The Next Mayor of San Diego Will Probably Be Todd Gloria (Not an Endorsement)

by on February 10, 2020 · 1 comment

in Election, San Diego

By Doug Porter / Words&Deeds

This is not an endorsement. The sky could fall. Trump could quit Tweeting. Republicans could support the constitution. And Todd Gloria could lose.

I just don’t see it happening. And, by all means, cast a vote for the candidate you think could do the best job. My point of view is informed by observations about the state of the city and the campaigns of those opposing him.

I have, after all, been wrong before. My list of fallen favorites spans the decades, going way back to when I was “Clean for Gene” (McCarthy). But with every loss has come a bit more insight. I’m still more of a wise ass than a wise man, but I haven’t given up.

I saw Todd Gloria at a demonstration on the Waterfront a year ago and told him the mayoralty was his to lose. Maybe he thought it was an endorsement. I just saw it as a fact.

In 2012 Democrats thought Bob Filner was going to pave the way for a new era in San Diego. That thought lasted about six months. Another Great White Savior went down the tubes because he believed his own hype and thought it made him invincible.

There were other factors in Filner’s fall, like a City Attorney loyal to the local large landowning class. But mostly he thought his ideas gave him the right to be an asshole and/or misogynist. I should have trusted my first instinct.

Coming out of the Filner era, then-City Councilman Todd Gloria became acting Mayor. Right out of the gate, he pissed off a bunch of progressive-type folks by purging Filner loyalists and walking back some policies in the hope of quieting the Lords and Ladies offended by the previous occupant of his seat.

Then came Gloria’s State of the City speech. Andy Cohen’s article for the San Diego Free Press gave a good rundown of all the hope and change baked into the speech.

A few snips from the Union-Tribune’s reporting:

  • He walked out to the sounds of Lady Gaga’s “Applause” and roaring cheers before giving a 37-minute speech with the theme of working together to solve the city’s problems…
  • …Gloria said he would work toward crafting an aggressive borrowing plan to fund the city’s $1 billion-plus backlog of street and infrastructure projects. He wants it to focus on high-priority projects and go before voters in 2016.
  • “Infrastructure is not just a neighborhood issue,” he said. “It’s also an economic competitiveness issue. Well maintained roads and other public facilities help attract investment and jobs to our city.”
  • Other major initiatives announced by Gloria include a November ballot measure to raise the city’s minimum wage, establishing San Diego as a global leader in combating climate change and eliminating homelessness in downtown San Diego by 2016.
  • “San Diego must not be divided between the very poor and the very wealthy,” Gloria said. “A great city must have a vibrant and growing middle class. That is why I believe it is time to support an increased minimum wage for San Diego.”

The special election came and went a month later. Todd Gloria went back to the City Council and Kevin Faulconer became Mayor.

The infrastructure bond went into the dustbin of history, but the quest for an increase in the minimum wage had enough popular support to keep it alive. Gloria opened his doors to anybody who wanted to provide input on the details of the ordinance.

Perhaps he opened them a little too widely. After several reductions to the original wage proposal in the hope of attracting small business support, the final product got a strong “nyet” from the Chamber of Commerce and its allies.

The City Council passed the ordinance, Mayor Faulconer vetoed it, and the Council overrode his veto.

Suddenly, the “San Diego Small Business Coalition” (funded almost entirely by entities that weren’t small) became deeply concerned about democracy. An army of clipboard wielding canvassers paid by the signature appeared, collecting enough valid voter names to force the measure to the next election, which, unfortunately for the workers at Burger King, wasn’t until June 2016.

His actions leading up to that election convinced me that Todd Gloria had learned about the need to take his case to the people. The bullhorn replaced the handshake as a means to an end.

All the fear mongering propagated by the “coalition” about economic collapse didn’t scare voters away; the measure won with 63.84% of the vote.

Todd Gloria moved on up to the Assembly, but he wasn’t finished with San Diego.

Mayor Faulconer is termed out, and for a while it appeared as though the contest to replace him would be a single party affair.

Todd Gloria and Barbara Bry are the two traditional Democrats running. Tasha Williamson is the Democrat on the outside looking in, trying to bring a dose of street-sense to the contest. Republican Scott Sherman thinks it’s all nonsense, so there’s that.

Todd Gloria is running as The Todd Gloria, the always optimistic, proud of his persona, and generally progressive candidate. His campaign bases its promises on the premise that San Diego has to go beyond being “America’s Finest City.”

Barbara Bry has taken a hard tack to the right –though she wouldn’t describe it that way– by aiming her appeal at those voters who are afraid. She’s willing to emphasize her business cred as somebody who’ll get stuff done, but there are Make San Diego Great Again flavors in her pitch.

Her faith in the transformative power of tech company jobs coming downtown sounds great, but she’s out of touch if she thinks it’s cheaper to live downtown. It’s not. I have no doubt about her willingness to do the right thing on social justice issues; I’m just bothered by this whole NIMBY business.

Community activist Tasha Williamson, though lacking in governance experience, has been the conscience of this contest, pointing out injustice and public safety issues in a city that all-too-often refuses to acknowledge the problems.

Termed out Republican Councilman Scott Sherman waited until the very end of the candidate registration period to enter the contest. He is seeking to capitalize on voter concern about the housing shortage, along with the usual assortment of Free Market fantasies and platitudes about the Constitution currently being trampled by his DC brethren.

The thinking behind Sherman’s entry into the contest is not about winning, even though San Diego has had Republican Mayors for most of the past three decades. He openly loathed holding elected office and doesn’t have enough of a following to win.

His presence at the top of the ballot does give local Republicans something to hope for, and could drive turnout in more contested down-ballot contests. The local GOP is looking at the very real possibility of holding just one seat on the city council and losing their majority on the Board of Supervisors.

***

As I have for most of my articles on local ballot races, I’m using the Union-Tribune interviews as a means of giving some insight into the candidates. While the transcriptions are a bit rough, the fact that they’d interviewed more than five dozen citizens willing to serve is something that needs to be celebrated. (Yay! Local News!)

I urge readers to follow the links embedded in the following profiles to gain a better understanding of the candidates.

Now, on to the meat and potatoes of covering the election for this position. (In alphabetical order…)

***

Barbara Bry is President Pro Tem of the San Diego City Council, and represents the 1st District. She was elected in 2016 in what was supposed to be a contentious contest, except that her opponents kept dropping out.

She got in on the ground floor of the commercialization of tech, was a business journalist, and has taught entrepreneurship at UCSD.

Bry founded Athena San Diego, an organization supporting the advancement of women in the tech and life science sector, along with Run Women Run, a nonpartisan organization recruiting and training, pro-choice women to seek elected and appointed office.

Since she declared for Mayor, Bry has backed away from earlier unconditional support for a potential low income housing bond under consideration for the 2020 general election. She now says that if the Convention Center expansion measure on the March ballot fails she’ll consider supporting the bond.

In my opinion that’s quid pro quo for support my thing or else, even though the Convention Center measure builds no housing. That’s consistent with a change on her rhetoric on how homeless humans should be handled; now she’s saying treatment for additional and mental illness come before shelter. Perhaps she should consider “best practices” as a different word choice. Read this for starters.

Why she’s running

  • So, here I am, running for Mayor for reasons I could never have anticipated.  But you can be certain of one thing: I will be the outsider.?
  • That’s ok. It was the same for me when I entered the tech world. I learned. I succeeded. I want to bring that path of success to City Hall. That means challenging the status quo and the entrenched special interests.  
  • The City has good people who want to do good things. I need your help to get them off circular path of recycling ideas and put them on the path to success. If every day you learn something new, you are 365 times more valuable by the end of the year.
  • As for myself. I can only promise you this: I will always be open with you about my ideas and conscious of the fact that my ideas will only get better by listening to yours.

Link to Union-Tribune Interview

Money Quote

  • …one of my visions is a tech center downtown, not biotech, but tech, I mean by biotech is mostly going to stay near UCSD, although I’ve talked to Illumina and, um, a growing percentage of their workforce lives south of eight. Um, so you never know, but one of the redevelopment of Horton Plaza is step one. 
  • Uh, and, uh, Stockdale Partners has told me they’re talking to all the major Bay Area companies and the Seattle companies and many of them would like to have a presence in San Diego. I mean, Apple is in the UTC area, but perhaps they would rather be Downtown in five or 10 years. Um, Amazon is in the UTC area now, but perhaps there wasn’t the right space for them Downtown. 
  • Um, so I think Horton Plaza is number one and then my vision is to do an RFP for the City Hall site, which includes City Hall, Golden Hall, and the city operations building in terms of making downtown, um, a true employment center with high-paying jobs. And it’s both, I view it, it’s talking about our climate action plan. I view it as an economic imperative. It’s an environmental imperative because we actually already have fairly good transit coming into Downtown from the south where it’s cheaper to live. 
  • Uh, a lot of the millennials want to live Downtown. We have a lot of new construction going Downtown so we could have, um, a Downtown where more people live and work and play in the same community. Um, and that, and I believe I’m the right leader to oversee this with my business background and my background in the tech world. And this, this could be transformational for our city.

Organizational endorsements: Run Women Run, Save San Diego’s Neighborhoods

Website | Facebook | Twitter

***

Todd Gloria is currently a California Assemblyman representing the 78th District. He is the current Majority Whip. Prior to his moving up to Sacramento in 2016, Gloria was on the San Diego City Council representing District 3.

He’s a homegrown politician, having grown up in Clairemont, and starting as a volunteer for Democratic campaigns at age 14. In 2002-2008 he was a district rep for Congresswoman Susan Davis.

In August 2019, Gloria was accused of collecting funds for his 2020 re-election campaign to the State Assembly before filing his intent to run with the state in violation of state law even as he was running for mayor. He said this was a “technical oversight” and filed the relevant paperwork.In November 2019, Gloria settled the case with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, paying a $200 fine.

Like any politician, Gloria’s made moves over the years that have come back to haunt him. Critics say he was too easy on downtown developers even as he allegedly sought campaign contributions from them. And he has a dedicated following of haters, whose scorn for him is completely out of proportion to any imagined offense he’s committed.

Why he’s running

  • As a native San Diegan, it’s clear to me that San Diego needs strong, experienced, and progressive leadership in the Mayor’s Office to tackle the long-standing problems facing our city.
  • I’m talking about issues like making housing more affordable for working families, putting forward real solutions to end homelessness, staying true to our landmark Climate Action Plan, and much more. But, I’m also talking about the issues that have not always been at the forefront of our civic dialogue like community equity, environmental justice, and income inequality.
  • San Diegans deserve a Mayor who understands these tough problems, who has experience in running the city well, and the leadership and vision to move our city beyond business as usual. More importantly, San Diegans deserve a Mayor who works for all of us and will make us a city of opportunity that invests in every neighborhood and every San Diegan.

Link to Union-Tribune Interview

Money Quote

  • Some people may be able to get elected by telling people that your neighborhood’s never going to change. But that’s not true. Neighborhood’s going to change. The argument I’m making is that we’re going to lean in on it and we’re going to make sure that whatever changes come actually enhance your community and create more opportunity for you, for your kids and for your grandkids. I’m making that argument with the belief that a majority of San Diegans will agree with me and they’ll elect me mayor and allow me to do this work of making sure that the city works for everybody…
  • ... there is a role, uh, for temporary shelter, um, in this homelessness ecosystem. There Just has to be a whole lot more permanent places to place these folks, uh, than what we currently have. And I’m fearful that we are taking the money that is meant for permanent supportive housing and using it for this temporary housing and creating a situation where people are just getting stuck in the tents and not able to get out undermining our overall objective of ending on street homelessness.

Organizational endorsements: San Diego Democratic Party + 9 Democratic clubs, San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council + 11 labor unions, San Diego County Regional Chamber of Commerce + 4 business groups, Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, Engage San Diego Action Fund, Equality California, San Diego Defenders Action Fund, Victory Fund

Website | Facebook | Twitter

***

Republican Scott Sherman is the termed-out councilman for San Diego City Council District 7. The sign on his office door said “Department of Common Sense” and he’s kept a countdown clock running marking the amount of time left in his term.

Prior to joining the City Council he sold maritime insurance. Sherman still lives in the neighborhood he grew up in and is known to his fishing buddies as “The Sherminator.”

Early polling shows Sherman running in second place behind Todd Gloria.

Why he’s running

  • “I’m running for Mayor to restore common sense over all the nonsense. We need a Mayor who works for the people of San Diego, not the special interests that control City Hall.”

Link to Union-Tribune Interview

Money Quote

  • I got into politics cause of people asking me to do it. Um, and my wife and I were very much looking forward to going back to private life, but for the last couple of months, every time we went out in public, somebody would stop us and say, please run for mayor. We need a different voice. We need somebody else to choose from. And when you get that kind of public pressure, and I’m not talking about the pundits and the consultants and the pollsters all who expect to make money off of me. I understand their pressure. And when you get it from every … everyday people, I mean, just to give you an example, we were gassing up the boat down here at the fuel dock. 
  • The captain of the sardine boat who was fueling up next to me, came walking out of his bridge and came down and asked me to run for mayor. And then the guy from the Harbor Patrol on the other side came over and asked me to run for mayor. And my wife and I were camping a few weeks back down in the desert and had a long talk about it. 
  • And she finally looked at me and said, I think we kind of have to do this. So we’re gonna jump in the race. I think there’s a, a path to victory. It’s, it’s, it’s not going to be an easy one, but I think it can be accomplished. And, uh, my staff said I was getting grumpy cause there was no fights at city hall right now. So I figured I might as well come up with a couple.

Organizational endorsements: San Diego County Republican Party

Website | Facebook | Twitter

***

Democrat Tasha Williamson started the Compassion Project, supporting families of homicide victims, and was awarded the California Peace Prize in recognition of her efforts.

Her advocacy for police accountability and transparent led to her becoming a public figure after she was arrested while protesting at a City Council meeting in National City, subsequently suing the city for excessive force, a claim supported by video footage.

She announced her candidacy at the 2019 Women’s March. Williamson has been a high profile critic of the local Democratic Party, citing a lack of responsiveness to issues concerning people of color and inequality.

Why she’s running

  • For far too long we have been promised equality, equity, better schools, improved health care, better environment, housing we can afford, stronger unions, better jobs, competitive city wages/pensions, police accountability and an improved infrastructure.
  • Now is the time to show them, you’ve had enough. A vote for me is change for all of us! I am the only no nonsense candidate and together we will make this city better than ever when you elect me as the Mayor of our city. We will all thrive.

Link to Union-Tribune Interview

Money Quote

  • San Diego used to be called, in the 1960s, the Mississippi of the West, and so it has not changed for some of us. For some of us, we still deal with racism. We still deal with disparities. 
  • We get stopped and we’re not asked, “Hi, ma’am, do you know why I stopped you?” We’re asked, “Are you a fourth waiver?” Whether you’re a doctor who is black or indigenous or brown, whether you are a lawyer, if you are in the wrong neighborhood, you are considered to be like everyone else that they consider when they stop, and that’s not OK. We’re constantly told we’re not going to be sat on the ground. 
  • We go to certain neighborhoods and we see white people pulled over. We don’t see their men sitting on the ground on the curbs, handcuffed behind their backs. But we regularly see brown and indigenous and pan-Asian and black men in that manner. And that’s just a stop. We sat down and we talked about how degrading that is. OK, you could … there’s ways to get around it. They did that. We’ve seen it. 
  • I’ve been on calls with them where they patted them down to make sure they were safe and then stood there and talk to them like they were human beings. And until we are all treated like human beings, then we’re going to hold, I’m going to hold this police department more accountable than it’s ever been held because it should be. It should be. We should not be talking about rogue officers in 2020 who are doing things that are deplorable and dishonorable. Everybody should want them out of SDPD and any other law enforcement.

Organizational endorsements: n/a

Website | Facebook| Twitter

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Avatar peter February 11, 2020 at 4:07 pm

A nightmare in the making. We will have a guy who at the state level has given us AB 5, increased gas taxes with more on the way, dismantling Prop 13, free healthcare for illegals and one could go on and on. Now he will land here with a democrat city council and we will be rewarded with conditions like San Francisco and worse then LA.

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