Last Minute Appeals in the Bry-Gloria Race for San Diego Mayor

by on November 2, 2020 · 2 comments

in Election, San Diego

Here are some last minute appeals on the Barbara Bry vs Todd Gloria race for San Diego mayor. Geoff Page, Jim Miller and Paul Kruegar are weighing in.

Pro-Bry

By Geoff Page

What can a person say to anyone who has not yet voted and who has not fully decided on who to vote for as the new mayor? What can be said that hasn’t already been said to the point that no one wants to hear anything more?

That’s a tough one but I’d like to make one last plea for folks to vote for Barbara Bry.  Let’s not elect another politician to run our city.

When you look at the two candidates, the main contrast I see is ambition.  The word “ambition” has many definitions.  The first two definitions listed in the Merriam Webster dictionary perfectly fit the two candidates.  The first fits Todd Gloria as “an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power.”  The second definition fits Bry as a “desire to achieve a particular end.”

Gloria is a career politician.  Career politicians have one goal all the time and that is promoting themselves because they are always looking for the next step up.  They may do some good along the way. But, they can also do a lot of harm as they pursue their own personal agenda, getting re-elected or getting elected to the next higher office.  Gloria has made a life of politics beginning with being a part of Susan Davis’s office at a tender age.  He has served on our city council and in the state assembly.

Gloria’s ambition was never more obvious than when the Bob Filner episode happened. Gloria was in the thick of the effort to oust Filner and that resulted in Gloria becoming interim mayor because of his city council position.  I’ll only recount one thing that Gloria did as mayor that was a disaster, he appointed Robert Vacchi as head of the Development Services Department.

Vacchi was a land use attorney who came back into city government after working for a land use law firm downtown.  He immediately began an assault on the 30-foot height limit by allowing developers to measure the height from the inside of new, tall planters the developers added to their designs.  Height is supposed to be measured from “finished grade” and the DSD actually decided the inside of a planter represented finished grade under Vacchi’s rule.

Vacchi was a favorite of the development world and that appointment pleased many donors and potential donors. It was not an appointment made with the intention of helping the people of San Diego.

Barbara Bry is not a professional politician.  Her first elected office is the one she now holds as the council person for District 1. She has spent her life working in private industry.  Her stated ambition is to make a difference by improving city government, the “desire to achieve a particular end” definition of ambition.

Bry’s goals are not chosen to advance a political career. In fact, when you look at the positions she has taken, she would be going about it all wrong.  If she was trying to advance a political career, she would not have taken the many positions she has contrary to the prevailing tide. She was just one of two votes against putting Measure E on the ballot that lame duck, career politician I-hope-we-never-see-again Faluconer forced through for the development community.

I attended a mayoral debate in September 2019 and wrote about it in the OB Rag.  Here was how I saw the two candidates then:

“Gloria was clearly the most polished of the three. He is a career politician, and it showed.  He managed to avoid answering many of the questions.  He appealed to the audience emotionally and directly, including them several times by asking a question for the crowd to respond to. It was a clever way of drawing people in by making them feel included. But, substance was lacking.”

“Bry was well spoken but not polished like a career politician.  Bry’s first venture into politics was to run for, and win, the seat she occupies on the city council now. Before that, Bry was a business person and a journalist for some time.  She did not use any devices to generate appeal.  Her complete, apparently heartfelt answers were effective.  Bry came off as a basically regular person who was convinced to run for city council and, once there, was appalled at what she saw.  She wants to fix what she has seen.”

Bry opened her remarks during that event by exclaiming how “appalled” she was at the mess she found at city hall when she got there.  She says she would like to have a chance to straighten the mess up.  I think having someone like Bry in office with a goal like that would be far preferable to electing another politician in office whose main goal in life is making friends and not making any waves.  There’s nothing wrong with making friends but if you never break a single egg, you’re not having an impact.

A mayor like Barbara Bry, who is not controlled by special interests, could be the shot in the arm this city needs.  If you are not a career politician, who needs friends with money, there is no way those special interests can control you. City hall is a mess, the 101 Ash Street fiasco is one example.  Let’s send someone in who wants to clean up city hall, who has the intelligence to do it, who only wants to do that, and who is not looking as this office as a political stepping stone.  Let’s send someone in who is crazy enough to want a very difficult job she doesn’t need. How much more sincere can you be than that?

Pro-Gloria

By Jim Miller

If there is one word that describes San Diego’s mayoral contest this 2020, it is this: disappointing.

Just a few years ago, local Democrats could not even get their act together enough to run a credible challenger against Kevin Faulconer with all the likely suspects choosing to run for safe seats instead of going toe to toe with the incumbent.  Perhaps one could charitably argue that the wreckage and deep divisions in local progressive circles left in the wake of the Filner debacle were responsible for this.

But now, with the demographics and party registration numbers in the city having changed significantly enough that the Republicans have become a minority party unable to even field a mayoral candidate capable of making it to the general election, one might think we’d finally be in a much better place.  Unfortunately, the “new day” in San Diego politics that we are confronted with is far from inspiring.  While I’m still optimistic that, long-term, the new political landscape of the city will make it possible to elect a progressive who might deeply transform San Diego politics, we are not there yet.

Neither of the two candidates running for mayor of San Diego are true progressive champions.  In fact, both of them have done things to alienate the local progressive base.  Front and center here is the fact that both Democratic candidates for mayor failed to endorse Proposition 15, which would bring in around $700 million in resources for education and community services to our region and reform one of the most egregious parts of the Proposition 13’s legacy by closing a glaring corporate tax loophole that has robbed schools and municipalities of funds for decades. This puts both candidates at odds with the state Democratic party and the governor, who endorsed Prop. 15. As any progressive with a historical memory understands, Proposition 13 was at the heart of the rise of the New Right here in California and nationwide.

Indeed, the biggest legacy of Proposition 13 has been that California, despite being the world’s 5th largest economy, has schools, counties, and cities that frequently struggle with austerity, particularly during economic downturns.  Another way of putting it is that Proposition 13, the spawn of right-wing backlash politics, was very effective at what folks like Reagan administration official David Stockman charmingly refer to as “starving the beast.”  That is, preventing government from being effective by limiting resources and then calling for more cuts because of that ineffectiveness.

Thus, when Barbara Bry came out vociferously against the measure and Todd Gloria did so more tepidly, it was a clear sign that neither of the two candidates to be the next mayor in the post-GOP era had deep progressive principles.  Shame on both of them for this.

Indeed, the argument cited by both Bry and Gloria about raising taxes during an economic downturn erases the fact that that is precisely what made the New Deal possible during the Great Depression and that the costs of austerity are more likely to do more lasting harm for many more people than those of asking corporations to pay their fair share.  I understand that Bry and Gloria were both aiming to triangulate and appeal to Republican voters, but going straight for this stock-in-trade neoliberal baloney should be beneath any candidate trying to campaign as a Democrat, no less a progressive one.  It should be a question of core values.

In Gloria’s case, this was a betrayal of a significant part of his base, those of us in public sector unions, and he should know better as he has supported progressive tax measures in the past and has said as much to many of the people whose resources are helping in the effort to elect him.

For Bry, it simply confirms what any astute observer already should know: she is a milquetoast La Jolla corporate Democrat whose claims of “independence” from special interests are only necessary because the local Democratic Party and the local labor movement chose not to support her after she eagerly sought their endorsements.  Period.

So while this issue exposes the fact that San Diego is far from having the perfect progressive candidate for mayor, on the whole, it’s clear that the race is between a candidate who’s good on most issues, versus someone who is happy to run toward the right, not just on Proposition 15 but on a whole range of issues.

I have to say, I have been puzzled watching some progressives turning themselves into pretzels trying to portray Bry as some kind of resistance street fighter, defending her wealth as a virtue in an age of oligarchy,  apologizing for her investments in fossil fuels as we face catastrophic climate change, and her general bourgeois NIMBY positions, none of which are signs that she has progressive instincts.

This strange phenomenon is, in part, born out of anger at Gloria’s support for Measure E, which is far from perfect, but is supported by labor (for jobs), housing advocates, and the Climate Action Campaign for encouraging density to fight climate change.  So while I understand the fury of the opposition and share many of their concerns, it’s not at all clear to me that those who favor Measure E are simply establishment pawns. Perhaps they just see it differently.

In one of the more clear-eyed pieces on the race, Michael Smolens  outlines a couple of other key differences between the two candidates, noting that Bry is opposed to SANDAG’s Regional Transportation Plan that many San Diego environmentalists and other community activists favor and that her position on homelessness doesn’t include providing housing:

They also disagree on the regional transportation plan being proposed by the San Diego Association of Governments, a blueprint for a $177 billion system of high-speed rail, transit and highways that would be developed over a 30-year time span. Gloria is in general support, with the caveat that details need to be fleshed out. Bry is opposed, saying it’s better to expand the existing transit system and rely on a future with autonomous vehicles.

They also don’t agree on how best to help the homeless. Gloria advocates the “housing first” model that seek to stabilize homeless people by giving them a place to live, then providing them with services to address such things as mental health and addiction issues. Bry, who once backed housing first, says she now believes providing services along with bridge shelters should be the priority.

Finally, I’d also add that Bry is far from a friend of working people in San Diego as evidenced by her recent reticence on the City Council to vote for a worker retention measure for hotel and hospitality employees until Scott Sherman amended it, which made it more palatable for her.  Hardly the stuff of a working-class hero.  Additionally, her support for Proposition 22, which would hand big corporations a gift, repeal Lorena Gonzalez’s AB 5, and rob gig workers of basic labor rights, is unforgivable.  Of course, this and other anti-labor stances are all part of her effort to court Republican voters, but when Carl DeMaio lines up behind you, you should know that you’ve gone over to the dark side.

Gloria, on the other hand, has been there for working people far more often than not as evidenced by his advocacy for San Diego’s minimum wage increase and his 100% lifetime floor vote record on labor issues in Sacramento from the California Federation of Labor, Proposition 15 aside. On environmental issues, he has another 100% rating from the Sierra Club, and, as interim mayor, he introduced San Diego’s Climate Action Plan.

In sum, if Gloria has shown himself unreliable on one key issue for many progressives during this cycle, Bry has made a concerted effort to form a center-right coalition that she would need to govern.  Gloria, who has the support of business interests, is also indebted to labor, many environmental activists, and liberal Democrats, which would mean they’d have a bigger role in his governing coalition.

Historically speaking, electing Barbara Bry would help keep San Diego’s traditional class and race split largely divided by the 5 and 8 freeways intact in Democratic clothing.  Gloria, for all his flaws, would be the first Filipino mayor in San Diego and also the first who’s openly gay. And he comes from a working-class background. With regard to issues of racial equity, gay rights, and inclusion, that matters.

On a personal note, despite my present displeasure with Gloria with regard to Proposition 15, I know him and have lobbied him (with my union hat on) successfully and unsuccessfully on various labor and educational issues over the years. One thing that impresses me about him is that he is always open to talk, even after you’ve gone after him forcefully, as I just did here.  That is not always the case with many other elected officials and has not been my impression of Bry who, in the multiple labor council interviews I have participated in over the years, was far less able to respond to criticism with equanimity.

Thus, if you want a more progressive San Diego, you may not have a perfect choice in this race, but you do have a clear one: vote for Todd Gloria for mayor and push him to do the right thing more often than not.

One More Pro-Bry

By Paul Krueger

In my 45 years as a local journalist in print and television, I never let my personal opinions color my coverage of politics and government. That changed when I retired in April.

One of the last stories I helped produce at NBC 7 focused on the City’s purchase of the 101 Ash Street office building. That nightmare transaction has saddled San Diego taxpayers with an unusable firetrap and drained tens of millions from our depleted city treasury. Documents reveal that Mayor Kevin Faulconer and two city attorneys smoothed the way for a one-sided deal that enriched several power brokers. Barbara Bry was the only council member who scrutinized the transaction and had the courage to call it what it was: a backroom deal, incompetent and possibly illegal, that will haunt us for years. It was a risky position for an elected official, and I was impressed by Barbara’s political courage and independence.

Another story I covered towards the end of my career involved the possible financial ruin of dozens of small businesses in another, different sort of backroom deal at City Hall. In May 2019, the North Park community was shocked to learn of Faulconer’s decision to replace 420 parking spaces on both sides of the busy 30th Street corridor with bike lanes. Residents and small businesses in the dense urban neighborhood already were struggling with a scarcity of curb space, and the evidence showed this City Hall edict was going to make a bad situation much worse. I took a particular interest in this because I’m a lifelong bicyclist. For years, I rode my bike to and from my Talmadge home, through North Park, to my downtown office. From a narrow perspective of self-interest, I would have sided with the bike activists who lobbied Faulconer on this measure.

But precisely because I’m a bicyclist, I knew this plan just didn’t make sense. There are already north-south bike lanes just two blocks west on Utah Street. They’re safer and less congested. Common sense dictates we can improve those bike lanes instead of spending scarce taxpayers’ funds and disrupting a community by building new, unneeded bike lanes on 30th Street.
Many North Park community members agreed. They staged protests, raised money to file a lawsuit, and demanded to meet with someone at City Hall. Faulconer didn’t respond. Neither did their Council representative, District 3 Councilmember Chris Ward. But on June 1, Barbara went to North Park, where she listened to 30-plus residents and business owners who opposed the 30th Street bike lanes. These neighbors are now among the most ardent supporters of Barbara’s mayoral campaign.

For me, Barbara’s response to the 101 Ash Street transaction demonstrated the power of speaking out. Her response to the 30th Street bike lane plan demonstrated the power of listening.
Those qualities — combined with Barbara’s decades of real-world business experience and independence from special interest groups — also make her uniquely qualified to confront the city’s really big problems: homelessness, the COVID pandemic, fair and just policing, infrastructure needs, and the pension deficit. I also believe she’s uniquely qualified to hold city department heads accountable for their decisions and the quality of their work, while rewarding all city employees for a job well-done.

Barbara’s ability to listen, learn and lead, and to help implement practical, cost-effective solutions to our city’s problems has earned her support from taxpayers and community groups from San Ysidro to Torrey Pines and Del Cerro to Mission Beach.

I’m joining them all by voting for Barbara Bry for Mayor.

 

 

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Paul Webb November 2, 2020 at 1:51 pm

I have to agree with Geoff Page – the appointment of Bob Vacchi by itself is a disqualifying action on Gloria’s part, even if there were no other negatives in his resume.

The best thing I can say for Gloria is that he was a refreshing breath of air after Jerry Sanders. After seeing Sanders in the OB Christmas parade in a car with a driver and SDPD bodyguard and followed by another car with two bodyguards, my first “in the wild” sighting of Gloria was when he was standing in line by himself at Tender Greens at lunch time.

But actually behaving like a normal functioning human being is not exactly the best endorsement for a would-be mayor.

Reply

Avatar Geoff Page November 2, 2020 at 2:44 pm

I will add, Paul, that I wrote Gloria’s office when I found out about his appointment of Vacchi. After three tries, here is the response I received from Gloria’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Katie Keach:

“Good morning, Mr. Page.

Council President Gloria asked me to respond to your email. Mr. Vacchi’s professional history is more expansive than you note, including previous respected experience with Development Services, Code Compliance, and the City Attorney’s Office, and Council President Gloria remains confident in his leadership and knowledge of all aspects of his position. If you have specific concerns about Mr. Vacchi’s performance, the Council President welcomes you sharing them.”

Gloria couldn’t be bothered to reply so he had someone else do it. And all she provided was a bland political response.

Vacchi disappeared from the city on July the 2nd this year, literally disappeared with no one knowing where he went. He was one of several people involved in the 101 Ash Street debacle who have all recently left city government. No one knows if that was the reason for his sudden departure but then, no one knows.

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