as residents we could end up paying for those promises.”

Alvarez, who was elected to the City Council in 2010, said he would focus on developing all sectors of the city’s economy. While a lot of attention is paid to the requests of large corporations, he said, “what about the little guys, someone trying to start a business? How is the city helping them?”

Alvarez and Aguirre both saw a role for the mayor on the issue of childhood obesity, with Alvarez pointing to a shortage of parks throughout the city where children can play.

“We need to lead by example,” Alvarez said, noting that he rides his bike to work from his home in Barrio Logan.

But Moghadam and Dirks said families should be responsible for making sure children eat healthy foods and get plenty of exercise.

“I will not do anything. It’s not the government’s responsibility for your personal life,” Moghadam said. He took a similar position on the issue of helping San Diego stay in the lead on the use of solar energy.

Alvarez, however, cited policies designed to encourage the use of alternative energy, including solar, that he has supported on the council. “We’re pushing these policies forward,” he said.

And Aguirre said that if elected, he would bring in experts from Europe to help San Diego create an alternative energy plan as a way of reducing costs, increasing reliability and cutting pollution. “We’re falling behind competitively,” of countries such as Germany, Spain and Austria in the realm of alternative energy, he said.

Tracy Aragon, vice chair of the San Diego Coastal Chamber, said she thought the event was a success, both because the audience got to meet some of the lesser known candidates, and also hear their positions on a variety of different issues.

“I liked that it was a small, intimate forum,” she said.