In his conference room on the 11th floor of City Hall with a commanding view of downtown, Faulconer answered any and all questions.
“I’ve tried to really set a tone of collaboration at City Hall,” said Faulconer. “That’s what our city desperately needed. I also think that’s the best way to actually achieve real results.”
Noting a combative approach “wasn’t my style,” Faulconer said his term has thus far been focused on the city budget, which he described as the “blueprint for our priorities for the city.”
Faulconer, a Point Loma resident, said his budget is all about enhancing neighborhood services and improving infrastructure — paving streets, increasing library hours and other quality-of-life issues.
The new mayor said he’s spent a lot of time initially on “economic development, incentivizing the development and growth of new companies, as well as promoting small businesses,” which he characterized as the backbone of San Diego’s economy.
Faulconer said he’s working hard to change the culture of city government, striving to make it more “customer-service focused.
“Everyone out in our neighborhoods, our taxpayers, they expect and deserve good-quality service coming out of the city,” he said.
Faulconer, in office a little more than 100 days, was queried about his stance on the city’s proposed minimum-wage increase.
“My job is to make sure we are competitive and provide a good-quality climate, not only for starting new businesses but expanding existing businesses,” he said, noting the state is raising minimum wage from $8 to $10 over time and the question now is whether local entities should independently raise it even more.
Faulconer cautioned, however, that raising the minimum wage will cause the opposite of the desired effect, resulting in businesses cutting back or reducing hiring.
“What we can’t do is make ourselves less competitive, not create jobs,” he said. “That doesn’t help anybody.”
Asked his views on the prospect of greater local control over alcohol-licensing matters, which some in Pacific Beach and other communities along the beachfront are clamoring for because of the oversaturation of bars and entertainment venues, Faulconer said he’s adopted an enforcement posture.
“We have to have more enforcement and oversight,” he said, adding newly appointed San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman agrees that the objective should be “enforcing all of the rules we have with our bars and entertainment in terms of noise and activity, both inside and outside the establishment, especially at night.”
Asked about homelessness, Faulconer noted it’s an “acute problem.” He said the focus should be on programs and services that transition people out of homelessness.
Citing the Connections Housing Program in downtown San Diego as a workable model, Faulconer said combating homelessness is complicated by the fact that many in the population suffer from the double whammy of substance abuse and mental illness.
Nonetheless, “That doesn’t mean we stop trying.”
On other topics, Faulconer said the new budget funds a sustainability coordinator for the city, adding San Diego needs to “create the framework that makes us more sustainable.”
The mayor said he’s also “100 percent committed” to recycling wastewater, which he said is necessary to attain energy independence for the region.
Faulconer said he is pro-fireworks and said he’s willing to work with communities having problems in hosting displays to navigate through the required licensing and permitting processes.
Faulconer, a San Diego State University alum, also hailed Padres star Tony Gwynn as not only “Mr. Padre” but “Mr. San Diego.
“Most of the coverage of his death, which I think is awesome, was not what he did on the field, but also off of it,” Faulconer said.