Politics Report: The Mayor’s Tears of Joy

Kevin Faulconer
Mayor Kevin Faulconer appears at the US Grant Hotel on the night of the June 2018 primary election. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

The mayor won something, guys.

Nobody has been more willing than us to tally up, fairly frequently, the list of struggles San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has had getting things done.

Just this week, he lost another one as the years-long effort he championed to remake Balboa Park’s Central Mesa died.

But also this week, he finally achieved something that had alluded him: He got a majority on the City Council to support the effort to raise hotel-room taxes.

Yes, he succeeded in the impossibly quixotic quest to get Democrats to advance a tax increase.

We kid the mayor. It was an achievement. With the support of his Republican allies, Council President Georgette Gomez and District 2 City Councilwoman Jen Campbell, Faulconer moved the vote up to March 2020 – not even a year from now. In the process, he has managed to turn somewhat ambivalent support from labor leaders for the measure into passionate support from labor leaders.

And thus, the campaign to raise the tax to expand the Convention Center, fund homeless services and repair roads had its best week so far.

Some of the people who opposed the move to March said they did not buy the idea that March would be better for the measure. But there are three major reasons it will be helped:

  • The November ballot is shaping up to be filled with other tax measures. They all may have had a deleterious effect on one another. March is maybe a lot better. Not just because it will be less crowded but if labor is really on board, it could really rally support as Democrats flock to the polls to pick a presidential candidate in March.
  • There really is a chance the ballot measure could only require a simple majority vote to pass. And there really is a chance that loophole that keeps it from needing a two-thirds vote could close soon.
  • And yeesh, why would you not want this conversation to be over as soon as possible? Who is not sick of the Convention Center expansion talk among you? Stand up and show yourselves. We can see a definitive decision on the horizon.

Who are we kidding? It will never end.

Basking in a Victory

On the podcast, we imagined the mayor’s staff weeping a bit out of joy that something, anything, even just a vote on when to make people vote, had gone their way. Maybe the mayor just walked a few blocks to stare silently at the Convention Center, a passerby slow-clapping for him.

We asked if that’s what happened. Matt Awbrey, the mayor’s chief of external affairs, said the staff did feel vindicated and that they’re really happy with Gomez and Campbell.

“The best part is we’re on an upswing. We have a strong coalition that continues to grow and get even stronger,” he said in a written message.

That seems actually true?

The case for the Convention Center expansion: At the City Council hearing, a lot of people spoke in favor of moving the vote to March but it sure seemed like only one person made a straightforward case for the Convention Center expansion itself. It wasn’t the Chamber of Commerce representative, who focused on addressing homelessness.

It was the hotel workers union, Unite HERE, Local 30, and president Brigette Browning.

“We’re doing the work that nobody one wants to do in this city. We’re maintaining the tourism industry. And the hardest thing for us is when the rooms are vacant and we don’t have hours. I’m totally in agreement – we need to take as much money out of the hoteliers pockets as we can. There’s nobody in this room doing that more than I am.”

It’s kind of Browning’s way to hit hoteliers hard until they deal with her and then she’s a powerful advocate for them and the sector.

Related: We were startled this legislation hasn’t gotten much attention. The hotel workers union and hotels are supporting a bill by Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath to severely restrict vacation rentals along the coast.

Democratic leaders in San Diego County do not like what their former party chair is doing.

Reflection: This week we reported that philanthropists led by Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs dropped their plan to remake Balboa Park’s parking and plazas. They did that after meeting with Councilman Chris Ward and pitching a segmented version of the plan to save immediate costs. He was not into it. According to Lisa Halverstadt he brought up several concerns about the process going forward if not the vision

As one observer noted to us about Ward: It is quite a week when you help end Irwin Jacobs’ almost decade-long effort to remake the infrastructure of the park and pick a fight with labor.

Mayor’s Race Update

Todd Gloria
Assemblyman Todd Gloria is running for mayor. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

There is still no major Republican running in the race for San Diego mayor. We know the reasons why but it’s still fascinating.

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