The opinions and decisions of community leaders, policy makers, individuals, and organizations in 2020 will likely be analyzed for many years to come. The constantly changing and often conflicting facts and information regarding COVID19 came at dizzying speeds. Even now, as we head into the new year, disease case numbers are increasing while the glimmer of hope brightens daily with the distribution of the vaccine and greatly improved treatment protocols and outcomes.
The pandemic continues to dominate our lives, but as they say, time waits for no one. And neither does the business of running a city. From budgets to growth policies, the mayor and city council have important decisions to make in the coming year. As a second-term mayor, Richard Bailey is ready to hit the ground running in 2021. In a Q&A with the Coronado Eagle & Journal, Mayor Bailey discusses last year’s challenges and what he hopes the City can accomplish in 2021.
What do you think are the most impactful initiatives the City provided to citizens during the pandemic?
Typically, a city is responsible for public safety, public spaces, and infrastructure, but the past year required us to take on several initiatives that are outside of our core competencies. During the initial quarantine many people in town were isolated and without safe access to basic supplies including food. In response, several community leaders stepped up to create the Neighbor 2 Neighbor [N2N] program which was supported by city staff to help look out for one another. The city also launched a program to help aid our business community by providing bridge loans to help small businesses stay afloat while federal aid was given out. Most recently, the city partnered with a private lab to help administer COVID-19 tests so residents would have a convenient location to get tested. Each one of these initiatives were impactful in their own way and we’ll continue to look for ways we can help our entire community get through the pandemic.
Regarding the bridge loans you mentioned; many businesses will never regain the lost income and will struggle to get back to profitability. You have been an outspoken advocate for small business rights. Do you support loan forgiveness for those who accepted ‘lifeline’ bridge loans from the City, and where would the $2 million of taxpayer money be taken from?
The City of Coronado provided bridge loans to many small businesses while they waited for state and federal assistance. However, the city does not have a printing press and we do not have the resources to support all local businesses. The local financial assistance was always intended to be a bridge loan. Not only are gifts of public funds prohibited, but I believe it would set a bad precedent for the city to give local tax dollars to some businesses but not all local businesses. Based on the available medical data, I believe the best way we can help our business community is to call for the safe reopening of businesses that are not contributing to transmissions. The state needs to create better policies and the feds should provide additional assistance
The State and County COVID19 regulations, particularly for small businesses, have been very controversial. You have advocated for restaurants to remain open despite the most recent stay-at-home order, if they adhere to safety protocols. What, if any, authority does the mayor or council have to supersede these regional mandates?
In times of a statewide public health emergency, such as a pandemic, public health policy is initiated by the state. From there, each county can add more restrictive policies, but they cannot enact less restrictive policies than the state. Each city within a county, can add more restrictive policies, but they cannot enact less restrictive policies than the county. So Coronado does not have the legal authority to overturn or supersede health orders with our own unique rules unless they are more restrictive. In the beginning of the pandemic some cities closed public spaces such as beaches, even though county and state public health officials said outdoor recreating was safe. Even though we as a city cannot overturn any policy from the state or county, we as representatives of our community can and should be advocating for better policy.
The Transient Occupancy Tax [hotel tax] revenue for Coronado is projected to be down 62% and sales tax down 64% in FY 2020-21 (approximately $12 million according to the FY 2020-21 Operating Budget). Will the City need to cut programs or services as a result of the lost income?
We are very fortunate that even with a significant reduction in revenue from hotel taxes, we will not need to cut any program or service for the general public. This is a testament to our city’s long history of being fiscally responsible and saving for unforeseen situations just like we are experiencing now. However, if certain economic sectors do not bounce back, we may need to make adjustments in the future.
Much of Coronado’s sense of community and identity are tied directly to events such as the 4th of July activities, summer concerts in the park, high school sports and homecoming, theater and film festival, community bike rides, etc. Without those unifying experiences our community seems fractured. Do you anticipate the return of community events in 2021?
At this time I think the chances are very low. We have yet to receive any indication that leads me to believe that the state is likely to allow major events in 2021, so I expect we will need to be creative again to unify the community during this year.
During your first term there was a lot of time and effort given to major initiatives such as Relinquishment (local control of Orange Ave, Silver Strand, 3rd and 4th streets) and securing federal funding to address the Tijuana sewage problem. What do you think will be the top two most pressing issues facing City Council in your second term?
First and foremost, we must follow through on those major initiatives to bring them to completion because they are long overdue for our city and our region. As we look to 2021, the regional housing allocation will be a major issue that could fundamentally shape our city for the next generation. Also, local control of Orange Avenue will give us the opportunity to reimagine the downtown business district in a way that makes it more attractive for our entire community.
With the additional control of local streets, how do you imagine improvements to the Orange Avenue corridor? And are there any roadblocks to changes?
I think the biggest threat facing our city is complacency. Unfortunately, Sacramento appears poised to implement new legislation that further removes local control from residents so we’ll have to be very active with our lobbying efforts on that front. Locally, we must continue to reinvest in our city and community in a way that stays true to our character but is also forward looking. By improving the landscaping, pavement, lighting, and street furniture of Orange Avenue, we’ll not only enhance the appearance, but we can define ourselves in a way that will continue to make our downtown business district a charming place to enjoy for years to come.
What do you think is the most important thing Coronado, as a community, can accomplish in the coming year?
We need to come together as a nation and that starts by coming together as a community. The U.S. President, Governor, and County Supervisors are not the ones that are going to coach your kids’ practice or keep an eye on your house or return your lost dog; that’s going to come from your neighbors. So the number one thing I hope we can accomplish this year is to be kind, show some grace, and look out after one another.