OB Rag Answers U-T Editorial on Campbell Recall an ‘Unnecessary Distraction’

by on January 4, 2021 · 24 comments

in Ocean Beach

On the last day of 2020, the San Diego Union-Tribune ran an editorial, headlined, “Campbell Recall Is Unnecessary Distraction,” which castigated Campbell critics as “angry” and “disgruntled”. (The U-T online article used a different headline.)

The reasons the editorial gives for why people in and outside her District 2 are angry and disgruntled are Campbell’s “compromise on short-term vacation rentals” and because she was elected as Council President over fellow Democrat but more progressive Monica Montgomery Steppe.

Then the editorial makes this bold statement: “The notion of recalling her because critics think she is unfit is undemocratic.” The editorial assumes that most people are upset with Campbell because of her council prez election, and that Campbell critics should just wait and vote her out in the 2022 election.

It says that, “Given the time it takes to collect signatures, a recall election likely wouldn’t happen until late 2021 when her re-election campaign would be in full swing.” Otherwise, it says, because her leadership has not been tested yet, it’s all just “an unwarranted distraction.”

Basically, the editorial says, shut up and wait until June 2022 – which is, what, 18 months away. So, we’re just supposed to lobby for other things on our agenda in the meantime while Campbell sits in the council seat.

Several fallacies in this editorial immediately jump out.

One, the notion that all Campbell did to ignite the ire at the coast was her short-term rental “compromise” is short-sighted. That’s not what we call it when a candidate says one thing before the election, and then says the opposite after they’re elected. Campbell during her initial campaign told the group that is focused on opposing short-term rentals, Save San Diego Neighborhoods, that she was totally against them, that they were “illegal.” This is not a compromise.

Two, the editorial failed to even mention Campbell’s biggest failure: her unmitigated destruction of the 30-foot height limit in the Midway District with her Measure E – that was passed in November. Although we need to note, the measure failed in the coastal neighborhoods of District 2, including in the Midway and in western Clairemont. Again, Campbell went against her earlier pledges to uphold the  height limit passed in 1972.

So, on two very crucial issues for Campbell’s constituents, she has betrayed them. The editorial did not at all give these issues the importance they deserved. And by leaving perhaps the more critical issue out of its consideration, the editorial’s basis falls flat.

It also says we need to wait for Campbell’s leadership to be tested. Well, ask people in District 2 about her leadership and you’re get responses that are not printable. Her leadership has definitely been tested these last two years – and her communities have found it wanting. Her lack of leadership has been especially stark during the pandemic – even as she flouted her medical license during the campaign as a campaign slogan.

Many in District 2, particularly the leaderships of the different community town councils and planning committees, have found Campbell MIA and unresponsive to their issues and entreaties.

Finally, is it “undemocratic” to want to unseat a politician who has made democracy during the pandemic a mockery? Campbell’s assault on these two issues when public participation has been extremely limited, and her push to resolve them without hardly any public input, is what is undemocratic. It is undemocratic to use the virus as cover for a lack of transparency.

What is a distraction is this U-T editorial. It didn’t use all the facts and issues involved and it accused Campbell’s critics of being selfish, wasteful and undemocratic.

And here we thought, the “new” U-T was more than fish-wrap.

It is time for Campbell’s recall.

Here is the editorial from the Editorial Board on Dec. 31, 2020:

Two weeks ago, The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board came out strongly against the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose organizers appear to have more than half of the 1,495,709 signatures needed to force a statewide vote on Newsom’s ouster. We said recalls “should be reserved for elected officials who are corrupt or extremely incompetent” and argued that while the governor had made mistakes, a recall simply wasn’t justified.

Now a push to recall City Council President Jennifer Campbell is gaining attention locally. Some proponents are angry that Campbell, who represents the coastal District 2, proposed a compromise on short-term vacation rentals that would scale them back but allow some to continue. Some are disgruntled that she became council president over more progressive council colleague and fellow Democrat Monica Montgomery Steppe, a prominent supporter of police reform, in a 5-4 vote. Some are predicting that Campbell will become a tool of labor and business interests as council leader.

The notion of recalling her because critics think she is unfit is undemocratic. They should let her serve as council president before presuming she is a poor leader, and instead of pursuing a recall that is an unwarranted distraction, Campbell critics should focus on opposing her rentals compromise and lobbying for other items on their agenda. Given the time it takes to collect signatures, a recall election likely wouldn’t happen until late 2021 when her re-election campaign would be in full swing. If she disappoints, vote her out in the 2022 election.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Frances O'Neill Zimmerman January 4, 2021 at 3:42 pm

The Union-Tribune isn’t really its former fishwrap self, but it reverts to type by calling a burgeoning citizen recall of District 2 Councilmember Jen Campbell “undemocratic.” Recalls
are difficult to accomplish, but they are basic to American civics.

Campbell deserves to be recalled.. She got herself elected by taking positions, making promises and reneging on them at the first opportunity. The newspaper didn’t mention Campbell’s complicity in pushing Prop E that destroys the integrity of longstanding city-wide coastal-zone building-height limits in District 2. No surprise, the newspaper remains fully committed to San Diego’s perennial helter-skelter labor/development agenda.

No mention either that developers who will benefit from Proposition E’s passage paid to get the measure on the ballot., with help from the City Council. Campbell wholeheartedly supported Prop E and doubtless will be rewarded with campaign cash from those same sources when election rolls around.. But meanwhile, she will also face recall. That’s the old Progressive democratic process.


Frank Gormlie January 4, 2021 at 6:33 pm

Well said, Frances. Perhaps, as a favored U-T letter writer, you might mention all of this.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman January 5, 2021 at 2:56 pm

Actually, Editordude, U-T Letters guardian Andrew Kleske never manages to print a single letter from me on my sole area of expertise — San Diego public schools and their crying-shame mismanagement under Superintendent Cindy Martin and godfather/board member Richard Barrera. I think people will read my comment here where truth is told.


Frank Gormlie January 5, 2021 at 9:09 pm

Yet, I do see your letters at the UT quite often. Good for you.


John Thickstun January 4, 2021 at 3:57 pm

Simply more evidence the UT is completely disconnected from the residents and community it claims to serve.
Any other local newspaper would be applauding the recall of an elected official who has so deeply and wantonly betrayed her constituents.


Frank Gormlie January 4, 2021 at 6:34 pm

Thanks John for being on the front line of this campaign. Please keep us and our readers up to date.


Frank Gormlie January 4, 2021 at 6:38 pm

I’m not sure who first started calling the U-T “fish-wrap” – an antiquated term itself – but perhaps it was those frisky lefty UCSD students who started the first San Diego Free Press and then the San Diego Street Journal.


Frank Gormlie January 4, 2021 at 7:44 pm

I’m fairly certain it’s a generic phrase – “the daily fish-wrap” – used against newspapers that don’t tell the truth. But who wraps their fish these days in newspaper? Some would say they “lined the bird cage” with the newspaper, but not that many people have birds these days. So, bottom line, we need a new phrase, a new term. Hell, who even gets newspapers these days. (We get 2 four days a week).


Geoff Page January 4, 2021 at 9:30 pm

All that shows is how far back people have thought the UT was only good for wrapping fish, even back to the days when they actually did wrap fish in newspaper many, many years ago. That’s an admirable record for sucking.


Gary Wonacott January 4, 2021 at 7:49 pm

I met with Jen Campbell during her campaign one on one for coffee. I came away thinking that there is no way this person should be in a leadership role in the City. She was literally clueless when it came to the Mission Beach issues. And after two years, nothing has changed. At a MBTC ,meeting she was asked about airpot noise. She responded with something like, we are going to get Mission Beach residents sound insulated windows. Her staff could not usher her out of the room fast enough. South Mission Beach has been going through utilities under-grounding now .for some time, and for most of that time, the utility box covers have been making loud clapping sounds each time a car passes over it. Residents tried for months to get the councilmember’s attention, but nothing until a few residents sued the City. Within weeks there was a meeting and a discovery that many of the plates were designed for sidewalks, not for roadways. These are just two of many examples. She needed to go the day she arrived..


Douglas Blackwood January 4, 2021 at 11:40 pm

Most politicians either have no conception of the reality most Americans are living or; simply don’t care: here’s Jen.
I enjoyed the writers describing Campbell’s. Bravo; Frank, Gary, John and Francis!
Repeat Recall-Recall-Recall Jen!


Will January 5, 2021 at 7:57 am

The UT calling the democratic process of recall “undemocratic” is so sublimely Orwellian.


Harry January 5, 2021 at 7:36 pm

Is there a central place to sign the recall petition?


Judy Swink January 11, 2021 at 5:38 pm

The recall petition has not yet been formally filed. That will happen later this month, then there’s a waiting period before signatures can be gathered. Signature gathering will begin early in February (don’t have specific dates). Word will go out. Go to the RecallJen.com to sign up for emails and to donate to help cover the costs.

Even with Covid, I think signatures will be easy to gather. There are many in other Council Districts, especially in D4/Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe, who are very unhappy with Campbell and who can legitimately collect signatures even though unable to vote in the resulting recall election.

In D2, none of the articles mention that she has actually told members of one community planning group that was criticizing her STVR back-room negotiation to “grow up” (heard directly from planning group member who was present). She also is said to have simply walked out of a planning group meeting when she didn’t want to hear any more criticism.


Frank Gormlie January 11, 2021 at 5:39 pm

The OB Rag will be publishing a complete update on Tuesday, Jan. 12.


Carol Richter January 11, 2021 at 8:45 am

I am trying to find where I read that Jen is now represented by a big, maybe biggest, PR firm in SD to assist with her efforts to avoid a recall. Ring a bell with anyone?


Judy Swink January 11, 2021 at 5:42 pm
Carol Richter January 11, 2021 at 6:57 pm

Thanks for responding. I actually found the quote in an OB Rag article from 12/22, I think.


Dan Gallagher January 13, 2021 at 5:47 pm

Campbell hands down ran the worst campaign I have ever witnessed. She ran an anti-Trump campaign for a local representative seat. I recall discussing with a friend how can I vote for someone who rarely mentions any of the local issues? I never thought anyone could make Lori Zapf look both compentent & responsive to our community. Looking forward to signing the petition and alerting all my friends and neighbors on the importance to recall a failed representative.


Geoff Page January 13, 2021 at 7:04 pm

As bad as Campbell is, she does not make Zapf look “competent & responsive.” It just means District 2 elected two incompetent and unresponsive politicians in a row to that seat.


Adam Huntington January 13, 2021 at 8:43 pm

Dan that’s funny about Zapf… very true.

Jen has to go ASAP…


Frank Gormlie January 14, 2021 at 8:04 am

I guess there goes my chance to be invited to add my commentary to the U-T’s series on how locals are responding to the Trump crisis. I’m sorry, Matt Hall, for calling the U-T a “fish-wrap.” We quote you guys all the time. You’ve never had anyone from the Rag to be a guest commentator or columnist – except Ernie McCray – and I don’t know where you look for locals to give their opinions.


Peter from South O January 14, 2021 at 1:08 pm

Hey, HEY! I believe that I called the thing “fish rap” on these pages long ago. Let the chumps come after ME!


Peter from South O January 14, 2021 at 1:08 pm



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