City attorney candidates have their say during debate
Published - 09/02/20 - 03:00 PM | 2460 views | 2 2 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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City attorney candidates Mara Elliott and challenger Cory Briggs squared off against one another over short-term rentals, sidewalk vending, and other hot-button issues during a public debate.

The Aug. 26 Zoom forum was hosted by Ocean Beach Town Council. Both candidates gave introductory and closing remarks while fielding questions in-between on issues directly impacting Council Districts 1 and 2 along the San Diego beachfront.

“My job is to protect San Diego and we’ve been responding to the pandemic left and right to protect families from eviction,” said incumbent Elliott in opening remarks. “We’ve been working with businesses to try and cut red tape so they could reopen safely and survive this crisis. We’ve responded to domestic violence by increasing the number of prosecutors we have.”

Added Elliott, “I have committed my career to public service and I’m passionate about protecting taxpayers. He (Briggs) makes a living out of suing the City. He’s sued the City more than 80 times, usually based on some kind of technicality. But the purpose, of course, is to fund himself.”

“I am the taxpayer advocate in the race,” countered Briggs. “I’m running for three reasons: I want to end politics in the office. I want the City Attorney’s legal work to make not headlines for the City Attorney, but a difference in your (public’s) life. The City Attorney’s office should be working on issues important to you (taxpayers), not the City Attorney’s political career. I want the office to be fully transparent. I want to restore confidence in the quality of lawyering coming out of the office.”

Added Briggs, “You need a lawyer who actually knows how to be a lawyer. I’m the only candidate who’s made a payroll, the only candidate who’s advised small-businesses. I don’t take money or endorsements from lobbyists. I’m beholden only to taxpayers and voters, and I only take donations from regular San Diegans.”

Both candidates were queried on short-term rentals.

Elliott answered that City regulations governing short-term rentals still need clarification.

“We need to have reasonable regulations on the books, and the code says that if the use is not listed, it’s not permitted, not allowed,” she said. “I’m looking for leadership from the mayor and council to create (new) regulations that will give us the ability to enforce them immediately. We need real solutions. We need real leadership.”

Briggs disagreed, saying no new regulations are needed to enforce short-term rentals.

“We don’t need a mayor to make a decision to do the enforcement,” Briggs said. “Short-term rentals are not permitted under our code and they are illegal. What we need is a City Attorney with the spine to do the enforcement.”

Briggs described how he would handle STR enforcement.

“I would go after the biggest fish first, send them a cease-and-desist order, and if they don’t respond within 30 days, we would begin legal proceedings to have them shut down,” he said. “We can make a big dent in the problem quickly.”

Both candidates spoke on sidewalk vending taking over public space in Veterans Plaza and along the boardwalk between Mission and Pacific beaches and elsewhere.

“There’s been a law on the books the last three years now that requires the City to adopt a new set of rules if you want to regulate multiple sidewalk vendors,” said challenger Briggs. “However, provisions in the law allow the City to enforce rules that are already on the books. For example, the City is allowed to enforce health regulations for vendors or anybody else selling food. We can also enforce the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prevents people from blocking the sidewalk.”

“The (vending) laws on the books don’t work because they’re trying to piecemeal a framework,” said Elliott. “We need to solidify the legal requirements, respectful of all the interests involved. We care about the pushcart immigrants and how they’re making a living. There has to be a balance. Our communities need to figure out what is the next step.”

Both Elliott and Briggs made their pitch to be elected Nov. 3 in closing remarks.

“The City Attorney is a really important job,” said Elliott. “We’re the checks and balances for what happens at the City.

This is not an experimental position. I bring to it over 25 years of experience being a public sector lawyer. This is what I do. This is where my heart is. Cory Briggs is the antithesis of that. He has made a career out of suing government entities.”

“I am the taxpayers advocate in this campaign,” concluded Briggs. “I haven’t spent my career in government, and I’m proud of it. I’m also proud of having successfully held government accountable with the taxpayers and the voters.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
September 07, 2020
Short-term vacation rentals have been around since the 1920s, especially in areas by the beaches. What's different now is that there are so many more companies includng Airbnb doing these types of rentals and that's where clarification is needed. These companies are contributing millions of tax dollars to the city with added TOT revenue and that is one of the reasons it's not so simple as enforcing the current rules/regulations
Tim Bell
September 03, 2020
If the rules/laws are on the books then they should be enforced. If they are wrong they should be challenged. Seems easy to me.
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