Tag Archives: Donna Frye

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.

San Diego Ready to Build Up, Not Out

With everyone off doing presidential stuff around the country, I’m gonna sneak in some local fun.  For the first time since 1979, the City of San Diego is reviewing and updating its general plan for growth and development.  The report is more than 300 pages long and not even I am nerd enough to read it all (ok, not yet), but it’s kicking up quite a stir as it recommends a rather dramatic shift to infill, redevelopment and other building up instead of out priorities.  Why the shift? Well, there’s no more room.  As the U-T points out, only 4% of San Diego remains open for new development.  Which means it’s time to start thinking like an actual city instead of neverending suburbia.

This notion has of course stirred up plenty of controversy.  Some of it is legitimate, like Councilmember Donna Frye’s concerns about infrastructure and services keeping up with increased density.  Some of it is mostly just people just trying to cover their own butts without regard for the broader picture.  I’m all for making sure that the projects are executed correctly, but criticisms along the lines of “if it’s done wrong, it’ll be bad” really don’t help me much.

Calitics has, on many occasions, discussed the need to change the way California thinks about development.  Robert has led the way on the notion that building density and a non-car based transportation system is key to the next generation of planning.  So while I’m cynical like many people around town who say “The plan has these wonderful platitudes but on every page,” I’m also encouraged by just the notion of setting a goal of building forward-thinking urban density.

On the flip is a brief rundown of the ten elements that the plan promotes and a bit of local intrigue that, not surprisingly, is getting caught up in this.

The proposed new blueprint for San Diego is guided by 10 principles. They are:

An open-space network formed by parks, canyons, river valleys, habitats, beaches and ocean.

Diverse residential communities formed by the open-space network.

Compact and walkable mixed-use villages.

Employment centers for a strong economy.

A regional transportation network of walkways, bikeways, transit, roadways and freeways that link communities to each other and to employment centers.

High quality, affordable and well-maintained public facilities.

Historic districts and sites that respect San Diego’s heritage.

Balanced communities that offer opportunities for all San Diegans.

A clean and sustainable environment.

A high aesthetic standard.

Mayor Jerry Sanders, in a serious battle with fellow right-winger Steve Francis (hitting from the left and the right cause there’s no major Dem in the race) for November’s mayoral election, is dusting off his anti-labor credentials by complaining about the promotion of living wage regulation for low-wage industries like, say, tourism.  Center for Policy Initiatives has coincidentally (not at all a coincidence) reminded San Diegans this week that the local economy has not exactly been churning out the big bucks (pdf).  Via email:

In San Diego County, two-thirds of all jobs created since 1990 are in the bottom third of wage levels — with median pay of $24,500 a year. Research from the California Budget Project shows that even a person living alone needs $28,000 a year to meet basic living expenses in our county.

Nice. So San Diego is producing jobs that pay too little to live in San Diego, thus the living wage is a bad idea. Clearly. Living is bad. Affording to live in San Diego is bad for the local economy. Jerry Sanders is an economic mastermind.

But where this really will start hitting problems is when people have to pay for it.  Not because people are unwilling to pay for good stuff, but because of the near-toxic combination of politicians who demonize government inefficiency (that they contribute to), the media that laps up the notion (because it’s easier than being a legitimate watchdog), and the years of (to put it nicely) crap government in San Diego.

But as Planning Commission Chairman Barry Schultz puts it, “if we want to have this vision we have to be willing to contribute our part.”


Cross posted at San Diego Politico

Donna Frye

I was very surprised to learn that Donna had cast the deciding vote against the measure supporting gay marriage a couple of weeks ago; fortunately the person who delivered that news provided context.

I was at the local DFA meeting on the day she cast that vote, and the speaker was Stephen Whitburn, who is the DFA-endorsed candidate for City Council in the 3rd District.  He has not only DFA’s endorsement, but also Donna’s; they are longtime friends.  Follow me across the fold for Stephen’s context.

Stephen explained that he wasn’t upset about Donna’s vote, that he knew her to be a strong supporter of gay marriage, and that she had explained her reasoning to him, and that it made sense to him.  And it does to me, too.

It was a procedural matter; the measure had not been announced with enough advance time for people who might want to be heard on the issue to get to the meeting.  There was, I think, a matter of a holiday weekend that figured into the time calculation.  Donna, who is indeed a strong supporter of civil rights, including gay marriage, didn’t feel it was appropriate to trample the civil rights of those who might oppose the measure, by railroading the measure through before they had a chance to speak their piece.  She felt, rather, that the matter should be re-scheduled so that everyone could be heard, so that whichever way the issue was decided, it could be seen to have been decided with a full hearing of all voices.

I heard her a couple of days later on the Stacy Taylor show; she pointed out how wrong it would be to promote some civil rights by trampling others.  I think she was right on this issue, as I think she is often right, and I think she took a lot of undue heat for doing the right thing.

I suspect, but could never prove, that her spirit of evenhandedness here might even have contributed to Mayor Sanders’ change of heart in the matter; had she participated in the railroading, it would have been easier for him to react in similarly aggressive, competitive fashion.

So, hurrah for Donna!

Draft Ducheny For San Diego Mayor Gains Steam

“There’s a certain kind of equation that Democrats are doing,” Ducheny said. “Their concerns are that it’s Sanders and Francis and, gosh, is there anybody else?”

I first heard rumblings about this at San Diego Politico last week, and now VoiceOfSanDiego has dug into it with greater depth.  With Donna Frye demurring on another run for mayor of San Diego, Dems are looking at State Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny as a candidate for mayor next year.  She’s exciting a lot of Dems for being business-friendly in a cycle that may see Republicans split between current Mayor Jerry Sanders and 2004 candidate Steve Francis, who has become a consistent critic of Sanders.  Ducheny would have the added benefit of not being tainted by recent city-level scandals and has drawn the support of at least one high profile Democrat: City Attorney Mike Aguirre.

San Diego Democrats are facing a potentially golden electoral opportunity in 2008.  Dissatisfaction with Jerry Sanders from business Republicans has given Steve Francis a wedge with which to gain some traction on the right.  A divided Republican electorate combined with an increasingly unpopular Republican Party at the national level and the forgotten Democratic registration advantage presents a great chance for Democrats to take the mayor’s office.  The only problem so far has been figuring out who should run.  San Diego doesn’t have the deepest of benches after a generation of rising progressives was virtually wiped out by corruption and Target San Diego (pdf).  Much of the remaining Democrats in office are reliably liberal but also inextricably linked to dissatisfaction with local government over the past five years.

As the VoSD article notes, before Donna Frye, Democrats hadn’t made a serious run at the mayor’s office since 1992, and now find themselves back to starting with the opportunity and searching for a candidate.  Ducheny’s experience in Sacramento on budget matters make her particularly attractive to local Democrats in light of the city’s fiscal struggles, though there are concerns about the level of support that she would inspire from local labor, but given the thin bench after years of lackluster success at the nonpartisan level, any solution is likely to be imperfect.

Sen. Ducheny has expressed no particular hurry to make a decision in either direction, though the sooner the better by most estimations.  Jerry Sanders’ reelection campaign is set to kick off tomorrow.

Is Jerry Sanders in for a Fight?

As reported earlier this month by voiceofsandiego.org, Mayor Jerry Sanders’ second quarter fundraising resulted in zero dollars (pdf).  This, presumably, was at least partly to do with a perceived lack of credible challengers for next year’s mayoral race.  But after two weeks of being picked apart over his role in the illegal Sunroad project and his apparently dishonest defense, things may be changing.  The Union Tribune is reporting that Mayor Sanders’ two major challengers from last time, City Councilwoman Donna Frye and businessman Steve Francis, “champing at the bit” over the prospect of a rematch.  So what’s going on?

Sunroad Enterprises was busted for exceeding federal height limits for its development near Montgomery Field airport, and questions have been flying around town as to just who it was who let it happen.  City Attorney Mike Aguirre was one of the first out of the gate, accusing Mayor Sanders of corruption over the situation, noting that Sunroad executives played notable fundraising roles in Sanders’ election.  Sanders has vehemently defended himself against allegations of corruption, but recent revelations has called his side of things into question.  Before citing multiple discrepancies between Sanders’ explanation and official records, The Union Tribune over the weekend explained:

Memos show that then-Development Services Department director Gary Halbert, assistant director Kelly Broughton, and James Waring, the chief of land use and economic development, all knew about the problem in June 2006 – before the building had reached its halfway point.

Yet Sanders has insisted that neither he nor Waring knew about the controversy until October, when the structure had reached its full height and City Attorney Michael Aguirre was preparing to issue a stop-work order on the project.

The Mayor’s investigation into the matter was initially run by retired Navy Rear Adm. Ronne Froman, serving as the mayor’s chief operating officer.  She quit in mid-investigation, explaining “her work at City Hall was completed.”  James Waring has recently left his position either via firing, forced resignation or regular resignation depending on who you talk to.  This after his visit last week to Donna Frye, supposedly without the mayor’s knowledge, to negotiate a height compromise.  Frye went public with the attempted negotiation and Francis (Sanders’ presumptive challenger from the right) has correctly pointed out that Sanders is either lying or running an out of control office.  And neither is good.

All of this simply continues a disturbing trend for Jerry Sanders.  He has systematically set out to restrict public access and input to the city charter revision, has embraced the “strong mayor” principle after cosigning the argument against it, and has completely forfeited any credibility he might have had surrounding his pledge of an “era of openness” in San Diego government.  He has, essentially, insisted that he should be trusted because only he really understands what has to be done (kinda like a certain president).

Presumably Jerry Sanders is not going to be raising zero dollars again anytime soon.  But as his credibility starts to fade, it gives opponents a clear line of attack in a city still weary of corrupt governance.  Timed with a report that the Board of Supervisors will likely not be competitive, it looks like we can mark down at least one legitimate race in San Diego next year.

Donna Frye Caves on Wal-Mart, San Diego Open to Supercenters

After consistently voting to ban supercenters in San Diego, Councilwoman Donna Frye yesterday switched her vote in a surprise move, killing any opportunity to override the Mayor’s veto.  After years of opposition, Frye said:

I heard from many, many people that want to have that choice, and I think there’s a way to give people that choice, to hopefully put something in place that also protects small businesses by doing an economic impact report and allowing the communities to have a greater oversight of that process

Essentially, she’s decided that the effect of Supercenters can be mitigated by nibbling around the edges, turning her back on the UFCW, the Neighborhood Market Association, and any supporter of responsible growth or sound economic policy in San Diego

The word is that Frye received enough of a reaction from her district in support of Wal-Mart that she was compelled to change her vote, which is a hell of a mixed blessing.  Responsiveness is fantastic, but not at the expense of leadership.  This is a case in which it’s the responsibility of elected officials to actually know better than their constituents, and in that regard, Donna Frye has failed.  The negative impacts of Supercenters on environment, traffic, community development, small businesses and the general economic conditions are well documented.  Indeed, Donna Frye has made the anti-Supercenter case very well herself many times, so she knows what she’s dealing with.

Yet here we find ourselves.  A city with major environmental concerns and traffic congestion problems adding a big, fat, polluting roadblock.  Cheap liquor and guns coming to a community near you. And of course, the replacement of high-paying jobs with low-paying jobs.  Because in all of my experience, cities with more poor people tend to be desirable.  People have clamored for the option of buying cheaper groceries (not that they’re actually cheaper, but whatever), and apparently this swayed Donna Frye.  I wonder though whether people would be as enthusiastic about having no option BUT to buy the cheapest possible products.  Because that’s what happens.

The City government’s job is to manage the growth and development of the city in a wise way.  That’s why, for example, there’s zoning.  Or height restrictions for buildings near airports. Donna Frye has abandoned what’s best for San Diego in favor of what’s popular in San Diego.  That’s not her job, she knows better, and I’m exceptionally disappointed.

The article mentions the suspicion that this might have been a political maneuver to protect the Democratic Party next November.  With this issue gone, Wal-Mart won’t be sponsoring a ballot measure and skewing the Mayor, City Attorney, and four City Council elections with money, advertising and GOTV.  If that’s the case, it’s a pretty tricky bit of maneuvering that she’s playing with.

What I’d like to think (really really like to think), is that this is the first step towards placing so many restrictions on the location of Supercenters that there wouldn’t be any suitable locations in San Diego.  This would be exceptionally difficult and while the folks at Wal-Mart are many unflattering things, stupid isn’t one of them.  They also aren’t going to be shamed out of building a location because of an environmental impact study or public scrutiny.  As long as there’s a lack of political will to stand up to corporations which exist only insofar as they can keep people poor and desperate, Wal-Mart won’t police itself.  One more time, Democrats have rolled over rather than taking on a necessary fight.  I hope there’s another legitimate step coming, but I’m not holding my breath.

The Surreal Politics of Orange County: Is the GOP Machine Trying to Steal This Election?

This morning, Janet Nguyen’s lawyers may go to court to stop certification of Tuesday’s supervisorial election. They intend to question the accuracy of the electronic voting machines here and the Registrar of Voter’s determination on some of the provisional ballots cast. Though it’s far from certain that as many as seven votes can be switched, Team Janet remains confident: (From OC Register)

“We have an excellent chance of getting seven votes switched,” said Dave Gilliard, Janet Nguyen’s campaign consultant. “At seven votes, I think the race is still very much up in the air.”

OK, so Gilliard may be your typical GOP consultant. And Janet might not be the most sympathetic of candidates. But still, follow me after the flip and I’ll show you how this race is still “very much in the air”. That air, after all, may be quite stinky…

Already, it looks like Janet has hired noted election lawyer Fred Woocher to present her case in court. If Woocher’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you still remember Donna Frye’s first run for San Diego Mayor in 2004. Though Frye had actually won a plurality of votes that November, she was denied her victory because some 5,551 of those Frye voters had forgotten to fill the oval after writing in her name. Though similar undervotes were allowed to be counted for incumbent Mayor Dick Murphy, the same courtesy was not given to undervotes for Donna Frye. In turn, this threw out enough votes to give Murphy another term…
Until he had to resign.

But I digress. This time around, Woocher be worrying about more than just unfilled ovals. This time, it will be also be about the voter fraud.

While taking out my garbage about a week and a half ago, I was approached by three Vietnamese men who spoke to me in Vietnamese. In their hands were absentee ballots, not requests, but ballots. They tried to hand one off to me and asked me to fill in the bubble for Trung Nguyen sign the envelope and they would take care of the rest. I told them no I am not supporting Trung, and added that what they were doing was wrong and illegal. They insisted they were doing nothing wrong and were trying to help the Vietnamese community and that Trung Nguyen was the only one who cared about the Vietnamese community. I told them again I am not supporting Trung Nguyen and what they were doing was illegal. They moved on to the next home. I noticed they were at my mobile home park everyday, same three men with stacks of absentee ballots.

I informed Vietnamese radio about what was going on. They did a report on it. It was also reported to the DA’s office. I believe the District Attorney is investigating. I do hope they find wrongdoing.

However, Trung Nguyen and his Van Tran cronies “allies” are quite quick to denounce all of this as just Janet being a “sore loser“. They would rather just see Janet “concede gracefully”, even though there are still all these questions about this election that have yet to be answered. Oh yes, and apparently Janet Nguyen is the “New Al Gore”. (From OC Register)

Trung Nguyen, meanwhile, spent Thursday making plans for serving as supervisor. He toured what he believes will be his new office on the fifth floor of the Orange County Hall of Administration and his campaign warned Janet Nguyen that she may look like former Vice President Al Gore when he desperately tried to reverse the 2000 presidential election.

Michael Schroeder, Trung Nguyen’s lawyer, said he believes Janet Nguyen will fail to stop the election certification because she didn’t meet a Thursday deadline to get a court hearing.

“She has the prospect of becoming the next Al Gore, being seen as a sore loser,” said Trung Nguyen’s lawyer, Michael Schroeder.

Oh, really! So if someone wants to ensure that the entire election process was valid, then that person is a “sore loser”? Would Trung Nguyen and his sugar daddy “lawyer” Mike Schroeder be saying the same if Trung were the one only seven votes behind? Would these folks be saying the same if Trung were possibly the victim of a massive fraud operation to get his GOP machine-backed opponent elected AT ANY COST?

And oh yes, does Mike Schroeder really want to bring back all the memories of the 2000 Presidential Election? Does he think that we forgot about what REALLY happened in Florida? Oh, but I guess the GOP machine never learns. They’ll do ANYTHING to win, even against a fellow Republican…
Oops, but I forgot that Janet Nguyen is just a “sore loser”.