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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Meagan Harmon on SB: 'This is a Moment for Us to Figure Out What We Want Our City to Be'

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

Amid an outbreak of political hostilities at City Hall, SB Councilmember Meagan Harmon tells Newsmakers that the harsh challenges of the coronavirus pandemic represent a unique opportunity to reimagine downtown and revamp the local economy.

"This is a moment for us to figure out what we want our city to be," the District 6 cpouncil representative said on Wednesday, in the latest in our series of Zoom Chats.

The emergency of the pandemic, which already is forecast to cost the city at least $30 million, coupled with chronic delays to move forward on a plan to revitalize State Street and downtown business, now have combined into an urgent need for City Hall to devise a coherent, long-term strategy for economic development.

One day after an unusually tense and volatile city council meeting that generated angry words and sharp exchanges, Harmon offered her perspective on the spate of interlocking policy and political conflicts that shape the broader debate and controversy. Among the issues:

  • The failure of city planners to move with urgency on a set of amendments to the Average Unit-Sized Density program, aimed at spurring housing development downtown.

  • The delay in an audit of the Community Development Department, whose tangled operations and byzantine workflows over permitting have frustrated developers, residents and councilmembers alike.

  • A clash between Mayor Cathy Murillo and councilmembers Alexandra Gutierriez and Oscar Gutierrez over the mayor's appointment of a new "Business Advisory Team" to help lead the city out of a pandemic-triggered recession, a move that also drew sharp criticism from State Street property owners and managers.

Sticking to her glass-half-full line, Harmon attributed the friction and antagonisms that surfaced at Tuesday's meeting to the "passion" that all the various personalities and parties in the disputes feel about the gargantuan task of getting the city back on track economically.

At a time when some prominent individuals in the business community are unhappy with the mayor over these and other matters, and looking for a candidate to challenge her re-election next year, we asked Meagan if she is considering such a move.

She told us she has ruled out a 2021 run for mayor.

You can see the full interview by clicking above...and the podcast version is here.

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