Vows Well-Run City : Land-Use Expert Seeks 8th District Council Slot

Times Staff Writer

Charging that "reactionary crisis management" has supplanted "effective anticipatory planning" in city government, land-use expert Gail MacLeod announced her candidacy Wednesday in the San Diego City Council 8th District race.

In joining a crowded field of candidates, MacLeod, the planning director of the Rancho Santa Fe Assn., said her land-use background and years of community activism in Golden Hill give her the background to tackle problems ranging from growth management and crime control to sewage and the upgrading of older neighborhoods.

"Imagine neighborhoods with uncrowded schools, parks, roads and on-street parking," MacLeod said at a Golden Hill news conference. "Imagine land development that respects the topography. Imagine economic growth that brings jobs for our unemployed. Imagine new homes and businesses that revitalize and improve older neighborhoods. That's my vision, and I will work to translate this vision into reality."

Planning Assailed

Many of San Diego's problems can be traced, MacLeod argued, to ineffective planning that results in the council often "scrambling to react after the fact" to crises rather than anticipating--and eliminating--potential problems through proper management and maintenance of city resources.

As an example, MacLeod cited council members' proposal to put a $76-million bond issue on the November ballot to help pay for maintenance of buildings in Balboa Park, a purpose for which she argued "there's no reason a bond issue should ever be needed . . . if you plan properly."

Idea for Waste Disposal

She also argued that a waste-water reclamation program would be a better and less costly approach to the city's sewage needs than the current plan to spend more than $1 billion on treating waste to pumped into the ocean.

"I intend to make the city (take) a planning, anticipatory approach to the issues, rather than reactionary crisis-management," MacLeod, 37, said. "We have to switch that. It won't happen overnight because we have a backlog of problems that have been just waiting for a crisis to emerge. But we have to work on that trend."

Though MacLeod advocated improvements in a broad range of city services and programs, she provided few specifics on how to attain those goals. She admitted, for example, that many of her proposals would cost additional money but conceded that she had not reviewed the city's budget to determine where possible cuts could be made.

However, reiterating her overriding theme, she contended that improved management procedures could trim existing city expenses for some programs.

Similarly, she suggested that construction of a high-rise jail on county parking lots adjacent to the existing downtown jail could relieve the county's serious jail overcrowding problem, but she provided no details on the financial feasibility of such a plan.

Race Will Be Tough

MacLeod faces an uphill battle in the September district primary, largely because she is expected to be heavily outspent by three other candidates who begin the race with substantially higher name recognition than her own in the 8th District, which stretches south from Hillcrest through downtown to Otay Mesa and San Ysidro.

To qualify for one of the two finalists' spots in the November citywide general election, MacLeod will have to surpass at least two of the three candidates widely considered to be the early, early front runners--lawyer Michael Aguirre, former city school board member Bob Filner and Neil Good, administrative assistant to county Supervisor Leon Williams.

Though Aguirre and Filner expect to spend about $100,000 each and Good's target is $75,000, MacLeod plans to spend between $35,000 and $50,000. Saying that she hopes to overcome her opponents' financial edge through grass-roots organization and campaigning, MacLeod also argued that her opponents' higher budgets could backfire.

"I think it's outrageous," MacLeod said. "You have to question people's fiscal management that they're spending $75,000, $100,000, when even if they're successful in the primary, they're only to get 2,000 to 3,000 vote."

Other announced or potential candidates in the 8th District contest include former investment broker Ty Smith, lawyer and city planning commissioner Henry Empeno, businessman Bob Castaneda Jr., former TV news reporter Jesse Macias, San Ysidro community activist Paul Clark, frequent candidate John Kelley and former City Hall aide Danny Martinez.

The 8th District currently is represented by Councilwoman Celia Ballesteros, who was appointed to the seat last December when Uvaldo Martinez resigned after he was convicted of misusing a city-issued credit card. As a condition of her appointment, Ballesteros pledged not to run for the seat this fall.

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