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!”
Homeless services are a budget priority for Mayor Faulconer. Because the fiscal year 2015 City budget is still being developed, it's premature to say whether the budget proposal will be exactly the same as the Council President's, but because Mayor Faulconer supports funding homeless programs that help San Diego secure more federal funding and focus on long-term rehabilitation and care, it is reasonable to expect there will be more similarities than differences.
How the $1.9 million breaks down:
$800,000: Covers four months of shelter operations, plus additional case-management services
$400,000: Helps fund a countywide coordinated intake and assessment system, as required by federal law, that would track people as they move off the street and through programs
$120,000: Restores a funding cut to the San Diego Police Department’s Serial Inebriate Program, which puts homeless chronic alcoholics into treatment rather than jail
$80,000: Pays for additional services at the Neil Good Day Center in East Village
$40,000: Helps fund the San Diego Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team
$150,000: Covers operating costs for the Homeless Transitional Storage Facility, where people can store their belongings
$300,000: Closes a funding gap for Connections Housing
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In late January, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he'd appointed Susan Riggs to the position of deputy secretary of housing policy at the state's Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. It was good and bad news for left-leaning San Diegans—good news to have a San Diegan working on housing policy at the state level, bad news because Riggs, who'd been the executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation since 2010, had been a charismatic champion not just for affordable housing but also a larger progressive vision for the city.
I sat down with her a couple weeks ago for an informal chat before she left for Sacramento (her last day with the Housing Federation was March 7). At that point, the City Council hadn't yet voted to rescind an increase in the workforce-housing offset (also known as the linkage fee), an impact fee that commercial-building developers pay into the city's affordable-housing fund. The council, with its Democratic majority, passed the fee increase in December. Soon after, a coalition of developers and business groups, led by the Chamber of Commerce, launched a petition to overturn it. Riggs was hopeful the fee increase would go to the ballot—specifically the November ballot, which would give affordable-housing advocates time to develop a campaign strategy. She acknowledged that countering the housing-offset opponents' "jobs tax" soundbite would be tricky, and she talked about misconceptions about the fee, an idea for boosting housing production and one of her proudest accomplishments at the Housing Federation.
A recent issue concerning government transparency in the city of San Diego has been defined largely not by open communication but reticence and obfuscation.
Citing concerns from the City Attorney’s office, the City Council has swept aside a ballot initiative, sponsored by City Councilmember David Alvarez, aimed at increasing access to public records.
In response to concerns about a culture of secrecy at City Hall, Alvarez teamed up in November with government-transparency group CaliforniansAware to craft an initiative for the June ballot.
“Since I’ve served on the City Council, I have seen that, in many cases, the city has not lived up to the spirit of open-government laws,” Alvarez said in an email. “There have been many times that the media or members of the public are denied access to information without cause.”
The proposed measure would change San Diego's city charter to require the city to legally justify each of its individual policies in the municipal code for withholding documents from the public that exceed what's already exempted from disclosure under state or federal law. There are roughly 20 city policies that would need to be approved with legal findings, according to the Independent Budget Analyst's office. The council would need to approve these findings two years after adoption of the measure and then again readopt findings every three years.
However, the council, which had to approve the wording of the proposition for it to be placed on the ballot, never discussed the merits of the proposal. Instead, the council repeatedly directed CaliforniansAware to work on the proposition with the City Attorney's office, which in turn continuously rejected the draft language.
The proposal was then indefinitely tabled at a Feb. 25 City Council meeting after Councilmember Sherri Lightner expressed concern that the proposal might “overlap” with a statewide ballot initiative.
If state reimbursements were cut off by Prop. 42, it would render moot any similar concerns about the local initiative. So it's not clear how the two propositions could affect each other.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer, City Council President Todd Gloria and Councilmember Lightner all declined to comment for this story.
Starting in January, the City Attorney’s office opposed the idea of having to legally justify withholding information from the public, citing concerns it could open the city up to litigation. What followed were several failed attempts by CaliforniansAware to get the City Attorney's office to help draft a proposition on which the council could vote to put on the ballot.
“From the start of the discussion about the proposed amendments to the city charter, the City Attorney raised questions but did not offer much in the way of solutions,” Alvarez said in an email. “Two of the three reports written by the City Attorney were either released the day before or the day of a public hearing where the proposal was discussed, which allowed little to no time to address their ever-evolving concerns, which I think was by design.”
About a month after first receiving the proposed language, the City Attorney’s office provided a report on the ballot measure one day before the issue was docketed to be heard by the council's Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee.
The committee—which consists of Chair Lightner, Vice Chair Mark Kersey, Alvarez and Marti Emerald, as well as Faulconer's vacant council seat—voted unanimously (including Faulconer, before he was sworn in as mayor) to have the City Attorney work with CaliforniansAware to solve concerns so that it could have an opportunity to be placed on the June ballot.
When the issue returned to the City Council on Feb. 10, the City Attorney's office released its second report just hours before the meeting.
Despite CaliforniansAware's numerous attempts to contact the City Attorney's office, the report was the first written response the group had received since mid-January.
Citing a need to review the report, Lightner made a motion to continue the issue to Feb. 25, when it would be indefinitely tabled.
Alvarez and Emerald voted against the continuance, as Lightner would not amend her motion to require the City Attorney's office to work with CaliforniansAware to produce a ballot proposal that could be voted on at the subsequent meeting.
“I can only support this continuance if we are guaranteed an ordinance back here on the 25th of February,” Emerald said. “Otherwise, I can only believe that this memo coming at the last minute is a stalling tactic.”
During the Feb. 25 council meeting, both Gloria and Faulconer declined to make any comments. However, Councilmember Lorie Zapf pointed out the elephant in the room.
“Changes to the city charter are permanent and very difficult to change quickly or often,” she said. “We’ve seen that time and again in the last few years that I’ve been here. I believe doing this as an ordinance rather than a charter amendment, we can still achieve the same goal without having our hands tied or be ensnared in any legal nightmares should there be any unintended consequences that are locked into a charter.”
Both Alvarez and Emerald quickly said they would support tabling the ballot initiative if the council would support an open-government city ordinance, which is far easier to tweak than a charter amendment.
However, that idea got no traction.
“There are a lot of very good goals in this proposal, but I think there are some pretty key questions that Ms. Lightner raised that I’d like to see answered,” said Mark Kersey.
With that, the issue was tabled at least until after the June ballot, and the City Council completed what had amounted to three months of skirting any sort of substantive debate on Alvarez’s open-government-initiative proposal.
The city of San Diego has decided to delete all emails older than a year, according to an internal memo issued Thursday by interim Mayor Todd Gloria. The change in policy includes electronic communications, defined as “email, memoranda, calendars, tasks and attached documents.”
The authorization was signed off by Gloria and several of the city’s top officials, including the City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and the Chief Operating Officer Scott Chadwick. City Council approval is not required for the administrative policy change.
On March 28, the city will start automatically deleting emails that are older than a year, said Gloria's spokesperson Katie Keach.
Is San Diego's Downtown redevelopment strategy a good fit for the city's most underserved neighborhoods? Absolutely, says Jeff Graham, outgoing president of Civic San Diego, the agency tasked with phasing out redevelopment under state law.
Despite pushback from a municipal-employees union, Graham maintains that the city-owned nonprofit corporation will continue to pursue sweeping planning authority under a proposal aimed at luring private development to low-income communities.
“This organization was created to be nimble, and it’s very critical that this corporation continue to be allowed to be nimble,” he said. “If there’s too many layers of restrictions or approval processes put on the corporation, it’s going to lose its effectiveness.”
Vince Vasquez, senior policy analyst at the National University System Institute for Policy Research, put together a couple of maps this morning showing how folks voted in yesterday's mayoral election. The maps, below, show a pretty clear geographic divide, with voters who live north of I-8 favoring Kevin Faulconer, while voters in San Diego's urban core and neighborhoods of color preferring David Alvarez.
Shortly after he posted the maps, Vasquez tweeted that, for him, they confirm that "geography is a better indicator of voting behavior than political party."