The Future Mayors of San Diego : Candidate Cory Briggs

by on March 27, 2019 · 5 comments

in San Diego

Cory Briggs at a Point Loma Democratic Club event. Photo by Judi Curry.

Here’s the fourth installment of Norma Damashek’s series, “San Diego’s mayor: present, past, and future.” The subject of this one is mayoral candidate Cory Briggs. Here’s Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

The opinions expressed here are of the author’s and do not reflect those of the OB Rag.

Mayoral candidate Cory Briggs (CB)

by Norma Damashek / NumbersRunner / March 26, 2019

Once upon a time in the city of San Diego a much-heralded and wondrous happening took place.

From a crowded field of mayoral candidates (including three sturdy Republicans–Nathan Fletcher, Bonnie Dumanis, Carl DeMaio), voters chose to elect a brash, iconoclastic, independent, politically progressive Democrat to become the city’s mayor.

That person was Bob Filner.  It was the first and only time in recorded history that an authentic liberal came to power in San Diego.

Personally, he was a flawed agent.  Politically, his record was clean.  But before the public had a chance to see what our city could become with progressive-minded people in charge, he was run out of town.

Today there’s another brash, iconoclastic, (seemingly) independent, (sort of) politically progressive candidate running for mayor of San Diego.  His name is Cory Briggs.  Over the past couple of decades, attorney Briggs has been laboring at loosening the stranglehold of San Diego’s old-boys-club over city politics.

In an ironic twist to this tempestuous tale, the former-mayor Filner was in the process of confronting the same entrenched powerbrokers before he was ejected from office.

In another ironic twist, CB and TG–the two politically liberal male candidates now running for mayor–were pivotal participants (alongside fellow-travelers who lurked behind a lineup of outraged women and powerful business interests) in the friendly fire that brought down the aforementioned ex-mayor, who lacked a civilian army capable of advancing his cause or of defending him from the onslaught.  Depending on what is really motivating CB to run for mayor, he, too, may be vulnerable to similar deadly assaults.

Cory Briggs website

It’s a hot potato.  Before we drop it, there are a few related questions that still need honest answers from the candidate:

  • Filner’s personal proclivities were not an area of concern for CB.  So what triggered CB’s lethal attack?
  • Was CB (like Todd Gloria) suffering the agonies of thwarted personal ambition, having been spurned by the new mayor?
  • Or might it be that CB was simply doing friends a political favor by getting rid of this mayor in order to speed up Nathan Fletcher’s second attempt to take over the vacated mayor’s seat?
  • Whatever the motivation, was CB’s choice to overthrow the mayor a rational decision?
  • When he and his partners held a press conference to call for the mayor’s resignation, did anyone have a backup plan?  Or did CB spontaneously mount the diving board, hold his nose, and jump… to hell with the consequences?

In other words, what can we deduce about the political judgment of a mayoral candidate who helped precipitate Plan A (a palace coup) without a Plan B (after storming the Bastille, what comes next)?  After all, coups have consequences.

Keep this in mind: in the aftermath of the political crusade to bring down a duly-elected mayor, the city suffered six years of failed leadership, deteriorating public services across the city, and a score of needless deaths on the streets.

Does CB, in some way, share responsibility with other actors in this riotous plotline for what would come after they achieved their short-term political goal?

And yet… Cory Briggs may be the perfect candidate for the 2020 race for mayor in San Diego.  He’s one of an exceedingly small group of San Diegans with a reputation as an advocate for the public good.  He’s got a tight combination of guts, smarts, ability, and stamina that props him up in the face of the political and financial power brokers who have traditionally shaped San Diego’s politics and policies.

As a leading candidate in the mayor’s race, his presence will open the debate to a full range of city issues and force other mayoral candidates to confront controversial subjects they might otherwise try to avoid.

In this moment in time, and for these reasons, CB qualifies as this season’s “it man.”

Of course, being a perfect candidate does not automatically lead to being a good mayor.   CB has a proliferation of warts.  Are they harder to tolerate than those of his blemished opponent Todd Gloria? Or Barbara Bry?  What do they tell us about the odds of CB becoming a good mayor?

Here’s a sampling of what we’re looking at:

  • CB has zero experience in elected political office,  He claims that his legal battles with the city have educated him about running the city: “You have to know how the gears work to know where to put the monkey wrench.”  But being a good mayor calls for leadership and professional management skills (fatally lacking in our current mayor and his appointees).  CB’s lack of a political record means we have nothing to go on in those crucial areas…
  • CB says he will shatter the establishment and shake up the status quo.  Yes, he has achieved some success through skillful lawsuits against the city. But the litigation process focuses on winning.  It deals in short term goals and strategies.  Running a city involves long-term, multifaceted thinking and planning.  Ideally, it involves respect for the public good.  Does CB have what it takes to switch from blocking bad projects to creating proposals that serve the long-range broad public interest?…
  • CB has many admirers within the environmental and planning communities.  He also has unforgiving detractors who accuse him of turning his back on them in client negotiations and settlements.  Their gripes often spin around the notion of trust.  Lack of trust in a lawyer or mayor poisons the waters…
  • CB has undergone in-depth investigation (some call a public reaming) in the past few years by Voice of San Diego, public radio station KPBS, and its collaborative arm inewsource.  Their reporters wrote exhaustively about CB’s business practices, ethics, and use of self-created nonprofit organizations as plaintiffs when launching lawsuits.  CB’s wife did not escape allegations from the same investigative outlets.   A vendetta by San Diego’s tourism industry, a prime target of Briggs’ lawsuits?  Noxious fumes from the office of former-City Attorney Jan Goldsmith?  These past investigations have an upside: CB comes to the mayor’s race with few, if any, unexamined ghosts cowering in his closet…
  • CB takes a contrarian position on the current rage known as build-baby-build.  He calls out the mayor, along with other pro-density housing advocates, for misleading the public with claims that higher density housing projects will alleviate the city’s affordable (workforce) housing crisis.  Is his approach an opportunistic wooing of neighborhood and community groups (aka “nimbys”) or has he widened his focus from litigating civic misdeeds to creating broader neighborhood-centered policies?…
  • CB calls out the mayor for misleading the public about the severity of the city’s crumbling infrastructure and unconscionable missteps in alleviating our homelessness crisis.  CB is inexperienced in overseeing city administration issues like these.  And could he come up to speed on the city’s pension debacle (yes, it’s baaaaack) that once again might raise the specter of municipal bankruptcy?…
  • CB wields his brand as crusader for public accountability and open government, and as advocate for the voter class over the donor class.  He publicly challenges most of San Diego’s powerful business mainstays: the Chamber of Corruption (that’s his spelling), Downtown Partnership, Civic San Diego, Taxpayers Association, Tourism Authority, Hotel-Motel Association, BIA, and prominent public relations/ lobbying groups.  A good mayor needs the judgment to know the difference between working with these special interests and working  for them.

But there have been troubling signs…

  • CB hopped into bed three years ago with a consortium of land development honchos: master manipulator Steve Peace, JMI Realty’s John Moores, SD Chargers special council Mark Fabiani, land developer Fred Maas, and Chargers honcho Dean Spano, authors of  a ballot initiative called “The Citizens’ Plan for the Responsible Management of Major Tourism and Entertainment Resources.”  (This initiative would have given the go-ahead to public financing of a new football stadium, imposed privately-managed “improvement districts” throughout the city, and expedited open-ended SDSU redevelopment in Mission Valley–all without public environmental review or control! Hardly the hallmark of transparency and public interest advocacy.)
  • CB added his name to this deceptive “citizens’ plan.”  When he joined the team did he forget there is no vaccine against fleas?  His participation cast doubts about the depth of his judgment and commitment to the public interest.  Fortunately, voters exercised wiser judgment and rejected the initiative…
  • CB will be a valuable catalyst in the mayor’s race, that’s for sure.  Beyond that, the prognosis is murky.  CB stares down the same black hole that once engulfed ex-Mayor Filner: the absence of essential supportive scaffolding.  Yes, a successful mayor requires strong executive skills.  But it’s even more crucial to be surrounded by a skilled team of expert advisors with training and commitment to run a city efficiently and humanely.  Without that, the city inevitably suffers.

There you have it: mayoral candidates Todd Gloria, Barbara Bry, and Cory Briggs–warts and all.   As I said in the beginning of this 4-part series: it’s up to them to put their best feet forward and publicize their particular strengths, records, accomplishments, and goals.   My contribution is to round out the picture by providing an unadorned sketch of what may lay ahead.

But we’re not quite done.  Tasha Williamson has also declared her candidacy in San Diego’s 2020 race for mayor.  She’s a welcome addition, someone to enrich and expand the debate by bringing new perspectives to city issues.  I’ll be writing about her shortly.

So far, no Republican candidates have revealed themselves. If and when that happens, you’ll read about them here.

Parting question: …is that all there is?  The pool of choices in San Diego’s 2020 mayor’s race is still woefully shallow.   Despite plentiful rainfall this winter season, San Diego remains a sparsely-endowed political desert.

Surely there are a few good men… and women… sufficiently qualified to jump into the race.  Why settle for good enough?  How about electing a NOTEWORTHY mayor?  Wouldn’t that be a revolution in America’s finest city!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

alan haskvitz March 28, 2019 at 8:19 pm

First, Corry Briggs brings a list of accomplishments standing up for the little guy that the others lack. That is something that San Diego voters should note.


Norma Damashek March 29, 2019 at 11:52 am

Yes, of course he does. Cory Briggs has important messages to deliver in this race for mayor and it’s up to him to broadcast them.

Since all candidates will be putting their best feet forward as they make their pitches to voters, I’m leaving it to them and their campaign consultants to deliver the happy talk and persuade the rest of us about which one is best suited for the job.

Doesn’t it seem reasonable for voters to also be exposed to additional information about a candidate’s past record–warts and all–before deciding which one to support?


ZZ April 1, 2019 at 1:11 pm

I’m voting for Barbara Bry. She just seems all-around the most qualified. Having a high-tech start-up founder as our mayor would be great to attract high-paying tech jobs to the region. SF and LA meanwhile just have regular local politicians.


Debbie April 1, 2019 at 7:38 pm

Anyone know who Donna Frye supports?

If only she got elected mayor our City would be a whole better place!


Debbie April 6, 2019 at 7:37 pm

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