Name: Steve Francis
Occupation: Executive chairman of AMN Healthcare, a nationwide provider of traveling nurses
Education: University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Family: Wife, Gayle and two children
What is your stand on the debate over selling public assets as a way to ease the city’s financial problems?
I think that selling off San Diego’s landmarks and precious assets would be a mistake and should only be done as a last resort. We need to address the core problem in our city government, which is wasteful spending. I have presented a comprehensive plan which would reduce government bureaucracy by 8 percent to 10 percent, reduce the politicians’ perks, pay, and budgets 20 percent, and would roll back the illegal pension benefits. These savings would go a long way toward solving our fiscal crisis and keeping us out of bankruptcy court, where a judge would decide what is best for San Diegans.
The unions have come under fire as a major cause of the city’s financial state. What is your position?
Both the City Council and the unions are to blame for the mess in City Hall. The pension scandal has demonstrated that the special interests have asked for too much, and the City Council has given it to them. We need an outsider who is willing to stand up to the special interests and set a tone at the top.
Is bankruptcy a viable solution to the city’s troubles?
No. Bankruptcy is the easy way out for the politicians, but not for the people of San Diego. Bankruptcy will place the future of San Diego in the hands of a bankruptcy judge, whose interests will differ greatly from the people of San Diego. My plan will turn San Diego around and keep us out of bankruptcy.
What would you do to prevent a repeat of the pension crisis? And how do you plan to solve the $1.7 billion deficit in the city’s pension fund?
I will pursue every legal option available to roll back the illegal pension benefits. I support City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s recent efforts to get this matter into the courts and believe it is the right thing to do. As mayor, I will downsize and rightsize the bloated bureaucracy in order to get this city functioning efficiently again.
Should the city spend more on marketing San Diego as a tourist destination?
San Diego is an ideal destination, with its beautiful beaches and year-round warm climate. Tourism is the third largest generator of revenue for the city behind manufacturing and military, with 26.7 million visitors in 2004. Last year, visitors spent about $5.5 billion in San Diego. Tourism is critical to our success; however, our city is in a financial crisis that needs to be resolved before we spend any additional funding.
How would you address the issue of affordable housing?
Next to the pension issue, housing is one of the top issues I will focus on as mayor. San Diego will need 18,000 additional homes per year just to keep up with demand for the next 10 years. I will work to streamline the process for home production, while working closely with each community leader to preserve the character of each community.
Where do you think a new airport should be located, if at all?
A world-class city like San Diego needs a world-class airport. There is no doubt that Lindbergh Field currently does not have enough capacity for our future growth; therefore, we need to evaluate our needs. I am interested in reviewing the advisory board’s upcoming recommendation on a possible new airport or expansion of Lindbergh Field before making any decisions.
Is the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. doing a good job of bringing new business to San Diego?
Yes. As a board member of the EDC, I believe that the organization is doing an excellent job of promoting San Diego to the national business community, as well as advocating issues that are important to businesses here in San Diego. My wife and I came to San Diego 18 years ago to start a business and raise a family, and my hope is that my children are able to stay in San Diego to do the same.