San Diego’s Future Mayors – Candidate Barbara Bry

by on March 22, 2019 · 3 comments

in Politics, San Diego

Editordude: Here’s the third installment of San Diego’s mayor: present, past, and future.  The subject of this one is mayoral candidate Barbara Bry.  One more to follow  …The opinions expressed here are of the author’s and do not reflect those of the OB Rag.

Mayoral candidate Barbara Bry (BB)

By Norma Damashek/ NumbersRunner / March 21, 2019

Here’s a fact: San Diego is a big small town in which–at one time or another–most everyone gets into bed with most everyone else (figuratively speaking, of course, but literally sometimes).

So when we question who’s got easy access to whom, we’re not just being nosy.  The in-and-outs of political bonding can tell us a lot about how political deals and decisions are made, or which way a vote will go.

That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on endorsements, business partners, personal associations, and so on.  Didn’t you learn this as a kid? birds of a feather… peas in a pod… lie down with dogs….

In a less complacent city than ours, alarm bells would be ringing over conflict-of-interest pairings that, here in San Diego, don’t even raise an eyebrow.

For example, there’s the domestic financial symbiosis between State Senator Toni Atkins, housing advocate and promoter of “smart growth” high-density development and spouse Jennifer LeSar, favored recipient of much-sought-after committee appointments and nonprofit housing contracts.  Clients of LeSar Development Consultants in our region include the SD Housing Commission, El Cajon Housing Authority, Monarch Group, and Affirmed Housing Group.

Then there’s the politically adventuresome dynamic duo of State Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez and her recent spouse County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.  Their double-fisted grip on the local Democratic Party facilitates who gets–or gets locked out of–crucial party funding and party endorsements.   Sometimes even who gets targeted for the trash bin.

Headed for the trash bin, according to this week’s headlines, is school board member Kevin Beiser.  He’s running for City Council against fellow-Democrat Wendy Wheatcroft, the founder of a nonprofit coalition called San Diegans for Gun Violence Protection who once exposed the fact that the National Rifle Association gave a high rating to Nathan Fletcher.

Shortly after it was created, her Gun Violence Protection nonprofit did a somersault and endorsed Nathan Fletcher for County Supervisor (are 501c-4 nonprofits free to publicly endorse candidates? I think not).

Wendy Wheatcroft–whose campaign treasurer previously worked on Fletcher’s mayoral campaign–has recently been gifted with an official endorsement by Gonzalez-Fletcher.  It’s a wide bed, after all.

As for Kevin Beiser… looks like he’s toast.  Maybe he deserves it.  Maybe not.  Maybe there are newsworthy others who will also be pulled down in this drama.  Maybe not.  Maybe one day we’ll know the whole story.  Probably not.  But as we already observed: most everyone’s a kissing cousin in our small big town.

Which brings us to the matter at hand–San Diego’s 2020 mayor’s race.
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Screen capture from official Bry website. https://www.sandiego.gov/citycouncil/cd1

At first glance, Barbara Bry could pass for the girl next door.  But look again—she’s no pushover.

Four decades ago BB was a business writer for the LA Times.  Between then and now she has immersed herself in the magical universe of venture capital, business innovation, and entrepreneurship.  It’s a high-stakes, risk-filled, public-private cosmos, populated by angels with wads of cash in search of biotech, biomed, software, wireless, and telecommunications jackpots—keepers of the keys to the kingdom yet to come.

BB has a business degree from Harvard. She was founding editor and CEO of the online news outlet Voice of San Diego and, later, of the aborted San Diego News Network.  Her company Blackbird Ventures invested in early stage technology companies. She created an organization called Run Women Run to inspire and train “pro-choice” women to enter political life.

Just two years ago she took her own advice and ran (successfully) to become San Diego councilmember in District 1.  Her self-identification as a business woman working to empower other women is her lucky token.  She’s tossing it into the ring in the bigger race for mayor.

BB has a couple of campaign advantages over her opponent Todd Gloria in the mayor’s contest.  First, her focus on business will bring a degree of support from Republican voters.  And second, her political record is thin.  While TG has to answer for a wart-filled record during eight years on the city council, BB’s paper trail is scant.  There’s not much to answer for.

Not to say that she’s blemish-free:

  • BB succumbed to the seductive lure of political sirens and, with barely half a council term under her belt, decided she was ready to take over the reins of city government and steer the future of San Diego…
  • BB falls back on hackneyed key words to define herself: fiscal discipline; tough decisions; stand up to special interests; fair treatment for all; comprehensive solutions; forward-looking leadership; uniter.  Also: problem-solving skills; entrepreneurial mindset; consensus builder; pragmatist…
  • BB has a campaign slogan: “I mean business.”  The question of voters is, whose business?  The Let’s-Run-Government-Like-a Business meme doesn’t translate well for ordinary citizens in the real world.  Private businesses frequently fail, dissolve, go bankrupt, or relocate overseas.  Entrepreneurs say they embrace failure, but failure is a luxury city government cannot afford…
  • BB has a history of cohabitation in the world of big-scale real estate development.  Her previous spouse was San Diego developer Pat Kruer–former California Coastal Commissioner and founding partner of Monarch Group, a private real estate entitlement, development, investment, and management firm.  BB’s daughter is a partner at the Monarch Group…
  • BB renewed her connections to the world of real estate development via her current husband and business partner Neil Senturia–successful real estate developer of office buildings, condominiums, and hotels in Los Angeles and San Diego and loquacious founder and CEO of numerous diverse technology companies: “I have the sense that, at some level, the concept of profit has become a dirty word, I’m resentful”…
  • BB’s fundraising network ranges from the city’s hi-tech/ bio-tech universe to more grounded sources like real estate developer Jennifer LeSar, the Ace Parking family (one of the city’s prime-site land owners and likely beneficiary of the proposed paid parking lot in Balboa Park, should the Jacobs Park Makeover Plan ever come to fruition), and Convention Center expansion cheerleader Bob Nelson…
  • BB was an early proponent of the San Diego’s 2010 switch from a city manager form of government to the current (and in urgent need of revision) strong mayor system…
  • BB supported the dubious switch of the city’s pension plan to a 401(k) plan.  The Supreme Court has just thrown our costly pension mess back to the city to resolve. It’s a hot potato that no city official wants to touch.  The next mayor may have to…
  • BB’s chief of staff is Jamie Fox.  She was previously deputy chief of staff for convicted-and-later-acquitted councilmember Ralph Inzunza…then director of communications for ex-councilmember Kevin Faulconer…then campaign manager and chief of staff for Todd Gloria throughout the roiling days of Bob Filner’s tenure in the mayor’s office.  Now that her new boss BB is running against TG in the mayor’s race, is it unreasonable to speculate on latent conflicts of interest in her heart-of-hearts?…
  • BB’s chief policy staffer is Victoria Joes.  She was policy advisor for Mayor Jerry Sanders and director of housing policy at the well-connected firm of Jennifer LeSar Development Consultants.  It’s a small world, after all…
  • BB calls herself a business-savvy decisionmaker.  But cheerleading for SDSU’s open-ended expansion dreams for Mission Valley–a vision that entails a new stadium, thousands of housing units, office buildings, research facilities, magically created at no cost to taxpayers or students–is premature, at best…
  • BB lends her name to what looks like a bad business plan for the Mission Valley-SDSU (No city control over basic details. No bottom line about the price the city will accept for the sale of this coveted public land. No binding environmental agreements. No heads-up about traffic impacts. No assurances about creating the promised River Park. No timelines. No definition of “key deal points.” No financial guarantees).  It enhances BB’s claim as a risk taker but could undermine her standing as a protector of the public interest…
  • BB prided herself for having “confidence” to stand up to the mayor by opposing the “Soccer City” development proposal on the site of Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley and supporting the alternative SDSU West ballot initiative (which won voter approval).  But neither proposal passed the smell test.  Wouldn’t a good mayor have opposed both ballot choices and gotten to work on a comprehensive public planning process?…
  • BB’s support for the expansion of the downtown Convention Center falls into the same category.  A good mayor would be wise to be skeptical about who the ultimate beneficiaries will be—the tourism industry? or the public footing the bill…
  • BB’s leadership role as a city councilmember is being squashed by the mayor and council cohorts.  She joined fellow Democrats in calling for a national search for a new police chief and had to settle for a secret selection process and in-house appointee by the mayor.  She took the lead on regulating short-term vacation rentals and was sabotaged.  She stepped forward to regulate dockless scooters and was cast aside by the mayor and councilmember Mark Kersey.   She gets scant support from the new contingent of “minority” women now on the city council…
  • BB went along with council decisions on granny flats, reduced parking requirements (she subsequently reversed her stand), and the mayor’s loosey-goosey proposal for a Community Choice Aggregation (energy) business plan.  She shows she can be a team player.  Can she develop the political clout to call more of the shots?…

Could it be that BB hasn’t yet gotten her political sea legs?  Could it be that she hasn’t yet figured out San Diego’s political universe?  Could it be that her trusted advisors aren’t doing a good enough job looking out for her strategic and political interests?

The primary election for mayor is one year down the road.  Is there time for Barbara Bry to grow? Spread her wings? Expand her scope? Be a risk taker by speaking truth to San Diego voters? Emerge as a multi-dimensional public-minded political leader?
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Our final installment looks at mayoral candidate Cory Briggs.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Lorena March 23, 2019 at 6:40 am

Norma, your insinuations are disgusting. But, I’ll leave your fantasy described as commentary alone. Please, though, show me where you came up with this non-fact:
“Wendy Wheatcroft…has recently been gifted with an official endorsement by Gonzalez-Fletcher.” It, like most your writing, is completely fabricated and stated as a fact. Please stop.

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Avatar Wendy Wheatcroft March 26, 2019 at 7:11 am

It’s disappointing to see that the author of this story has chosen to focus more on salacious gossip than actual facts. For a start, the organization that I founded is called San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention, not Protection.
But that’s just the start. The organization did not make any official endorsement of Nathan Fletcher during the last election cycle. However, even if it had have done, that wouldn’t have been an issue. First, SD4GVP only became a 501(c)(4) organization after our candidate commentary had been made, and at the time did not have any official designation. Also, just doing a small amount of primary research instead of focusing on hearsay would have revealed that 501(c)(4) organizations are indeed allowed to endorse candidates https://ballotpedia.org/501(c)(4).
Last, while I would certainly be honored to receive an endorsement from Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, this has never been offered or even discussed. It seems like there are some in the San Diego political community who hold a personal grudge for Nathan Fletcher winning the County Supervisor seat. Instead of moving on, they have decided to air their grievances by attempting to smear those that supported his campaign.

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Avatar Norma Damashek March 27, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Wendy Wheatcroft – your work to pull together San Diego’s gun violence prevention groups under one umbrella is a very worthy endeavor and I regret having misnamed your new organization. The appropriate correction has been made in my commentary.

Now that SD4GVP is officially incorporated as a 501©4 nonprofit, I would suggest you look more closely at the pertinent tax code stipulations about public political endorsements by nonprofits — just to be on the safe side.

Of course. when you receive an endorsement re. your city council race from Assemblymember Gonzalez, those particular tax provisions will not apply.

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