David Alvarez is spending the holiday season ramping up his campaign for the February 2014 runoff election for the mayor of San Diego. The 33 year old, first-term city councilman advanced to the runoff from a field of 11 candidates late last month because no single candidate secured a majority of the vote. San Diego seeks to replace former Mayor Bob Filner, who resigned in August amid sexual harassment allegations.
David Alvarez was able to speak with NBC Latino about his plans for his hometown should he become San Diego’s first Latino mayor. San Diego has not had a Latino mayor since California became a state.
“I represent a complete change – a more progressive San Diego, where we are good stewards of the environment, where we make sure that we care for our natural resources, where we make sure that we are partnering with our schools and where we are focused on job creation,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez grew up next to a chrome plating plant in San Diego’s historic Barrio Logan and attributes his own asthma to the toxic emissions affecting the local area. He’s been involved in defending a community plan that he helped broker to help protect residents from sources of pollution. His candidacy has been endorsed by the Sierra Club and the local Environmental Health and Justice Campaign.
Developing pedestrian and bike friendly neighborhoods, along with an updated public transit plan, are also on Alvarez’s agenda. Last week, Alvarez rode his bike with bicycle advocacy leaders from his home to City Hall to advocate for improvements in the city’s Bicycle Master Plan.
Job creation is another issue that Alvarez is promoting in his candidacy. He looks to the border region for opportunities.
“We have a port that has less than one-tenth of the economic activity that the border region has. The border region still has land available for development – a new cluster of jobs can go there,” said Alvarez. “We can also work to reduce our border wait, one study says that the long wait to cross the border actually costs our economy $7 billion a year.”
While expanding the port of entry is a federal issue, Alvarez said that he has been active in advocating for improved border crossing to federal officials. He also chimed in about proposals to increase the militarization of the southern border in the immigration bill that passed the Senate in June.
The Senate immigration bill would add 20,000 border agents, 700 more miles of border wall, and drones.
“We want more money spent on the border, making sure that the crossing is efficient and legal. Let’s get people across the border more efficiently instead of focusing on something that might not get us anything,” Alvarez stated. “Militarizing the border is the wrong message.”
A recent poll shows Alvarez running neck and neck against his opponent, fellow city councilmember Kevin Faulconer. The KGTV-10 News and the San Diego Union Tribune poll shows 47 percent of San Diegans supporting Faulconer and 46 percent supporting David Alvarez.
While the San Diego mayoral race is considered non-partisan, Faulconer, a Republican, has the support of the local Republican Party and Chamber of Commerce, while Alvarez, a Democrat, is supported by progressives and labor.
Former Mayor Filner was the first Democrat elected to the San Diego mayor’s office in twenty years, and Republicans view Faulconer’s candidacy as the best change to recapture the mayor’s seat. However, 28.3 percent of the city’s population is Latino. The poll that shows Alvarez and Faulconer in a tie reveals that among Hispanics, Alvarez leads 48 to 41 percent.
“I’m trying to make history in San Diego by not only becoming the first Latino mayor, but by bringing more diversity to City Hall,” Alvarez said. “This city has been controlled by the same circle of people for years. We have to accept different points of view.”
Adriana Maestas is a senior contributing editor at Politic365 and one of the co-founders of the DailyGrito.com. She resides in California.