San Diego’s Future Mayors – Part 2

by on March 14, 2019 · 4 comments

in Politics, San Diego

Assemblyman Todd Gloria at a OB Town Council meeting, 3/28/18. Photo by Frank Gormlie

Mayoral candidate Todd Gloria (TG)

Editordude: The opinions expressed in the following post are of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the OB Rag.

The second of a 4-part series (Part 1) Part One was on Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

By Norma Damashek/ NumbersRunner / March 14, 2019

Origin stories are the rage nowadays, but do they make one person intrinsically more worthy than another?  Do they reliably predict the abilities, values, ethical yardstick, or qualifications a person develops over the years?

Take Todd Gloria, for example. You may already have a mental image of him as a likable, winsome, up-and-coming kind of guy.  He self-identifies as a gay person of color: ½ Alaskan tribal- native American, 1/4 Filipino, a tad Dutch, and a touch Latino (Puerto Rican), nestled in a home-grown man from an economically disadvantaged background.

In other words, our man for all seasons.

TG was elected as heir apparent to the District 3 seat of the San Diego City Council following a particularly nasty primary battle against opponent Stephen Whitburn (who’s running once again).  The LGBTQ baton was passed to him by Toni Atkins, who had received it from Chris Kehoe.

At the end of their respective terms, Kehoe, Atkins, and then Gloria advanced to the CA State Assembly.  Kehoe and Atkins eventually mounted the next rung to CA State Senate.  Not TG.  He’s been hankering after Susan Davis’s seat in the US Congress but she hasn’t budged.  He’s termed out as an assemblymember.  So it’s back to San Diego to run for mayor.

That’s not to say that being mayor hasn’t been on TG’s mind for a while.  He clearly enjoyed–and made the most of–his 6-month stint as San Diego’s interim mayor, a post he held in 2013 following his dubious partnership with former City Attorney Jan Goldsmith during the orchestrated undoing of Mayor Bob Filner.

That wasn’t the only odd coupling in the saga of Filner’s election as mayor (although it was the most toxic).  TG’s domestic partner Jason Barsi had hooked up professionally with the mayoral campaign of Filner’s Republican opponent Bonnie Dumanis.

Meantime, the high school daughter of not-yet assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez made a surprisingly sizable campaign contribution to Nathan Fletcher, at that time also one of Filner’s Republican opponents.  Fletcher’s budding relationship with Gonzalez was already bearing fruit.

(Targeted from the start by presumed Democratic allies, the hapless super-liberal Bob Filner never stood a chance.  But that’s a story for another day.)

In today’s mayoral race, here’s what distinguishes TG from his opponents: TG is a seasoned city politician who has already captured early support among Democratic Party regulars, labor unions, the hotel industry, and major developers.

The assortment of power-brokers and lobbyists in his corner is impressive.  Financial backers include hoteliers Bill Evans, C. Terry Brown, and Richard Bartell, SeaWorld, Sempra Energy, Ace Parking, Cox Communications, Cush Enterprises, CA Association of Realtors, CA Building Industry Association, Chevron, CA State Building & Construction Trades Council, OliverMcMillan, and–recently in the news–private prison contractors doing business with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

But there’s a flip side to being a seasoned city politician.   After two terms as city councilmember TG left a paper trail, a political record, for all to see.  Once you refresh your memory about his time on the city council you’ll be faced with a thorny question: would TG make a good mayor, anyway… despite much of his recorded performance?

As councilmember:

  • TG engineered the establishment of the Balboa Park Conservancy, whose mission is to raise funds to maintain and improve the park (Balboa Park is in TG’s council district).  But the Conservancy stumbled, sputtered, and languished under his negligent supervision…
  • TG defied 1) public objections, 2) a lawsuit brought by Cory Briggs, and 3) strong opposition from incoming mayor Bob Filner by forging ahead with an unprecedented 40-year lease extension to the Bahia Hotel in Mission Bay, owned by financial backer Bill Evans…
  • TG actively supported the Qualcomm/Irwin Jacobs makeover plan in Balboa Park for a bypass bridge and city-financed paid parking lot.  Filner opposed the plan and, after becoming mayor, took steps to create a pedestrian friendly Plaza de Panama by eliminating surface parking spots…

As council president:

  • TG chafed mightily under Bob Filner’s ascendency as San Diego’s progressive new mayor.  The two engaged in a fierce public rivalry over who was the city’s rightful top dog…
  • TG conspired with the City Attorney to deny legal support to Bob Filner, an underhanded and unethical tactic to force the mayor to resign or face bankruptcy…
  • TG climbed to the top of the bandwagon in support of public funding for the Convention Center expansion…
  • TG sidestepped honest analysis of the San Diego worker pension morass, replicating evasive practices of previous city councils to conceal damaging budget impacts from public view…
  • TG improperly pressured a city planner (according to court documents) to reverse report findings over a disputed expansion of the Academy of our Lady of Peace, a private religious school.  This unethical manipulation cost the city more than half a million dollars in legal settlement fees…

As interim mayor:

  • TG used his 6-month stint as interim mayor to speedily reverse, undo, and overturn numerous decisions and processes put into place by the elected Mayor Filner…
  • TG put up roadblocks to renegotiating improved terms for the city regarding a tourism marketing deal with San Diego hoteliers, dismantling Filner’s early efforts…
  • TG overstepped his job description as temporary mayor and hired consultant Stephen Goldsmith to reorganize city government.  Goldsmith was an “efficiency expert” in privatizing government services and in the sale of city functions to the private sector…
  • TG promptly rehired two lobbying firms, previously rejected by ex-mayor Filner but favored by Jerry Sanders and the Chamber of Commerce.  Peculiar choices for a progressive politician…
  • TG rescinded a stop-use order issued by ex-Mayor Filner to prevent zoning code violations by the neighborhood restaurant chain Jack in the Box.  In doing so he overstepped his authority as interim caretaker, turned his back on North Park residents, and reassured big-business backers…
  • TG reversed a program–previously funded by Mayor Filner–to keep shelters open year-round, thus impeding the city’s ability to provide emergency shelters as needed.  Closing cold weather shelters eventually led to a deadly outbreak of Hepatitis A just a few years later…

More as councilmember:

  • TG boldly claimed credit for promoting a much-sought after minimum wage law—an ordinance that had, months earlier, been achieved for contractors doing work for the city by then-Mayor Filner.  In a bizarre twist, TG negotiated worse terms by scaling back the wage increase from Filner’s $13/hour to $11/hour.  Who had the last laugh on this one?…
  • TG claimed authorship of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, which must come as a big surprise to the plan originator Nicole Capretz, who had coordinated with ex-Mayor Filner…
  • TG dropped the ball in creating San Diego’s Balboa Park Centennial Celebration, which was to be a spectacular citywide festival.  Through failed leadership and lack of oversight it landed as a disastrous flop.  TG promptly blamed ousted Mayor Filner for having unduly raised expectations…

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s this: bad things happen to a city under bad leadership and bad management.   Next time around we need a good mayor.

So the question for voters remains: is Todd Gloria’s proliferation of political warts–scattered across many unexpected places–a dependable indicator of what we can expect from him in the future?  Nobody’s perfect.  The question is, would he be good enough?

Our next installment looks at mayoral candidate Barbara Bry.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page March 14, 2019 at 3:18 pm

I’d like to add another thing Gloria did. I discovered that Gloria appointed Robet Vacchi to head the Development Services Department. Vacchi was a former city employee who went to law school and then went to work for an aggressive land us law firm downtown. Then, he came back to the city as head of the DSD. That was a disaster, the assault on the 30-foot height limit began along with a lot of other changes that benefited developers. I was so amazed that I emailed Gloria’s office to ask him why he did this. It took three emails to even get a response and what I got was a political response that said nothing. I concluded that Gloria did it to appease the development community. He may be a Democrat, but I would never vote for him based on his actual behavior, the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. What Norma has detailed here solidified that opinion. No one is perfect but this guy is less than perfect.


Mat Wahlstrom March 14, 2019 at 10:15 pm

To many of us in the LGBTQ community, it’s also worth remembering how Gloria as councilmember used his identity as a gay man to shield himself from criticism for these actions against our community:

* He spearheaded the effort to sell the Truax House, one of the first AIDS hospices in the nation and which was designated for historic preservation, to a private developer.

* He was implicated in the illegal demolition without consequence of the Michels-Carey House, where the first LGBT community center in San Diego was founded and which was designated for historic preservation, by a developer donor to his campaign.

* He eliminated the proposed Hillcrest Historic District, which would have been one of the first in the nation with an LGBTQ context, from the Uptown Community Plan Update, in favor of a specific plan to enrich private property owners at the expense of protections.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”


Norma Damashek March 15, 2019 at 11:21 am

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Good idea.

Todd G is in the news today with a Sunshine Week measure requiring public agencies to keep emails for at least two years

But when he took over as interim mayor he was quick to use his newfound power to issue a city policy to delete city emails older than one year


Mat Wahlstrom March 15, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Don’t forget that Gloria also used his personal email account to get around public records requirements, then put taxpayers on the hook to pay for defending him,

Best I can tell, he’s happy now to require emails be kept for at least two years, because apparently what he learned from all this was to stop sending them.

In the wake of all the ways Gloria betrayed community with the Uptown Community Plan Update besides the Hillcrest Historic District (such as selling “CPIOZ” as limiting building heights but knowing it would be interpreted as eliminating height restrictions — as the City did with the 6th & Olive project in Bankers Hill, and violating CEQA by going from “plan to plan” not “ground to plan”), I made a CPRA request to find out what Gloria talked about and with whom,

You can search the 580 pages of redundant emails and meeting notices released, and not find one word from Gloria himself. So was he not “responsive” as the law required, or has he decided to game the system?


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