San Diego City Council, Day One: New Faces, Old Politics

by on December 14, 2016 · 4 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Election, History, Homelessness, Labor, Politics, San Diego

san-diego-city-council-chambersBy Doug Porter

Love rescue me, come forth and speak to me,” lyrics from a Bob Dylan/U2 song, echoed across Horton Plaza as current and newly-elected city officials, including the mayor, city council and city attorney, streamed into the Balboa Theater on Monday, Dec. 12th.

The Voices of Our City Choir, most of whom are homeless, were there serving as a reminder of the inhumane practices that are the end result of years of neglect, greed, and incompetence in local government.

Speakers at the People’s Inaugural, representing the voices of the dispossessed and downtrodden, called out for Emergency Humanitarian Action, urging the Mayor to suspend the ticketing, arrest of, and stay away orders for unsheltered homeless San Diegans.

city council

In a truly compassionate city, the Voices of the City choir would have been inside

From KPBS:

“We demand that the mayor end these inhumane practices,” said Steph Johnson, the choir’s co-director. “And that Mayor Faulconer do so as an emergency humanitarian action until permanent and safe housing is provided to every San Diegan in need of shelter.”

A growing number of homeless people are sleeping in tents that line city blocks. A recent count by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless showed more than 1,100 people sleep on sidewalks and parks in downtown. But a city ordinance makes it illegal to block a sidewalk or street — whether it’s to sleep there, pitch a tent or park a cart.

Choir members argue they have no other choice because shelters are full and waiting lists for permanent housing units are years long.

Heartfelt Voices United founder Suzanne Morse spoke out about violence against women. A flyer passed out at the event pointed out that only 4% of the hundreds of sexual assault reports are referred for prosecution; that 2800 untested rape kits are sitting in police department property lockers, and questioned what they called the culture of rape in the PD’s sex crimes division.

From the Union-Tribune:

sdinaug2

Rev Shane Harris: “Use your leaderships and your guts, and stand up for what’s right.”

“I came here before I go into the city’s inauguration to join the people inauguration,” said the Rev. Shane Harris, founder and president of the National Action Network San Diego. “I want those City Council members and this new administration coming in to know that they may be getting inaugurated today, but tomorrow, we’re going to be right back at it, holding them accountable…”

…Much of Harris’s comments focused on police accountability and a recently released San Diego State University report that found black and Latino drivers are more likely to be searched after being pulled over by police officers.

“Something is wrong with that, and we want immediate action from Mayor Faulconer and Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman,” Harris said. “Use your leaderships and your guts, and stand up for what’s right.”

The group pointed out that Measure G, addressing changes in oversight for the San Diego Police Department, was approved by 82% of voters; that there was racial bias evident in the practices of local law enforcement, and noted the region is in 10th place nationally in the number people killed by police on a per capita basis.

City Council

Jeeni Crescenzo, founder of Amikas, spoke about the City Council’s obstruction of small temporary houses for the homeless

Additionally, they called on the city to oppose potential federal efforts to intervene in matters of immigration, religious affiliation and the construction of ineffective border infrastructure.

Inside the Balboa Theater, there was excitement in the air as many were there to witness the oaths of office for newcomers Georgette Gomez, Christopher Ward and Barbara Bry on the Council and Mara Elliott for San Diego City Attorney.

Councilmen Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman, along with Mayor Kevin Faulconer, took the oath of office for their second terms after being re-elected in June.

Kumbaya, Promises Made

Barbara Bry, who replaces Sheri Lightner in District One, promised to work to share the prosperity from the north coast’s high-tech industry to the rest of the city.

District Three’s Chris Ward, who stopped by the People’s Inaugural on the way to the Balboa Theater, told the audience that housing was a big priority. “For far too many San Diegans right now, buying a home or affording rent is completely out of reach, If we aren’t focused on that as local leaders, we’re wasting our time on everything else.”

Marti Emerald’s replacement in District Nine, Georgette Gomez, told the audience her priority would be bringing San Diego’s underserved neighborhoods up to par with the rest of the city after decades of neglect.

From KUSI:

Two of the three new members decided to criticize President-Elect Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

The remarks critical of Trump were in a letter from Chris Ward and Georgette Gomez to the council on November 30th and restate in their inaugural speeches.

“With the election of Donald Trump, San Diego faces a challenge unknown in our life times to protect our values and our communities,” Ward said.

“I joined with my colleague to demand our city to step up the efforts to oppose the new presidents efforts to demonize and deport or criminalize our immigrant community,” Gomez said.

City CouncilNewly elected City Attorney Mara Elliot had a list of priorities, starting with holding town hall style meetings, cracking down on hate crimes, enforcing labor laws, and improving consumer protections.

San Diego’s first female city attorney told the audience, “We will ensure that employers follow our minimum wage and earned sick leave laws that help working families and lift people out of poverty.”

I simply loved Sara Libby’s account of Mayor Faulconer’s appearance at the Balboa Theater, as told in the VOSD Morning Report:

At the ceremony, Faulconer gave a campaign speech for gov … oops, I mean a speech to kick off his new term as mayor. Faulconer said his big priorities moving forward will include implementing the Climate Action Plan, and addressing homelessness and affordable housing.

And don’t be surprised if you see this Faulconer line in his ads for gov … sorry, I mean in press releases about his regular ol’ job as mayor: “Our nation needs a little San Diego style bipartisanship now more than ever.”

Getting Down and Dirty

Later in the day, the city council held their first meeting. The first order of business was the selection of a new council president. The selection of Democrat Myrtle Cole came as a surprise to exactly nobody, the deal having been made weeks ago.

Most of the speakers during the public comment portion of the afternoon spoke in favor of selecting David Alvarez, calling the District 8 Councilman as a progressive leader.

District One Councilwoman Barbara Bry crossed party lines and joined with the Republicans on the council to vote for Cole. Councilpersons Ward (D3) and Gomez (D9) supported Alvarez.

Much has been made in the local press about union leader Mickey Kasparian supporting Myrtle Cole in unison with Mayor Faulconer. There’s bad blood between Alvarez and the Labor Council President, who supported the District 8 Councilman’s run for Mayor in 2014.

Alvarez funded a slate of candidates for the party’s Central Committee, which votes on official party endorsements, against a slate backed by Kasparian.

Alvarez slate flyer as posted in VOSD article.

Alvarez slate flyer as posted in VOSD article.

What made this controversial was $10,000 in support for the winning Alvarez slate from a company owned by former Port Commissioner David Malcolm, who is now the chairman of the Lincoln Club’s Political Affairs Committee.

The Lincoln Club has funded some of the nastiest attack ads–including one aimed at Alvarez in 2014–against candidates backed by organized labor. For Kasparian, Alvarez accepting their backing amounted to a betrayal.

From Voice of San Diego:

“I’m very disappointed, quite frankly, that he’s showing a general lack of loyalty to the people who stood by him and supported him — walked precincts, made phone calls and spent a lot of free time trying to get him elected mayor,” Kasparian said.

The larger picture involved in the intraparty dispute is a long-standing division between factions in the South County.

Alvarez has political ambitions running counter to those of another group’s (symbolized by State Senator Ben Hueso) ideas about the make-up of the future Board of Supervisors.

It’s been reported in local media that support for Cole vs Alvarez in the contest for City Council President amounted to a split between San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council and the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council. The truth is more complicated.

First of all, the Trades are part of the Labor Council. Some of the local reporting makes it seem as they are separate groups.

Alvarez also had the support of Local 1931 of the American Federation of Teachers, the city workers via AFSCME Local 127 and the San Diego Education Association, which represents teachers in San Diego Unified. Other delegations were split.

Some other big unions weren’t present at the Labor Council meeting where Cole’s endorsement came down. I’ve been told about one-third of the council showed up for the holiday meeting.

The support for Alvarez boiled down to how aggressively progressive the next City Council President will be.

Carol Kim, political director for the Trades Council, told Voice of San Diego:

“We are in the business of driving a progressive agenda, and we support people who tell us that they support that too,” said Carol Kim, political director for the group. “We’re pushing for a Democratic majority that pushes a Democratic agenda, an actual platform that is cohesive in scope, not piecemeal and reactionary.”

Mickey Kasparian, who at that point wasn’t openly committed to Cole, was quoted in the same article:

“The Council president is going to be a Democrat, but it should have a relationship with the mayor’s office,” Kasparian said. “There’s nothing wrong with working with the mayor’s office. It shouldn’t be someone who constantly kills stuff, dismantles stuff, or says, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ We need compromise.”

Following the vote, the losing side issued statements pledging unity moving forward. Winner Myrtle Cole told KPBS’s Andrew Bowen she was “absolutely” ready to stand up to the mayor when necessary.

Community activists, on the other hand, continued to express their displeasure on social media following the vote. There is residual anger at Cole over statements she made during the course of a hearing on police bias referring to “Black on Black” crime, a phrase favored by conservatives that some feel is racist. Alvarez has championed causes dear to many progressives.

The Council Agenda: Another Stadium Deal?

Qualcomm Stadium

Qualcomm Stadium fot $1 a year????

(Photograph © Minerva Vazquez/Wikimedia)

This morning’s news was not encouraging when it came to city council priorities moving forward.

Numerous outlets are reporting on a letter signed by four city council members offering San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos a lease of $1 a year for 99 years for the Qualcomm Stadium site as a starting point for negotiations for a new stadium.

From ESPN:

“The hour is late, and the time to find a stadium solution is getting dangerously short,” the letter started.

The last two paragraphs read: “Before leaving 60 years of tradition and loyal fans, let’s give one last concerted effort to come to the table and hammer this out face to face, working together toward a common goal of keeping the NFL in America’s Finest City. If we fail to come to an agreement, at least we will know that nothing was left untested and we can part ways knowing that we gave it our all.

“We ask that the Chargers give San Diego fans another chance.”

It will be signed by Sherman, Chris Cate, new council president Myrtle Cole and Lorie Zapf.

Let’s see… a football stadium versus bold actions on the affordable housing crisis… which should it be? Really? What part of “No” don’t these council critters understand?

In that context, I’m looking at the Mayor’s first press release including the City Council with a bit of a stink-eye.

As part of his ongoing efforts to encourage economic growth and jobs so all San Diego neighborhoods can succeed, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer today will be joined by Council President Myrtle Cole, Councilmembers Chris Cate and Barbara Bry, and community leaders to call on the City Council to approve $2.5 million in funding that will spur business development, provide job training and improve urban spaces.

The money would come from San Diego Regional Enterprise Zone funds, which was a California-sponsored business tax credit program to support economic and work force development initiatives. That program was terminated in 2013 but allowed businesses to continue to apply for funding during 2014. When the program ended, there remained administrative revenue that could be used to support local economic initiatives. The Mayor is recommending the $2.5 million in remaining funding go toward eight initiatives that support the City’s economic and workforce development goals.

Blah, blah, blah.

Can we get the Voices of the City choir back up again to remind these folks what’s really important?

Some Good News

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Excerpt from Doug’s daily column at San Diego Free Press.

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Martha Sullivan December 14, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Hear, HEAR!

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Avatar Martha Sullivan December 14, 2016 at 6:54 pm
Avatar triggerfinger December 15, 2016 at 1:35 pm

It sounds like the council is more concerned about serving illegal immigrants than their homeless constituents.

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