Tag Archives: jerry sanders

Sanders and Villaraigosa Featured in Mayors for Equality Video

Mayors officially Announce “Mayors for Marriage” campaign

Last week I mentioned that Jerry Sanders and Antonio Villaraigosa had teamed up with other mayors across the nation to launch an effort to back marriage equality. Freedom to marry has now officially launched the video from that US Conference of Mayors meeting last week:

You can see the full list of mayors that signed up for the campaign include many California mayors, from some of our biggest cities, LA, SD, Oakland and SF and a whole of assortment of interesting names (Redondo Beach, Chico, and San Luis Obispo).  

The two biggest cities not on the list are also headed by Democrats as well.  San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is opposed to marriage equality, though he didn’t publicly endorse Prop 8. Sacramento’s Kevin Johnson who publicly opposed Prop 8, also, at least at last check, was playing the Obama game of not supporting constitutional amendments but opposing marriage equality.

SD Mayor Jerry Sanders, Villaraigosa to Lead Marriage Equality Campaign

PhotobucketRepublican Mayor continues fight for Marriage Equality

by Brian Leubitz

Jerry Sanders is really your textbook example case for why the LGBT community needs to come out.  Sanders was going about his business as just another Republican in SoCal, opposed to marriage equality. Hardly a radical anti-gay politician or anything like that, but not somebody that you would call an ally.  That is of course, until his daughter came out as a lesbian.

The change wasn’t overnight, but today, Sanders is now one of the most prominent voices for marriage equality.  He testified at the Prop 8 trial, a day I happened to attend, and it was quite moving. If those tapes are released, his testimony will really be worth a watch.  And today Freedom to Marry announced that Mayor Sanders will be leading a new campaign, creatively called “Mayors for Freedom to Marry.”

Sanders hasn’t suddenly become a progressive, but he has put himself in the shoes of somebody being discriminated against.  He can see that his daughter was hurt by Prop 8, and has done something about it.  I wouldn’t vote for him for most offices, but I do think he should be commended for doing what is best for his family, not for what is best for his ability to win some future Republican “primary” battle.

The committee is co-chaired by Mayor Villaraigosa of LA as well as Mayors Bloomberg (NYC) and Menino (Boston). Meanwhile, the numbers continue to drift towards equality and legislatures across the country are passing marriage bills. At some point in the very near future, this is not going to be an issue outside of the right-wing fringe.

San Diego Deficit Blooms

Stop me if this sounds familiar. The City of San Diego’s projected $54-60 million budget shortfall, closed via pay cuts and the magic budget fairy. So great I guess, but it turns out somebody forgot that there’s a recession on, cause the shortfall is gonna be at least $70 million now:

Thanks to falling property taxes, lower-than-projected hotel taxes and the possibility of a state raid on city coffers, San Diego will face a budget gap for the upcoming year that is significantly larger than the $60 million shortfall that was the basis of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ original budget proposal just last month. Before that budget was released, the mayor said late last year that the gap would be $54 million.

That magic budget fairy was nice the first time, but probably “oops, oh yeah” isn’t going to fly much longer.

This latest downward revision is further evidence that city officials have been slow to accept the severity of this recession. “Maybe this will be our last round of, ‘Oh sorry, we were off, let’s update it,'” Councilman Carl DeMaio said of the city’s revenue estimates.


In recent weeks, the city has been shown to be off on estimates of major revenue sources, most recently property taxes. The city’s initial budget proposal for the 2010 fiscal year included a 1 percent increase in property taxes, but the county assessor said last week that property tax revenues countywide are expected to fall by 2.5 percent, an unprecedented drop.

So basically, math is hard. So is understanding the function of city government. I wish we could vote to hire someone whose specific job is to understand these things and hire a staff devoted to exactly that. We could call that person “mayor” or something.

Meanwhile, the updated $70 million gap doesn’t include the impact of the state raiding local property tax revenues. That’d only happen if the Props fail on Tuesday of course, so we shouldn’t peg it as more than like…90% probable. No reason to plan for that- it’s only as much as $36 million. At which point, waddya know? The deficit that Mayor Sanders originally said would be $54 million is up to at least $106 million. Now I’m not a mathematician by trade, but if the gap doubles, that’s bad. Especially since there probably aren’t bags of money laying around anymore.

Incidentally, forcing pay cuts into new labor contracts seems a lot less noble now that it’s pretty clear that layoffs were inevitable and easy to project from the get-go.

San Diego’s Budget Solution on the Backs of Retirees and the Poor

Earlier this week, Jerry Sanders unveiled his budget proposal (full proposal here) for city council review and vote. The budget is, perhaps unsurprisingly, mostly a corruption of the notion of “fair” and revives the locally legendary magic budget fairy to close a $60 million gap. It’s a mess all around, but budget cuts unnecessarily target retirees and low-income city employees in the name of “fairness” and far too many are willing to roll over because it’s easier and deficits are scary.

$11 million in fees and $3.8 million from the Library Systems Improvement fund are, at first blush, relatively minor. But the rest of the $60 million will come from several eyebrow-raising locations. $17.8 million will come from a surprise rainy-day fund that nobody outside of the financial folks seemed to know about until recently (efficiency at its finest). As Councilmember Gloria noted, reflecting on a midyear budget vote to close 7 libraries and rec centers “I shudder to think what would have happened if the council consented to doing that only to find $17.8 million that is currently available.” The City Attorney tried to defend nobody having any idea about this money by basically saying ‘running a city is complicated’. It fell to City CFO Mary Lewis to defend the mayor’s office:

“In prior budgets, we were looking at how do we right-size the city,” Lewis said. “It was just a different policy discussion about the budget and balancing the budget.”

I mean, I suppose running a city is complicated. But I mean, if it’s your job…

The remaining $30 million would come from an across-the-board 6% paycut for all city employees from the mayor on down. You may be familiar with this concept under other names like flat tax, fair tax, increased sales tax, etc. Basically, a regressive financial hit cloaked in the guise of fair. Thing is, rent and utilities and food and gas and a thousand other things that people need in order to live don’t change in price based on percentage. So as has been explained a thousand times before, without allowances for cost of living, these sorts of cuts hit hardest those who make the least. Which is a problem for its proponents..

Mayor Sanders defends these proposed cuts- in the midst of negotiations with all five of the city employee unions- by insisting that the only other option is layoffs. Even leaving aside the credibility that’s lost when the Mayor’s office can just up and discover $17.8 million lying around that nobody knew about, this isn’t a black-and-white issue. Obviously cuts are necessary, but cuts that still drive city employees to seek government benefits to survive kinda defeats the purpose of… keeping current city employees from needing that support. CityBeat paid lip service to this while endorsing the budget proposal, largely under the apparent presumption that coming up with and passing an actual different, better budget would be too difficult.

But the punitive air involved here- both from the Mayor and from otherwise-reliable progressive sources like CityBeat- is troubling to say the least. The notion that the city unions negotiated TOO good a deal last time and that correcting deals that are now seen as overgenerous should trump putting the best policy forward. But that’s nothing new and demonstrates exactly WHY unions are so aggressive in contract negotiations. They know that at every opportunity, organized labor will be the first target for cuts. In this case, major cuts to retiree health care are coupled with regressive pay cuts because it’s apparently too much of a hassle to produce and pass a progressive budget solution.

But even more, it’s a sign of San Diego’s economic model. Tourism is such a dramatic and vital source of income for the city that perpetuating an internal economy that’s fundamentally dysfunctional is fine- just keep the beaches full and the Convention Center booked. Until city leaders commit to systemic changes to local budget structures, I suppose this is what we’re gonna get.

San Diego Government’s Crowdsourcing

I don’t know what the specific ratio of placating-the-masses to completely-out-of-ideas might be, but San Diego’s city government is asking for ideas. The big one is Mayor Sanders soliciting lightning bolts on budget cuts. I’m kinda terrified to imagine what this might elicit, but maybe there’ll be a few gems. At the very least, it’s a nice shift from his consistent (if often unsuccessful) fits of dictatorial governance.

With San Diego’s budget future linked to woes at the state level, negotiations beginning with HUD over millions in mismanaged funds which may need to be repayed, and major concerns over access to food stamps, it’s probably not a bad time to see if anyone happens to be particularly inspired.

At the same time, a charrette (pdf) is kicking off soliciting bright ideas for community redevelopment, specifically the Grantville area. SD Business Journal explains that the neighborhood “is undergoing a Master Plan transformation that could prove a blueprint for the greater redevelopment of our neighborhoods throughout the city.”

There’s lots of talk about “stakeholders” and communities investing in their own futures, which is a good start. And with the San Diego Democratic Party bouncing back fast from rock bottom in the June primary to strengthen its hold on the city council, hopefully this is the beginning of legitimate dialogue with the community. The November election brought a consumer advocate reporter (Marti Emerald), a long-time community volunteer (Sherri Lightner), and a Housing Commissioner and District Director (Todd Gloria) to the board. Three people who are, at the very least, used to soliciting opinions and perspectives from the broader community as an essential function of their professional lives. It’s a valuable shift in mentality that the Mayor seems to also be picking up on, even if it’s also a reflection of how few good answers seem to be forthcoming these days.

We’ll have to wait a while for the payoff. In the meantime, a little more openness is a decent place from which to start.

Update I should add that Mayor Sanders has taken the request for ideas to twitter. It isn’t exactly Debra Bowen, but it’s a lot better than many politician accounts. At least he’s stepping outside the tubes and into the ether.

Nation’s Largest Desalination Plant Approved

Coming soon to Carlsbad, the nation’s largest desalination plant. A 10 1/2 hour hearing concluded with approval for the project which has been pushed hard by Mayor Jerry Sanders to address the water crisis affecting San Diego. The ruling also opened the door for as many as 20 other desalination plants that have been proposed in the state.

The ruling includes a number of pretty good requirements of Poseidon Resources which will build the plant. They include enhancement of marine habitats, diluting the waste-water that tends to cause dead-zones in the ocean where it’s dumped, carbon offsets, energy recovery and use of solar panels.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders has been pushing voluntary water conservation for months. It’s to his credit (to a point) that he’s identified this issue and spoken out about it. But he’s refused to institute anything resembling a mandatory conservation plan, and on my morning commute I still see countless businesses watering a narrow strip of grass and a wide swath of parking lot under the baking sun. Quite simply, he has not committed to making this a big deal despite the executive director of the Utility Consumers’ Action Network recently commenting

Somebody needed to throw out a well-thought, reasoned proposal to ratchet up the quality and urgency of the discussion…I think the region has suffered from an overzealous desire to reach consensus without providing any kind of clear vision.

In fact, Sanders has overtly thwarted attempts to establish just that sort of clear vision in the name of tired old GOP laissez-faire fanaticism. Plus, since it’s Jerry Sanders, there’s quite possibly inappropriate business relationships involved in his politics. City Attorney Mike Aguirre testified in opposition to the desalination plan yesterday, contending that “the primary way to gain new water is through reclamation.” Sanders has vehemently opposed water reclamation and his veto of a pilot project was overruled by the City Council earlier this year. In traditional form, Sanders has responded by trying to poison the project by tying it to increases in utility costs.

In response to this foot-dragging obstructionism coupled with evangelism for the Poseidon desalination project, Aguirre wrote a letter to Sanders on Tuesday calling into question the motivations involved by noting:

* Three Poseidon officers each contributed $300 to Sanders’ first election campaign.

* Sanders’ campaign manager, Tom Shepard, is president of a firm that lobbies for Poseidon, and a Sanders campaign staffer once employed by Shepard now works for Poseidon.

* A city staff e-mail questioning the council’s water project was copied to Shepard by a Sanders aide.

Sanders has a long history of intimate ties to lobbyists doing business in and around the City of San Diego and has never apologized for it. But more broadly, this fits in with the age-old GOP modus operandi: force government to ignore a problem until it reaches a crisis point, then force through a flawed and incomplete solution that benefits friends and business contacts. We see it here, we see it with the state budget, we see it with national security.

It’s not as though water is a new issue. People have needed it for literally ever and the sharing thereof has been a sticking point in California as long as there’s been a California. But rather than starting years ago down a path of responsible water use and steady, deliberate development of new sources, we wait until the last second, hang the threat of impending doom over people without insisting they actually do anything but sign away their right to oversight and skepticism, and come up with the solution that will make Jerry Sanders’ retirement party more lavish.

Just more for-profit incompetence and fear mongering by your modern-day GOP.

Dede Alpert Happened

In June I asked What the Hell Happened in San Diego following a disaster in the June primary. A few days later, I noted that, among other things, Ben Hueso happened. Today, former state senator Dede Alpert happened in much the same way. Alpert is, apparently by virtue of just being a Democrat who’s ever been elected to something, generally considered to be a major force within the San Diego Democratic Party. She was even batted around as a possible candidate for mayor before leading Dems decided it would be easier to just give up and go home. So in the one remaining citywide race, Alpert endorses Jan Goldsmith for City Attorney, the Republican. This of course continues her streak of supporting Republicans every chance she gets.

Let’s keep this straight. Incumbent City Attorney Mike Aguirre is the only one in San Diego who has consistently and seriously pursued tremendous corruption concerns over the past several years. Alpert’s endorsement says that Goldsmith “will provide the kind of leadership the City Attorney’s office needs to be a competent, well-managed law office for the people of San Diego.” Which of course implies that Aguirre’s office is incompetent and poorly managed. This is a popular line of CW bullshit in San Diego pushed out by people who bristle at the notion of real accountability at the city level. I know that Aguirre isn’t always the easiest person to get along with or work with, but with nobody else in the entire city taking seriously the responsibility to provide an uncorrupted, open and reasonably functional government, I’d wonder what exactly Alpert is looking for.

Has the city’s recent crumbling infrastructure, financial mismanagement, city hall pay-to-play scandals, collapsing economy and lack of responsiveness been some sort of model for virtuous governance and I missed the memo? Has the appeal of having a viable oppositional voice been abandoned in favor of a de-facto autocracy full of people keeping their head down and building a resume?

In this case, it makes some sense that, since Alpert’s Republican choice for mayor has won, that she would want to undermine anyone who might oppose his policies- regardless of whether the policies are good. Or ethical. Or healthy for the long-term prospects of city governance. Effective government requires a public and reasonable debate, a legitimate division of power within government and between ideologies, and a basic level of competence and motivation towards maintaining such standards. It would seem Alpert disagrees, but complacency and go-along-get-along simply doesn’t fly. Not anymore at least.

The Democratic Party in San Diego is completely rotten at the top. These standard-bearers of the establishment and decaying conventional wisdom are an embarrassment and actively undermine the tremendous bottom-up organizing that new blood, new perspectives and new energy have brought to the grassroots level. It’s people like Ben Hueso and Dede Alpert who work expressly at cross-purposes to the notion of a viable San Diego Democratic Party. The ultimate opponent is the GOP, but these oppositional Democrats are a hurdle that need to be identified and understood as well. There won’t be a healthy Democratic Party until we win both fronts. If Dede Alpert wants to try to hold up the Republican power structure, so be it. Now we know what we’re dealing with.

Ben Hueso Happened

Disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign which has worked on the Blackwater issue, but these opinions are my own.

Earlier this week, I asked What the Hell happened in San Diego in the June 3 election. I explored a particularly underwhelming electoral performance and noted that there was a massive failure of leadership from the city’s elected Democrats (active and retired). Councilmember Donna Frye supported GOP mayoral challenger Steve Francis and Council President Scott Peters ran against the Democratic incumbent City Attorney Mike Aguirre. Incidentally, both Francis and Peters failed to make it to the November runoff.

Then yesterday it happened again. Councilmember Ben Hueso, who in May was rallying to Block Blackwater in his council district, announced his endorsement of Republican city attorney candidate Jan Goldsmith. This is particularly notable because Goldsmith’s opponent is incumbent Mike Aguirre. Aguirre has been a champion for the city in the fight to force Blackwater’s permits into public hearing at a time when a number of other city leaders have…attended a rally and then thrown up their hands.

If Jan Goldsmith as City Attorney would go to bat over Blackwater or any other number of issues that might be uncomfortable for the Mayor or inconvenient for the City Council, I would be absolutely flabbergasted. The campaign, like every other challenge to Aguirre this year, has been centered around a promise to sit down and shut up. The last thing this city needs is another elected official who doesn’t have the necessary combination of power and motivation to force important issues.

As the UT newsblog notes, Hueso and Aguirre have never exactly been close. And Aguirre has taken a lot of flack throughout his term as City Attorney for his rabid pursuit of Mayor Jerry Sanders for all manner of scandal- real or imagined. But as Councilmember Hueso well knows because he’s at the meetings, the City Council hasn’t exactly put on a clinic when it comes to keeping mayoral power checked by the legislative branch. Fighting the good fight has consistently taken a back seat over the past two and a half years to misguided “pragmatism” that largely allowed Mayor Sanders to get anything he wanted.

So what we’re left with is Ben Hueso surveying this scene- Mayor Sanders re-elected to a second term with what CW will term a convincing mandate (it’s not, the turnout was too low to carry a mandate) and a City Council that will likely go from a narrow Democratic advantage to an even split, further neutering a body that had given itself over to the inevitability of the Strong Mayor government- and deciding that the best thing for the city is that the single dissonant voice of any weight in the city government should be replaced by, as the UT put it,

Hueso said the city attorney’s political persuasion is less important to him than getting “the best legal advice.”

If the Democratic Party in San Diego is ever going to be able to capitalize on the tremendous infrastructure building being done at the precinct and street-corner level, leading Democrats need to stop undercutting both their party and basic points of fundamental governance at every opportunity.

What happened in San Diego? Ben Hueso and destructive politics like this happened.

What the Hell Happened in San Diego?

At Voice of San Diego today, David Washburn asks Where are the Democrats?

It’s a question that I’ve been contemplating and broaching in conversations since June 3 which was, to put it mildly, a disaster for Democrats of San Diego. In a Democratic majority city, the official mayoral nominee of the Democratic Party received 6.3% of the vote. The contested Democratic primary in the 50th Congressional District received in total just 70% of the votes that incumbent Rep. Brian Bilbray received running unopposed. In the 52rd district, Democratic candidates combined for 81% of the total received by Duncan Hunter Jr. himself in a four-way primary.

Not a single Democratic challenger to the Board of Supervisors reached 30% of the vote. One fresh face was added to the Unified School Board- running unopposed. Democrats could not force a runoff in all four City Council races or reach 50% in any, leaving a very real possibility that Dems will lose control of the nominally non-partisan Council in November. Dems in the race for City Attorney split the vote three ways, allowing Republican Jan Goldsmith to slide into pole position for the November runoff against incumbent Mike Aguirre who clocked in at under 29%. Heck, the Chair of the San Diego Democratic Party came in 7th in a vote-for-six race for Central Committee (and then won a DNC spot over the weekend). I could go on.

Each of these races on their own might be justified. But when it represents the entire strength that the San Diego Democratic Party can muster in the midst of a pro-Democratic tide across the country larger than anyone has seen in decades, it’s cause for concern. So what happened? Washburn offers a few thoughts as do I:

One of the most glaring issues is money. As Washburn notes,

In the just-finished primary, the Democratic Party spent $35,000 on direct mail and other support of Stephen Whitburn. His chief competition for the District 3 seat came from two other Democrats — Todd Gloria and John Hartley. Gloria and Whitburn made the runoff.

“Why would you spend a penny on that race?” asked Andy Berg, the director of government relations for the National Electrical Contractors Association and a Democrat. “Gloria and Whitburn would likely vote the same (on council) 100 out of 100 times.”

Meanwhile, Berg noted, Democrats are in dogfights against well-funded Republicans in Districts 1 and 7. The party spent nearly $70,000 in the primary to support Marti Emerald and oppose Boling in District 7. The GOP spent more than $200,000 in that race.

In District 1, the funding disparity is starker. The Democratic Party spent just more than $5,000 supporting Sherri Lightner in a race against Thalheimer and Marshall Merrifield, Republicans who combined raised more than $700,000, most of it coming out of their own pockets.

In the mayoral race, the GOP spent $230,000 on Sanders while the Democrats spent $1,869 on [Democratic nominee Floyd] Morrow.

I should note that District 1 is current represented by Democrat and City Council President Scott Peters, so losing that seat could mean losing control of the Council.

Current state GOP Chair Ron Nehring came up in San Diego, where with unlimited national-level resources he rebuilt the SD GOP with a focus on infrastructure and electoral victory, leaving ideology as incidental. As designed, it has almost completely eliminated the ability of local Democrats to win or often contest elections- which makes the ideological debate moot since…well…there isn’t one.

One wonders what exactly the point is of even nominating someone for Mayor if there will be no support at all. The most prominent Democrats in San Diego looked past Morrow, with former state Sen. Dede Alpert, former Assemblywoman Lucy Killea and former Rep. Lynn Schenk endorsing Jerry Sanders and Councilmember Donna Frye doing everything but endorsing GOP challenger Steve Francis. There’s a time and a place for pragmatism, but completely giving up on even having a debate of the issues that ranges outside the far right-to-center right continuum should be embarrassing. If we can’t even talk about these issues in an election, when are we gonna do it?

Washburn goes on to touch on another issue that I’ve discussed many times with local Democrats: Where the hell are the candidates and the infrastructure? Lorena Gonzalez lost an exceptionally tight race for City Council in 2006 in a district that covers beach communities and downtown urbanites that should be favorable for a Democrat:

“Here we have a Stanford-educated woman with brilliant ideas and Democratic ideals — she epitomized what the party is about,” Berg said. “And [the party] couldn’t muster the support to win a City Council race.”

Gonzalez, who is now the secretary-treasurer of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, said she felt, to a degree, like she was on her own during the race.

“Speaking as a candidate, we don’t have the same infrastructure that the GOP has,” said Gonzalez, who estimates she was outspent 7-to-1 in the race. “And there have been no real attempts to create an infrastructure and professionalize the party.”

Gonzalez might be going a bit further than I would there, because the SD Dems and Chair Jess Durfee have in fact been making tremendous strides recently. Indeed, Washburn notes “Since taking over as chairman four years ago, Durfee said he has increased the organization’s budget from $60,000 to $300,000. Also, he said, and the party has gone from having no field operations at all, to more than 700 trained precinct leaders in the county.”

That’s a darn good start, and one that should be commended. But when the money is being misallocated, when candidates don’t feel like they’ll be supported by a vigorous infrastructure, and when leading figures in the party check out and throw their lot in with the GOP under the guise of some cop-out notion of pragmatism that simply justifies the opposing point of view, there’s been a fundamental and catastrophic breakdown.

The infrastructure that is beginning to take root here is encouraging, but remain small steps in the right direction. These few encouraging steps are more than outweighed by the colossal “DNP” on the coaches’ scorecard for prominent Democrats throughout the County. If they weren’t busy with in-fighting, they flat did not show up. And with that kind of leadership, building from the ground up- even in times as conducive as these- becomes a herculean task. If June 3rd’s results are any indication, local Democrats won’t be done wandering in the wilderness any time soon.

Judge rules for Blackwater, fight continues

Full disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign

A day later than expected, a federal judge today ruled in Blackwater’s favor, ruling “that ‘the public interest weighs in favor’ of allowing the company to open its facility” in Otay Mesa. The ruling will allow Blackwater to occupy the facility, which they’re expected to do in the morning. Court hearings will continue on June 17th when the City of San Diego will again present its case that Blackwater misled city officials during the ministerial review of permits.  This doesn’t end the case, but it does rob the city of some of its thunder. The legal wrangling will continue, and in the meantime, Blackwater still has more permits pending that will hopefully receive quite a bit more scrutiny.

In related news, the political landscape shifted considerably in elections yesterday. Mayor Sanders avoided a runoff in his bid for a second term, which could either free him to do the right thing or lessen his concern for public opinion. Incumbent City Attorney Mike Aguirre will be heading for a runoff in November, coming in second to GOP candidate Jan Goldsmith. If activists locally are savvy and get the support they need, Blackwater can become a central issue in that campaign. That runoff also knocks termed-out City Council President Scott Peters out of the equation- it will be interesting to see what he does with the remainder of his time in office on this issue. He’s spoken out with us previously and his will be an important voice going forward.

As more develops, we’ll continue with the updates. The next date circled on my San Diego/Blackwater calendar is June 10, when Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army author Jeremy Scahill will be in town to speak on the depth and breadth of Blackwater in America (pdf).