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Home / Articles / Opinion / Editorial /  Sayonara, Sanders
. . . .
Wednesday, Nov 28, 2012

Sayonara, Sanders

An editorial retrospective on the outgoing mayor’s tenure

By CityBeat Staff

A svelte Sanders at the site of the new Downtown library in 2012
Photo by David Rolland


By March 2009, we’d added raising the fee that property owners pay to help the city comply with clean-water mandates—the stormwater fee—to our short list of new-revenue ideas; the pittance that property-owners pay doesn’t come close to recovering the full cost of the mandates. But we were also urging more union concessions to help Sanders convince the public to contribute more.

That summer, we warned him against repeating the sins of the past by quietly pushing for an accounting change that would lower the city’s financial contributions to its employee-pension fund. And after a lunchtime speech in September—when he spread joy and laughter throughout the land by saying “erection” instead of “election”—we jammed him on his advocacy for the new central library and expansion of the convention center amid uncertain capacity to pay for them, and, conversely, his insistence upon asking voters to approve construction of a new City Hall.

But, for the most part, we went pretty easy on Sanders in 2009.

CityBeat broke a story in early 2010 revealing that City Council candidate Lorie Zapf had tried to impress noisy, overexcited, antigay bigot James Hartline by saying some rather intolerant things in an email, even about members of her own family. In the aftermath, we expressed disappointment that Sanders had not reacted more harshly to her remarks.

Sanders finally got behind the idea of new revenue—a modest sales-tax hike—in 2010, but he got skittish at the first sign of special-interest backlash.

“Why did Sanders bother pitching the idea if he was just going to yank it at the first sign of displeasure from a group of conservatives, whose opposition to tax increases is as predictable as the marine layer in June,” we wrote in July, again needling him for refusing to propose trash and stormwater fee increases.

The City Council later resurrected the sales-tax proposal, and it went to the ballot as Prop. D. We all know what happened to it when it got there. We appreciated Sanders campaigning for it, but, in retrospect, we wish he’d heeded our calls for a longer, more sustained outreach campaign to educate the public on revenues and service costs.

In the wake of Prop. D’s colossal failure, and having earlier gotten the City Council to approve the new central library, Sanders’ attention was on expanding the convention center. We’d come around on the idea by November—as long as someone came up with the money to pay for it—because it represented an opportunity to enhance public access to the bay.

In order to help Prop. D’s chances at the polls, Sanders and the City Council had pulled from the ballot the proposal to build a new City Hall. City Councilmember and mayoral aspirant Carl DeMaio was vehemently against both measures.

“After voters sent the tax increase down in flames,” we wrote in February 2011, “San Diego was left with a gaping budget deficit and no plan to replace a crumbling City Hall. Score that: DeMaio 2, Sanders 0.”

The humiliating defeat of Prop. D spoke to Sanders, and what it told him was that San Diegans need more pension reform before they’d even consider raising taxes. So, Sanders got behind what would soon be called Comprehensive Pension Reform, winding up as Prop. B on the June 2012 ballot. In April 2011, Sanders and friends launched their campaign, and we began our ultimately unsuccessful crusade to kill Prop. B by countering claims that a 401(k) system for city employees is a dream come true.

Generally speaking, the remainder of Sanders’ term was spent on Prop. B and big-ticket projects such as the central library, the convention center, a new Chargers stadium and an overhaul of the center of Balboa Park, which was being pushed by Qualcomm founder and philanthropist Irwin Jacobs, who’d been largely responsible for making the library a reality by chipping in millions of dollars.

“Mayor Jerry Sanders seemed too eager to jump aboard whatever bandwagon Jacobs happened to be driving,” we wrote in July, complaining that Jacobs was being too rigid in how Balboa Park was to be fixed. (After it was approved, we said we’d get over it.)

A month later, Sanders journeyed to Kansas City, Indianapolis and Denver to learn how to finance football stadiums.

“Weirdly,” we wrote, “we also feel a little sorry for Sanders, who, not so long ago, was rightly doing his best to avoid the Chargers topic altogether but has since spun in the opposite direction. Now, he’s shilling for the Spanos family and wasting his time in flyover country—presumably because he at least has to look like he’s doing everything he can to keep the team in San Diego.”

In December, Sanders made comments to CityBeat about pension reform that wound up as evidence in a legal case against Prop. B. Sanders said pension-reform proponents chose to go the citizen-initiative route in order to avoid negotiating with the unions that represent city employees.

“You do that so that you get the ballot initiative on that you actually want,” he said. “Otherwise, we’d have gone through meet-and-confer [negotiations], and you don’t know what’s gonna go on at that point through the meet-and-confer process.”

In an editorial, we wrote that “it’s underhanded to do an end-run around the unions by exploiting the envy of voters who don’t have the kind of retirement security that public-sector workers have. Sanders’ message: Let government workers scrounge for scraps when they’re old like everyone else. But not him—he’ll be fine.”

The mayor’s final State of the City speech in January 2012 began with a high-energy video with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” as a soundtrack, and AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” as Sanders’ entrance music, but it was his remarks about homelessness that got our attention. He said the in-progress Connections Housing center would render an annual emergency winter shelter unnecessary, which we said was “flat-out wrong.”

We didn’t have a whole lot more to say about Sanders throughout 2012, as our attention turned to poking Bob Filner, tearing DeMaio apart and reacting with a combination of amusement and horror at what Doug Manchester and John Lynch were doing to the former San Diego Union-Tribune. We didn’t even bother to freak out when Sanders endorsed DeMaio to replace him, which is—hey, wait—Jerry Sanders endorsed Carl DeMaio to be mayor of San Diego! Of all the stupid, ridiculous—! He has some nerve to—! We oughtta give him a piece of our—!

Oh, forget it. No harm, no foul.


Hey, so, no hard feelings, Jer. We raise a pint of craft ale to your good health and that $300,000-a-year, cushy-soft landing with the Chamber of Commerce.

Oh, and remember when you told Steve Francis to fuck off? That was awesome.

What do you think of Jerry Sanders? Write to

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