What does a voter need to do to get a debate around here?
Wednesday night's Q-and-A session featuring City Council District 2 candidates Lorie Zapf and Sarah Boot was a long time in the making.
Held by the Pacific Beach Town Council at its monthly meeting, the debate-like event had originally been scheduled as a solo forum for Zapf who currently represents District 6. That is until Boot, who'd been trying to square off with her opponent for months, got wind of the event and scheduled a simultaneous appearance.
“We definitely think that district residents should be able to ask questions and hear the candidates’ views, and we’re committed to that as many times as possible,” said Boot’s campaign manager, Laura Fink.
In February, Boot publicly called for a series of debates. However, Zapf never agreed. The issue got more attention in March when Zapf was the only candidate not to attend a forum set up by the Ocean Beach Town Council.
“We were only given two dates to choose from and neither worked for the Councilmember’s schedule,” said Zapf’s campaign manager, Sara Kamiab, in an email. “The President of the OB Town Council, who is a supporter and major donor to Ms. Boot, was unwilling to look at any additional dates.”
Wednesday's event drew more than a hundred people, many with questions for the candidates. But before voters could lob their queries, the candidates explained who they are and flossed their credentials.
Zapf, who was elected to represent District 6 (Claremont, Linda Vista and Kearny Mesa) in 2010, lives in Bay Ho. Redistricting, in 2011, put her home in District 2, which also includes Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach and Point Loma.
Zapf noted she was the first Latina elected to the City Council, and outlined a childhood riddled with poverty. “I had a very tumultuous upbringing and at one point, the result was that my brother, my sister and I, we were split up and put into foster homes.”
That experience helped make her a fiscal conservative, she added. “So I’ve been [on the City Council] the last three-and-a-half years working on reforms that have brought a lot more money into our coffers. And you just saw that just this week. Our budget is well above what we had projected. The pension savings, the managed comp savings, the efficiencies from the audits, all of that’s paying off.”
In her opening remarks, Boot, who lives in Midway, said she’s “passionate” about public service, citing her time as a federal prosecutor and president of the Lawyers Club of San Diego. She also talked about her work in the private sector as a consultant for companies such as Google and Yelp.
“I’m running for City Council because I’m going to fight for our neighborhoods, like Pacific Beach, that have been neglected by the city for so long,” she said. “Let me give you an example of that. In Mission Beach, yesterday, we had a big water-main breakage, and that was destructive and costly. And things like this are all too common. That’s the kind of neglected I’m talking about.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been a strong advocate for justice, for equality for the community,” she added. “I plan to take those advocacy skills to the City Council and fight to make sure that our neighborhoods get their fair share of resources and that we’re not just investing all of our money in Downtown.”
Boot ended her introduction by slamming Zapf for taking a monthly car allowance available to council members: “My opponent Lorie Zapf is the only person on the council to take the $800-a-month car allowance,” she said.
However, Zapf’s campaign team was on hand fact-checking, and political strategist John Hoy bellowed from the crowd, “Not true!”
The next candidates forum is scheduled for Thursday, May 1, at 7 p.m. in the Cadman Elementary School cafeteria (4370 Kamloop Ave.). The event will be hosted by the Clairemont Town Council and moderated by Janet Poutré, publisher of Clairemont Community News. Both Zapf and Boot have promised to be there.