Mayor Richard Bailey said a friend who doesn’t live in Coronado texted him recently joking, “Congrats on having the job that literally no one else wants.”
While Bailey laughed at his buddy’s point, the mayor observed one can look at running unopposed a few different ways — no one wants to do it, the community adores you, or as he summarized: “I think it’s a reflection of the job we’ve done over the past four years.”
City council has taken on several issues which went unaddressed for decades, Bailey said, touching on topics such as securing $300 million for the Tijuana sewage problem to working out state assistance with suicide prevention on the Coronado Bridge and the state’s relinquishment of city highways.
Bailey explained how the longer you serve in a political position, the more understanding you have in how to use that position to best represent the community. Serving on the council and being mayor is “more than just pressing the yes/no button during council meetings.”
To influence public policy locally or regionally, he said, you develop relationships with entities and different regional bodies. He added how having that experience and those meaningful relationships will help Coronado.
Aside from managing COVID-19, Bailey stated what he thinks are the top three challenges and opportunities needing to be addressed in a next term: 1) protecting the community from the state’s housing mandates; 2) reimagining Orange Avenue and on the cusp of receiving control, as well as 3) managing the pandemic’s financial fallout.
“That will also be a big challenge to navigate,” Bailey said, “making sure we are still fulfilling our core responsibilities to our community.”
He referenced public safety and infrastructure so “we’re not deferring maintenance on some of our critical assets” as well as keeping tax rates at their current level.
When it comes to COVID-19 presently, the mayor expressed the importance of following San Diego County’s public health officer and her efforts to protect the public’s health.
“It’s incumbent upon us to clearly communicate the roles and responsibilities to the various agencies,” he said, highlighting how city council voted unanimously to continue relying on the public health officer’s guidance. “And it’s our responsibility to implement and follow.”
Regarding the cross-border sewage issue, Bailey shared about the latest good news and how Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Andrew Wheeler visited San Diego recently and — alongside Coronado, Imperial Beach and San Diego officials — announced two fully funded, fast-acting projects to confront the problem. The projects will increase wastewater treatment of Tijuana river flows by 10 million gallons per day, implemented within weeks to months.
To accomplish this, Bailey shared on his Facebook page, the EPA is entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Boundary & Water Commission (IBWC) to divert additional water for treatment at the IBWC International Treatment Plant. The EPA is funding the operation’s design and construction.
Bailey added that from the very beginning the effort was a regional collaboration and supported by every Coronado elected official.
“This is a short-term fix that should mostly solve dry-weather flows,” he continued, “which is tremendous news for our region and continues the momentum of the regional stakeholder group from two years ago.”
The mayor elaborated how the $300 million secured is going to be used on a much larger-scale project that will divert about 90% of the sewage and reduce the amount of transboundary flow from around 130 days to about 20. He said there are engineering assessments being worked on, and the EPA’s shovel will be in the ground within 18 months.
“Near and long-term projects are all moving forward at a really great pace,” he said. “Our biggest responsibility will be to continue to lobby Congress for ongoing funding for operations and maintenance of facilities.”
When asked how the mayor of Coronado balances supporting community residential life with local business and tourism, he said his philosophy isn’t to treat the residential community and business community as if they’re two separate communities.
“Both of them make up the entire community,” he said, describing how Coronado isn’t whole without one as well as how many of the city’s residents are also local business owners or employees. “We really are one community, especially when you consider how much money the business community donates to our local causes. The vast majority of our businesses are ensuring Coronado is a great place to live forever.”
The mayor noted how council several years ago worked with the tourism district, Discover Coronado, to pursue more overnight guests and conventions, thus encouraging “low impact, high value guests.” He described how when the majority of visitors aren’t on day trips, there is less traffic and trash left behind as well as an increase in visitor spending.
“At the end of the day, the same reason people decide to move to Coronado is the same reason people decide to visit,” he said. “That’s something we should be proud of. It means we’re doing something well.”
When discussing the fiscal year 2021 community grants awarded at the July council meeting, Bailey said he’s “happy with the outcome, because as a city we’re very fortunate to be in a financial position where we can support our local nonprofits to a certain degree.”
He said when compared with other cities in California, the amount of support Coronado provides is greater on every objective measurement. He added how despite the big financial challenges the city is faced with, it’s still providing a significant amount of support; he recognizes not every organization is happy with the financial support received but from his perspective, the council made the best decision with the resources available.
On the topic of diversity and inclusion, Bailey said our objective as a community and as a city should be to treat each other based on content of character and nothing else.
“I think we’ve had a really good track record of that at the city,” he said. “We hire the best and brightest. Simply because they’re the best and brightest, and no other reason.”
When Bailey isn’t focused on running for mayor or being mayor, he spends his time literally running. He said he’s a very active person so he loves staying in motion, gaining a “clear mind” while doing his favorite things — trail running, swimming in La Jolla Cove and biking around the San Diego Bay.
In January he started teaching economics as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego and is returning to instruct in person — after teaching via Zoom — toward the end of the month. After growing up in La Mesa, Bailey moved to Coronado right after college and worked in corporate finance, manufacturing and consulting. He served on the city council from 2012-2016, at which point he ran for mayor and earned his first term.
When asked about his plans for the more distance future, the mayor responded:
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed representing Coronado for the last eight years. I look forward into the future, and if there’s an opportunity to represent Coronado at a high level, I would.”
Learn more about the mayor and his reelection campaign at RichardBailey.com.
Editor’s Note: This article was edited on Sept. 11 to show the money secured for the Tijuana sewage issue as $300 million.