Briggs: “Hoteliers are making money and renting rooms because our city is so wonderful that people want to come here."
The white board in the conference room behind Cory Briggs tells the story: On one side, in green ink it says:
- Donor class v. voter class
- What does it mean to stand up for working people?
On the right side, it says Budget Priorities.These are key ideas behind this run for mayor of San Diego.
Cory for Mayor campaign photo. "I have to win voters’ trust."
When Cory Briggs first announced he would run for mayor – in a tweet the day after Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s state of the city speech – only the twitter-verse noticed. Many shrugged it off – it was hard to believe that the lawyer who’s sued the crap out of the city over and over would want to be the face of said city.
“I meant it and I said why in the tweet,” Briggs said in an interview on Thursday. “The mayor’s speech was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ve been fighting these knuckleheads at city hall since 2002 and they just do one dumb thing after another.”
The mayor's speech, wherein he seemed to recite developers’ wish lists, mentioning in passing the city’s $2,8 billion pension deficit, was applauded by most attendees, including some of Briggs' longtime allies.
Briggs saw it differently.
”I agree with what most of these folks are trying to accomplish. We don’t have different goals. But at some point you have talk about how we’re going to implement it and how we’re going to pay for it. You can’t just get someone to adopt your policy and go home and claim victory – the city does victory laps all the time on stuff that doesn’t get fulfilled.
“We have a homelessness crisis, a genuine crisis where people died because they couldn’t wash their hands after they went to the bathroom,” he says. “I don’t know what crisis is solved by borrowing millions to build a parking structure in Balboa Park. That’s a pet project for the donor class.”
“You’ve got to stop the draining of affordable housing. It makes no sense to tear down 14 units and get 12 back. It doesn’t do any good to get rid of 20 to get 15. In the very least there has to be no net loss,” Briggs says. “We’ve got to get rid of in-lieu fees (developers pay so they don’t have to add affordable homes on site); they are a fraction of what it costs to build. You lose all the (existing) units and end up with enough money to build a dinky, tiny fraction of that. We have to make developers build on site.
“Last year, a study by the feds concluded that if you increase the supply of housing in a neighborhood by 20 percent, you’ll get less than a 2 percent drop in housing price,” he says. “The quality of the neighborhoods is what drives up the price.”
“Transit comes first,” he says. “Transit doesn’t work until it works so well people can count on it and it’s the easiest way to go somewhere. It will take a decade to get there and, until then, people still have to be able to get to work, pick up their kids and go to the doctor, live their lives. We shouldn’t make that harder.”
“The management and policy levels of these organizations don’t work,” he says. “I want to know how their plans will bring affordable housing to San Diego. The housing commission doesn’t even know how much affordable housing we already have.”
“Our creditors know we’re in trouble,” he says. “The deficit is more than half the city budget for a year. At what point do regulators decide we can’t continue to rack up this debt? If we continue to pretend we’re paying down the deficit when we’re not, we’re going to be San Bernardino.”
And then he says the T word. Only it’s Tax with Transient Occupancy in front.
“We’re going to have to raise taxes. The question is who is it going to be on. It ought to be on tourists. Our TOT is too low and we’re leaving money on the table,” he says. “Hoteliers are making money and renting rooms because our city is so wonderful that people want to come here. They are making money off of us.”
Does he think he can win?
“I’m a long shot. I have to win voters’ trust," he says mildly. He says he is heartened by Councilwoman Georgette Gomez’s recent speech where she reminded the city council that it drives policy and plans, that the power rests with the council. "The mayor is the executive branch, the implementer and face of the city. But the power is with the council," he says.
Reporter’s note: Plenty of people will have thoughts on Cory’s announcement – other opinions have not been included here. This interview is intended to start a conversation, and opposition can access a multitude of platforms to respond.