SAN DIEGO - Interim Mayor Todd Gloria applauded San Diego's recovery from this summer's leadership crisis and set a remarkably ambitious agenda for the years ahead in Wednesday evening's annual State of the City Address.
Gloria, who assumed the mayor's job after embattled Bob Filner stepped down Aug. 30, said San Diego faced "an unprecedented crisis of confidence" that he believed would be difficult to resolve.
He said he had to get the "machinery of government" functioning again, restore confidence in the city and its leaders, and rebuild the morale of 10,000 municipal employees.
"Tough challenges, to be sure, but necessary for reaching a place where we could all, once again, be proud to be San Diegans," Gloria said in the roughly 38-minute speech at the Balboa Theatre.
He thanked the employees for getting the city back on track this fall. The September opening of the new Central Library near Petco Park is a "roadmap" for what San Diegans can accomplish when they work hard and collaborate, he said.
"Ladies and gentleman, we must dream big," Gloria said. "San Diego will always be America's Finest City. But we shouldn't be content with just being fine. We must dare to be great."
He proposed tackling the city's backlog of infrastructure projects -- which could top $2 billion -- with an "aggressive" bond issue on top of a $120 million bond approved by the City Council Tuesday. The bond should go before voters in 2016, he said.
Gloria also said the city would develop an economic growth strategy this year "that will provide clear, measurable instruments to attract, retain and grow manufacturing, high-tech, biotech and life science companies" in San Diego.
Other proposals include:
-- continuing to implement regulatory relief efforts;
-- expanding programs that have been successful in reducing homelessness;
-- improving transit and bicycle infrastructure;
-- becoming a "global leader" in addressing climate change;
-- establishing a target of 2035 for powering all local homes and
businesses with clean energy; and
-- placing a ballot measure before voters in November that would raise
the minimum wage, which he said would stimulate the economy and lower the
burden on government social programs.
"Make no mistake -- none of this will be easy," Gloria said. "Nothing worth doing ever is."
Gloria was introduced by Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who called him "a true statesman" for becoming mayor when the city needed a leader.
"We were lucky to have the right person at the right time right here at City Hall," Lightner said of Gloria, who has won raves from his City Council colleagues and political observers for his performance as "iMayor."
Her introduction was preceded by a four-minute video that showed various residents discussing their hopes for San Diego's future, including more police officers and fire stations, more rapid transit, stronger ties to Baja
California and the minimum wage increase.
After the speech, Councilman and mayoral candidate David Alvarez said he was "very much aligned" with Gloria's agenda.
"Making sure that people have good middle-class jobs, the minimum wage issue, a climate action plan that's aggressive to actually address climate change in this city and this country," Alvarez said. "He's just leading on
all the issues that are the right issues."
He said he also supports Gloria's plans to invest in neighborhoods and infrastructure, but will wait for details on the 2016 bond proposal.
His opponent in the Feb. 11 runoff election, Councilman Kevin Faulconer, said the speech was "extremely positive and upbeat," carrying an optimistic message that came at the right time.
He agreed infrastructure was a key issue for San Diego.
"As mayor, that's what I'm going to turn my attention to, to ensure that we're continuing the (financial reforms) so we have the dollars necessary to invest in our streets, and our sidewalks and our rec centers," Faulconer