Mike Donovan—who seeks reelection for city council—isn’t one to brag. So, you might not know he attended the U.S. Naval Academy, got his masters at M.I.T., and worked at Solar Turbines Incorporated for more than 30 years where he managed budgets of more than $100 million.
A self-professed “old timer” and a Coronado resident for more than 45 years, Donovan talks local politics with the same focused attention and weighty consideration that he gives his expansive business endeavors.
Donovan—who is running for his second term—is careful to attribute many of his proudest accomplishments to a collaborative effort, but acknowledges his important leadership roles on several issues.
“While most everything accomplished by our city is through a team effort, and not due just to one person, some of the accomplishments in which I feel I took a leadership role include completing an update to the City’s Historic Preservation ordinance and process. [This included] adding clarification to the criteria, and streamlining the process to be more effective and efficient,” says Donovan.
He is also proud of creating a Community Grant Policy, which establishes criteria, determines eligibility and defines processes and accountability for grants designed to strengthen the Coronado community. Donovan also played a leading role in helping the City of Coronado reach an agreement with the state to gain local control of State Routes 75 and 282—key roadways that are important to Coronado.
But these days, new issues are thrust into the spotlight.
“Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic is probably the most challenging issue we face over the next few years,” says Donovan. “In the short term, we must ensure the safety and health of our residents while supporting local businesses, which represent people’s jobs and livelihoods.”
To help keep everyone safe, Donovan says the city has enlisted the help of Coronado MainStreet, a nonprofit dedicated to maintaining a vibrant downtown.
“Representatives from MainStreet have been invaluable in educating, assisting, and monitoring our businesses with regard to meeting the guidelines required to keep businesses open,” says Donovan.
In addition, he says the city has done a great job working with the businesses to relax certain requirements, allowing them to operate within the set guidelines, such as conducting business outdoors.
“Some examples include allowing restaurants to use parts of sidewalks and required parking areas for outdoor dining,” says Donovan. “We also have allowed fitness centers, yoga instructors, and related businesses to use some public parks and areas of our beach to have exercise sessions while meeting distancing rules.”
When it comes to ensuring that people on streets and sidewalks adhere to safety requirements, Donovan says the city has taken important steps. In fact, Donovan says the city has handed out 1500 masks since the start of the pandemic.
“[We have provided] signs for businesses to display, placing our mobile electronic signs in strategic areas with the message to wear face coverings, and having uniformed police officers walking the streets of downtown, contacting people who are not following the rules and providing face masks if someone does not have one,” says Donovan. “The police are authorized to issue citations to people not following the rules, if the situation warrants.”
Another challenge? Donovan says we must also strike a reasonable balance to address the reduced income to the city, mostly due to reductions in hotel (transient occupancy) and sales tax revenue. Central to this will be the creation and execution of a viable city budget while maintaining city services to Coronado residents.
The inequitable Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) assigned to the City of Coronado is yet another issue that needs to be addressed.
“Simply stated, we (the City) believe the required housing allowance as dictated by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is not equitable, based on the land we have available to develop, the constraints placed on us by other agencies, and the current housing density of our city,” says Donovan.
Finally, Donovan says that traffic continues to be a big problem for the residents of Coronado.
“I have advocated for the development of a Traffic Calming Plan to first identify and prioritize areas that would benefit the most from some sort of traffic calming solution, and also provide a ‘tool box’ for various options that could be evaluated for areas of concern,” says Donovan.
What of the cross border sewage issues that have plagued Coronado beaches in recent years? Fortunately, Donovan says we are moving in the right direction. In the last few months, a funding allocation of $300 million was provided by the federal government to address this issue.
“This was a huge milestone and was the result of a combined effort of various cities, the county, other agencies and non-profit organizations,” says Donovan.
Efforts to date have been centered on identifying and measuring the effects of the Tijuana River contamination.
“I have seen some criticism over doing this, with the sentiment that we already know there is a problem,” says Donovan. “But it is important to note that unless the problem is quantified, it is impossible to evaluate the level of effectiveness of any particular solution. A baseline is also needed to measure the actual impact of any given solution.”
He says the task before us now is to prioritize and select the EPA projects that will fit into the funding budget we currently have, in order to get the most value added. Then, to effectively and efficiently execute the projects identified.
“This will again take a collaborative effort, with the lead agency being the EPA,” says Donovan.
Another problematic issue in Coronado is blending business with resident interests.
“For me, residential quality of life is most important,” says Donovan. “[But] the complexity of this simple statement is that it means different things to different people. For example, many people don’t like the crowded downtown area and added traffic and parking headaches during the summer, when we experience a higher level of visitors. But, the other side of the coin, is that many of our businesses in town cannot survive on patronage from residents alone.”
Donovan says that impacts from online shopping, access for active and retired military to the base commissary and exchange, and being 2.2 miles across the bridge from the eighth largest city in America create somewhat of a viability challenge to many of the businesses in Coronado.
“Without the support of visitors and tourists we would see many closed store fronts, not unlike what the City experienced in the 1980s,” says Donovan. “So, we must balance the negative impacts on traffic and parking with the positive impacts of having a quaint, attractive downtown area with shops and stores that fit into and support the small-town qualities of Coronado.”
Donovan says the city has done some things to mitigate these negative aspects, such as working with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) to provide a free shuttle service throughout the Coronado commercial areas. He says this bus service is the most used route in the entire MTS area and has done a lot to reduce traffic and parking issues.
Despite the myriad of problems for the new City Council to tackle, Donovan hopes to continue using his strengths to work for the City of Coronado.
“To me, some of the most important attributes that have helped me, not only as a councilmember but in my career, have been the personal discipline, time management, and critical thinking skills I have acquired,” says Donovan. “As an engineer, I learned how to evaluate an issue objectively and logically, and make data and information-based decisions using all input available.”
Despite today’s polarizing political climate, and although many Coronado residents have different viewpoints, Donovan says there is much that unites us.
“I believe what unites us is first and foremost being Americans, and then also being residents of Coronado, which I think is at the top of the list for most desirable places to live,” says Donovan. “We have a wonderful city here, which is the envy of many.”
Our systems are not perfect, but there are always opportunities to improve.
“In my view, the way towards improvement starts with a collaborative approach with logical and reasonable discussion that transcends partisanship and politics,” says Donovan.
When Donovan isn’t working or campaigning, you can find him on the golf course, shooting hoops, or at Dog Beach.
To learn more about Mike Donovan and his campaign, visit mikedonovancoronado.com.