Voter Suppression – San Diego Style

by on July 15, 2020 · 1 comment

in San Diego

By Norma Damashek / NumbersRunner / July 14, 2020

I have a secret to confess.  When I was a little kid and couldn’t figure out how to deal with a really big problem (like, for example, how to get my mom and dad to play nice with one another), a murderous thought sometimes crossed my mind:  One of them would have to disappear… permanently.  There seemed no other way.

Not very mature of me, I guess.  Not too practical, either. Then again, what do you expect from a seven-year old?

But, when adult politicians and wannabe decisionmakers propose options to resolve San Diego problems, would my childish approach be considered a rational, responsible, appropriate course of action?

And yet, two weighty proposals are currently percolating in the bowels of San Diego that–in some screwy way–are as irrational, irresponsible, and counterproductive as anything a reckless seven-year old could dream up.

Anti-voter proposal #1 would put an end to the longstanding ability of San Diego voters to elect their City Attorney–the legal head of city government.

Remember this: Way back in 1931, reform-minded San Diego voters decided that the best way to protect the public interests of all city residents–not just the particular interests of the Mayor and City Council–was to amend the city charter to establish an elected, independent City Attorney who would be directly answerable to the people of San Diego.

Proposal #1 would eliminate San Diego voters from the equation and give the Mayor the power to appoint his/her own private sector City Attorney.

But why resort to such an extreme proposal that would deep-six an elected official and reincarnate her/him as a political appointee?

Apparently, some people don’t like the way our city’s current first female/Latina City Attorney–has been doing her job.

Apparently, some of them decided that Mara Elliot had to go… disappear… permanently.  And maybe the entire City Attorney’s office, to boot.

Apparently, they figured that voter suppression isn’t too high a price to pay if you call it “streamlining city government.”

It’s unlikely that even an irrational, irresponsible seven-year old would go along with a proposal as off-the-wall and vindictive as this one.

Anti-voter proposal #2: Most likely, you’ve already read my impression of the mayor’s Complete Communities Initiative.

Proposal #2 does an additional whack job on San Diego voters, this time by eliminating citizens’ rights to guide the future of our growing city–our streets, sidewalks, neighborhoods, communities, coastline, parks, canyons, bus and trolley lines….

The Mayor’s Complete Communities proposal would eliminate San Diego voters from the equation and transfer control directly to builders, speculators, and developers (local, out-of-state, or overseas) to decide where, when, what, and how much gets built in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Remember this: Decades ago, City Council 600-24 created a system of elected community planning committees to advise the City Council on planning issues in their respective communities.

For more than 54 years, San Diego voters operated with official assurance that “once a community plan is adopted, the community planning group and the City must make sure that development projects adhere to a community plan’s policies and that a community plan continues to be a valid projection of the future….”

And yet, even a seven-year old might notice the reek of voter suppression when:

  • Under cover of today’s health crisis, budget crisis, jobs crisis, and housing crisis, our City Council members are taken out of the planning and land-use decision-making loop…
  • The Mayor’s team shuts down direct public participation in matters of vital public business…
  • Our elected representatives relinquish their role to act in the best interests of us–their voting constituents–rendering district elections more or less a farce…
  • Developers are given license to call the planning shots, leaving residents with no recourse.
  • Voters are denied a voice to resist ever-worsening neighborhood displacement when San Diego already leads the pack (just behind Washington DC) of US cities with the highest percentage of gentrifying neighborhoods.

The merits of the Complete Communities plan may be plentiful:

  • Of course we need more affordable housing!
  • Of course we need well-planned, efficient transit!
  • Of course many neighborhoods need better parks!
  • Of course we must arrest destructive impacts on the environment!

The demerits of the Complete Communities plan are numerous and unsupportable:

  • Surely we know that exclusionary housing policies are unethical and illegal!
  • Surely we know that growth impacts on climate, water, and utilities need better, more complete analysis!
  • Surely we know that San Diego voters and city officials must remain inseparable partners!
  • Surely we know that community input addressing the impacts of densification must be mandatory!

And surely we can forgive a confused child for her poor judgment and reckless and desperate fantasies.  The same does not hold for our politicians and city leaders.

Until citywide debate and planning for the future of our city is open to San Diego citizens and community groups, Complete Communities will continue to be a highly flawed and incomplete initiative.  Shutting out the voice of the voter must be a non-starter.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

DrTom July 17, 2020 at 9:12 pm

Hey Norma,

Thank you. I agree with you. These are both terrible ideas.
Anti-democratic. Thank you for bringing them to our attention.


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