The two candidates vying for the San Diego City District 6 city council seat faced off Wednesday at a community forum in Mira Mesa, tackling issues ranging from police retention to city finances to infrastructure.
Chris Cate, the vice president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, is up against Carol Kim, an education consultant, to represent the newly redrawn City Council District 6, covering the communities of Mira Mesa, Kearny Mesa, and parts of Clairemont Mesa and Rancho Peñasquitos.
The evening opened with the vice president of the San Diego Police Officers Association Sgt. Jeff Jordon addressing the staffing issues facing the Department. The Department currently has about 300 officers less than it needs to adequately patrol the city, Jordon said.
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Carol Kim’s closing statement
Chris Cate’s closing statement
SDPOA had asked each of the candidates to come up with a proposal to retain and recruit more officers.
Cate said the City’s charter specifically states that priority must be given to funding the Police Department and he will make sure that happens. The City Council recently voted on a five-year plan to increase the Department’s budget, “and that’s the blue print we should follow,” he said.
Kim, however, proposed using the projected City budget surplus to increase police salaries. She said that San Diego is not competitive with neighboring municipalities.
“We can’t ignore the market,” she said. “How can we expect to retain our offices when they can go to other law enforcement agencies in the area and get considerably better compensation packages?”
Her plan calls for committing one-third of the budget surplus into giving officers a 5-percent raise each year for the next five years, resulting in a 20-percent raise for police.
Both candidates are opposed to what they called a “me-too” clause with city employees, proposing a freeze with other bargaining units when officers get raises.
“What we give to our police officers who put their lives on the line every single day in terms of a compensation package should not be equal to what an administrative clerk does down in City Hall,” Cate said. “We have officers who are risking their lives every single day and we cannot have these type of contracts that require us to match what we give our officers when we have a critical deficiency to what we give our administrative staff.”
Both candidates are also opposed to using taxpayer’s money to fund a new Chargers stadium when City’s infrastructures are crumbling.
“I think that fixing pipes and fixing our infrastructure should take precedent over building a new Chargers stadium, period,” Kim said. “We have up to $3 billion of infrastructure that needs to be repaired.”
“First and foremost, it’s going to be our public safety. It’s going to be our infrastructure,” Cate said. “Those are the two top priorities that we have as a city.”
The forum was without much fireworks as both candidates agree most of the issues, differing only in the approach to them.
There were a few sparks, however. On the issue of campaign contributions, Kim named the fire fighters association as one of the political action committees working on her behalf. Cate seized on that statement, telling those in attendance that campaign finance laws prohibit candidates from coordinating with PACs, but did not mention any that were working on his behalf.
“There’s no money coming from them,” he said. “They don’t give us direct contributions and I would hope that they’re not giving her direct contributions as well.”
The other spark of the night came when the candidates were asked about how long they have been living in the district. Cate sidestepped the issue, saying he’s always been a San Diegan and will continue to be a San Diegan. Kim pointed out that Cate still owns a house in Carlsbad whereas she’s been living in Mira Mesa for nearly a decade.
“I chose to live here because I wanted to live here,” she said. “When I decided to run for office and for this seat, it is because this is my community.”