‘We must dare to be great’

Posted: January 17th, 2014 | Communities, Downtown, From the Cover, News, Top Story | No Comments

Gloria lays out his vision for creating an even finer city

Morgan M. Hurley | SDUN Assistant Editor

In his first — and presumably last — State of the City address, Interim Mayor Todd Gloria delivered a passionate, inclusive and admittedly ambitious speech, as chartered on Wednesday, January 15, to a standing room only crowd at Downtown’s Balboa Theatre.

Interim Mayor Todd Gloria gives the State of the City address at Balboa Theatre on Jan. 15 (Photo by Morgan Hurley)

Interim Mayor Todd Gloria gives the State of the City address at Balboa Theatre on Jan. 15 (Photo by Morgan Hurley)

People from all walks of life attended the public event and the loud buzz throughout the historic theater while everyone socialized and found their seats was noticeably positive.

Council President Pro Tem Sherri Lightner called the “special meeting of the San Diego City Council to order” at 6 p.m.

In her opening remarks, Lightner introduced her city council colleagues seated behind her; Kevin Faulconer, Myrtle Cole, Mark Kersey, Lori Zapf, Scott Sherman, David Alvarez and Marti Emerald. She also introduced city staff members also seated on stage; City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, COO Scott Chadwick, Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin and City Clerk Elizabeth Maland, who also gave the invocation.

One by one, each councilmember then took a turn at the podium to assist in introducing the many distinguished guests present for the address, which included past and present elected officials, leaders of the local military bases and representatives from several international communities, many from Tijuana.

Many children from local communities then also became part of the annual event, with the JROTC Color Guard of Madison High School presenting the colors, Girl Scout Troop #3854 leading the Pledge of Allegiance and Melanie Jiminez singing the National Anthem, before Lightner returned to introduce the interim mayor.

While introducing the gentleman who as Council President was automatically tapped — by virtue of the City Charter — to take the reigns last August 30 when former mayor Bob Filner resigned, Lightner made it clear that she felt Gloria had been “the right person at the right time” to inherit the job.

“With a clear vision for what our city needs, a firm hand on the wheel, a collaborative hands-on style and a dedicated team working to rebuild trust in our city government, this smart and selfless elected official graciously assumed the top executive position and engaged — engaged us all — in the recovery effort,” Lightner said.

“He is more than our mayor. He is more than a councilmember or a City Council President. He is a true statesman,” she said.

Lighter then asked those gathered to not only welcome Gloria, but thank him for leading the city these last four and a half months.

And thank him they did, with a resounding standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

With the complete City Council — including two mayoral candidates who will face-off for his job in a few short weeks — and other City of San Diego executives sitting behind him, Gloria kept his speech on point and on time.

He did not spend much time on the circumstances surrounding his elevation to the mayorship, and never even mentioned his predecessor’s name. Instead he spoke of the greatness of San Diego now and in the future.

Gloria started with three critical areas he said he identified last August, that he felt necessary to get the city back on track; he also listed the many victories and accomplishments that have occurred during his short tenure in office. He laid out an ambitious plan for the city’s future, which as Council President and District Three Councilmember, he will still have a hand in once a new mayor is elected on February 11.

He described those three initial objectives as getting what he called the “machinery of government” working again in a timely, effective and efficient manner; restoring confidence in the city — as both a home and destination — and the city’s leaders again; and rebuilding the morale and pride of the city’s workforce.

Before launching into specifics, he thanked those same city workers for helping him deliver on the first two critical objectives and asked the dozens present in the audience to stand for public appreciation.

He also thanked his parents, also in attendance, for establishing his work ethic and teaching him “if I care about something, I should leave it better than I found it.” Gloria claimed this lesson has not only guided him throughout life, but has especially resonated with him since becoming mayor.

“I’ve tried to approach the responsibility that comes with the Office of the Mayor with one over-riding goal: doing what is best for San Diego,” he said. “We will leave our city better than we found it.”

Using the new Downtown Central Library — which opened early in his short tenure — as a metaphor, Gloria gave listeners a peek at his ambitions for the City.

“The library is a road map for San Diego to follow as we chart our path to the future,” he said. “Built with unprecedented collaboration, its soaring heights and breathtaking architecture remind us of the need to dream big, and the importance of working hard to accomplish those dreams.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we must dream big”, he said. “San Diego will always be America’s Finest City, but we shouldn’t be content with just being fine. We must dare to be great.”

The speech was positive and full of promise, with plenty of good news regarding the City’s financial outlook, plans for expansions in infrastructure, the convention center, and public transportation, as well as attracting more innovation and technology businesses to the region and more.

“Make no mistake; none of this will be easy,” he said. “Nothing worth doing ever is. This is part of our effort to leave this place better than we found it, and it’s an effort worth making.”

The address was a stark contrast to the state of the city just six short months ago, when the controversies and scandals surrounding then mayor Bob Filner had not only created a crisis locally, but even turned the City of San Diego into both late night and cable network news fodder.

“San Diegans aren’t looking for miracles,” Gloria said. “You’re looking for responsible, responsive leaders focused on providing basic public services effectively and efficiently. You want us to work together to solve problems. We hear you. And we have only just begun to provide the kind of government you deserve.”

For a complete transcript of the 2014 State of the City address, visit

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