Part Three of a Three Part Series on the City Council Special Election
Part One: Setting the Scene – Dirty Tricks Fly
Part Two: Meet the Candidates
By Doug Porter
So what we know so far is that there are nine candidates vying for the historically “Black’ City Council seat vacated by Tony Young. Change has come to the district; although they still hold political supremacy by virtue of their community institutions, African-Americans are now a minority.
The winning candidates will be Black, this time at least. The winning candidates will also be Democrats. Based on my reading of their campaign literature and interviews the contenders have given the media, the winning candidates’ programs will be mainly the same. Crime=Bad. Economic Development=Good…. Etc., etc.
I say candidates as in plural because it’s a virtual lock that nobody will get more than 50% of the vote. This much we can tell simply by looking at the fundraising, the ground game, the internet presence and (thanks to a few covert peeks I’ve been granted) the polls.
There will be a run-off election six weeks down the road between the top two candidates. Here are my prognostications on this contest.
For an off-year special election in an overwhelmingly minority and Democratic council district, there sure is a bunch of special interest money being thrown down on this contest. A bunch of it is Republican money and that ought to tell you something. Is this part of the GOP new-found caring for people of color? I don’t think so.
Whoever ends up representing the 4th District will be the deciding vote on a divided city council. What is at stake here is no less than the question of will ‘business as usual’ (meaning beneficial to the developer set) continue to prevail in San Diego.
Mayor Bob Filner has challenged the status quo by proposing that the city government encourage and support neighborhoods throughout the city as opposed to downtown always being first in line. A supportive vote on the City Council could make all the difference.
What’s a Progressive to Do?
Even with a scorecard (PBS, City Beat and Voice of San Diego have done candidate profiles) all these candidates come off sounding the nearly the same. So if you want to make an educated decision, it comes down to who’s against them.
I’ve perused the candidates’ financial filings (here) and have some general impressions to report. When it comes down to who’s attracting dollars, three candidates are the heavy hitters: Myrtle Cole, Dwayne Crenshaw and Barry Pollard. Everybody else is playing in a different league with the exception of Bruce Williams, who has at least got some name recognition by virtue of having run for this job twice before.
Myrtle Cole’s supporters are mostly liberal and labor types, with a few names that are well known by virtue of their activism, like Gloria Johnson. Cole’s raised over $28,000 this year, much of it coming via the progressive leaning Act Blue organization.
And there’s even more if you count the labor PAC. Like about $75K more.
Cole is one of them (she works for United Domestic workers) and unions from all over have been working hard to support candidates in the face of “Right to Work” laws and other nonsense coming from the right.
Did you know that teachers in Michigan are being asked to pay for substitute instructors if they miss more than 12 days? That’s being called ‘the pregnancy tax’ and it’s all thanks to the legislation GOP-types pushed through last year.
So it’s safe to assume that Myrtle Cole won’t be voting on the City Council to eliminate the city’s living wage law – a major goal for local Republicans.
What’s important to know about is what’s being spent against her.
Spreading the Big Lies Against Myrtle Cole
San Diego County Voters for Progress and Reform has spent $4367 against Myrtle Cole to fund mailing a faux document to voters which appears to be connected with the City of San Diego. Exactly where that funding originated is a mystery. Using the City seal may or may not be against the law. But it is clearly an act of desperation.
All we know about the ‘Progress and Reform’ group is who gave them money in the last election cycle. So it’s possible, I suppose, this money is left over from their failed efforts to oppose Mayor Filner and Councilwoman Sherri Lightner. Past contributors include the Build SD PAC ($25,000); Building Industry Association of San Diego PAC ($10,000); San Diego County Apartment Association PAC ($10,000); the Lincoln Club of San Diego County ($11,000); and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation ($17,000).
Here’s what the letter, complete with “official seal,” alleges.
Beneath each statement are responses to those allegations.
URGENT CITY MESSAGE TO RESIDENTS OF [insert neighborhood name]
Recently you may have received information about a candidate for City Council to replace Tony Young.
[insert neighborhood] RESIDENTS PLEASE BEWARE
The information you have received about Myrtle Cole is FALSE AND MEANT TO INTENTIONALLY MISLEAD THE PEOPLE OF OUR COMMUNITY
THIS IS THE IMPORTANT INFORMATION YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MYRTLE COLE
Myrtle Cole has only lived in our community for ONE MONTH
The truth of the matter: Myrtle Cole has lived in the community for over 20 years and currently lives on Aegean Place, 92139. The redistricting process has confused this issue, but if Myrtle did not live in the district she would not have been able to run for office.
From Voice of San Diego Fact Check: Cole lived in Redwood Village, which is part of the new District 4 boundaries created during the redistricting process. But the special election to replace Young, who resigned, is being conducted under the old lines because that was the constituency that voted in 2010 for Young’s four-year term. Cole moved into Paradise Hills, which is part of District 4 under both the old and new boundaries, in late December, just beating the residency requirement deadline for this race.
Myrtle Cole is NOT a police officer and has NEVER been a police officer for the City of San Diego.
The truth of the matter: Myrtle Cole was a Police Officer for 11 years and reached the rank of Lieutenant with the San Diego Community College District Police Department. Before moving to San Diego 20 years ago, Myrtle was a police officer in Tucson Arizona. Utilizing her experiences as a Police Lieutenant, Myrtle went to work for the San Diego City Council to help the City innovative “Community Oriented Policing”. This new approach built stronger bridges between the community and the San Diego Police Department, however she never worked directly for the San Diego City Police Department and never claimed to.
Myrtle Cole has a history of political corruption. Myrtle Cole is responsible for $10,000 in San Diego Ethics Commission fines. In fact, the San Diego Ethics Commission found that she was involved in soliciting and accepting political contributions from big businesses with issues before the city council –“attempting to curry favor with an elected official”.
The truth of the matter: Councilmember Young was fined by the Ethics Commission for not paying Myrtle and other campaign workers in a timely fashion. The unfortunate reality of the lie special interests are spreading about Myrtle was that she was the victim of the case, not the culprit.
From Voice of San Diego Fact Check: The commission fined Young $10,000 for collecting campaign contributions after the city’s then-three-month deadline to pay off campaign workers. (The deadline was later extended to six months.) A fundraising limit exists to fight the appearance of a quid pro quo between elected officials and donors.
Cole was Young’s campaign manager for that race. Young had promised her a $10,000 bonus for winning the election, and he was fundraising after the race to pay that bonus and another he promised to a consultant. Young took 13 months to pay Cole and 18 months to pay the consultant. That meant it took him 15 months longer then he was allowed to pay off the debts.
(VOSD called the claim made in the mailer “Huckster Propaganda”.)
MYRTLE COLE HAS EN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS RECORD ON SENIOR ISSUES
Myrtle Cole sponsored legislation that would have drastically increased health care costs for seniors. Even Governor Jerry Brown said Myrtle Cole’s legislation ‘would penalize’ seniors and raise their health care costs in way that could “force them into institutions”.
Myrtle Cole tried to put senior’s lives in serious danger by advocating for repeal of the current law that requires background checks or fingerprinting for healthcare workers. Myrtle Cole’s law would have allowed criminals to endanger the lives of seniors.
The truth of the matter: She’s never held elective office and therefore couldn’t sponsor legislation. Myrtle Cole is a regional director for United Domestic Workers, which did not actually support the bill discussed in the special interests’ mailer.
Crenshaw Gets the Homophobe Treatment
Dwayne Crenshaw, who by virtue of his association with San Diego Pride, is generally being viewed as being somewhat progressive/liberal. He has some ‘interesting’ money behind him.
There’s Robert Gleason of Atlas Hotels (central players in the whole Filner vs Tourism Board deal).
And there’s this from the SDReader:
The race to replace ex–city councilman Tony Young in the Fourth District is being fed by a raft of out-of-town special interests. According to recent disclosures, “Californians for Quality Paramedic Services, Sponsored by Rural/Metro Corporation” has so far come up with $822 worth of “design costs” and “data” for a mailer on behalf of Democrat Dwayne Crenshaw. The Scottsdale, Arizona-based firm, whose current paramedic contract with the city expires on June 13, 2013, is competing against a host of other paramedic providers for a new deal. Two years ago it was savaged by a city audit….
But as with Cole, it’s who is against Crenshaw that counts.
The Voice and Viewpoint newspaper (the website looks like it was put together by a fifth grader & the links are broken), which has been the traditional outlet for opinions in the African-American community appears to be stuck in an earlier, narrow-minded era. Check out this bigoted editorial:
Dwayne Crenshaw, who lists himself as a Community Nonprofit Director/Educator looks and sounds like a great candidate, however, Mr. Crenshaw has a tremendous amount of baggage from the issues surrounding his days with the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils (CNC). His openly confessed gay lifestyle is at odds with a great deal of the District’s African American residents in spite of his family’s history in the community. His positions in leadership and advocacy in the Gay community does not lead itself to the building of the kinds of coalitions between the religious and civic community that the Fourth District has enjoyed in the past and needs to build on during this critical period of restructuring. Mr. Crenshaw is not our choice at any time for this position.
Crenshaw’s response at SDGLN.com was right on.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time gay-baiting has been used in this campaign. In February 2013, I was falsely accused of saying at a Catfish Club Forum I would put the LGBT community’s needs before that of District 4 youth. The craziest part was the Catfish Club Forum hadn’t even taken place yet — it was three weeks away! A complete and total lie to bring me down with the crowd because I am a gay man. It didn’t work! Watch my response HERE and listen to crowd applaud in response.
However, in my race for District 4 City Council in 2004, this same newspaper condemned me for being gay and stated I could not serve both the gay community and the black community. They said I had bad judgement because God’s judgment was against gays. Back then, this mean-spirited attack worked. I narrowly lost that election by less than 200 votes.
Barry Pollard’s Business Decisions
One issue that probably doesn’t mean anything would be his choice of campaign treasurer. That would be Ms. April Boling. Now I know that treasurers are like hired guns and don’t necessarily reflect on a candidates’ ethics or political leanings. But she happens to be the same treasurer used by “San Diego County Voters for Progress and Reform”, the group that sponsored the anti-Cole mailer. Mmmmmm….
Then there’s Pollard’s business. This is where he would say he’d been dissed. An article in Voice of San Diego:
The city canceled the license for Pollard’s human resources business last year because of unpaid fees. Pollard has since regained an active city license and explained his situation on his campaign website.
As of last month, Pollard owed the state $7,311 in back corporate taxes, penalties and accrued interest. He said he has agreed to a repayment plan with the state, but has not provided documentation to support his claim. In 1992, Pollard filed for Chapter 13 personal bankruptcy, which restructures debt rather than eliminating it. The bankruptcy was dismissed three years later.
In February, Pollard agreed to pay a $3,500 fine to the city’s Ethics Commission for accounting and record-keeping errors from his 2010 campaign. The commission had earlier fined him $1,500 for not filing financial statements on time and for a lack of “paid for” disclosures on campaign items. (Two other major candidates, Dwayne Crenshaw and Bruce Williams, have had to pay Ethics Commission fines for past campaigns violations as well.)
Here’s Pollard’s response from his website:
In the midst of a very serious race for the 4th District Council seat, a recent article raised questions about my small business. I want to assure you that I have addressed the issues raised. There have been times in my life where the simple priority was putting the care and safety of my family above everything else. While not excusing my past behavior, the financial viability of my small business is far too common in this economy.
When it was confirmed that my situation, as noted in the article by California Western School of Law professor Scott Ehrlich, is labeled ‘common’ it concerns me that many other small business people are struggling to make a profit or exist at all.
But the topper for me was learning that the homophobes over at Voice and Viewpoint had endorsed him and he was proud of that blessing. From his Facebook page:
I just received the endorsement of the The San Diego Voice and Viewpoint Newspaper. I am very honored to be the choice of both the Voice and Viewpoint and the San Diego Monitor, two San Diego newspapers who are steeped in the history of our district and have been dedicated to providing a voice to issues that otherwise would never see the light of day. This confirms that we are clearly the choice of the people who are actually impacted by the vote on Tuesday and that the outside interest have not been able to pierce the armor provided by the two newspapers.
Thank you both for your very important endorsement, it means a great deal to me.
Mmmmm, indeed… Sorry, Barry, that’s a deal breaker. You’re off my list.
Here’s the Hard Part
Using my criteria of focusing on who is against a candidate and who we think has a better chance of winning* that leaves us with Myrtle Cole and Dwayne Crenshaw.
Now I say we flip the paradigm and look at who they stand with. Cole = Labor. Crenshaw = LGBT Community. Both are important parts for the progressive agenda.
I’ll pick Cole because I am acquainted with people who know and trust her. And because I think there’s a better chance she’ll have the mayor’s back. I’d be a lot happier about this choice if she’d come out with a statement denouncing the homophobia in D4, but, as of posting time, she hasn’t. That and $4 will get you a latte somewhere.
UPDATE- Candidate Myrtle Cole released the folowing statement on Friday afternoon: “I vehemently oppose discrimination in any form whether it be racism, sexism, or homophobia. Hate speech, such as the recent comments in the Voice and Viewpoint, has no place in our political discourse. It is divisive and tears us apart when we need to be working together to address the issues important to the residents of District 4- safer streets, infrastructure, and job creation.”
*Given the number of candidates running in District 4, picking a leader in this contest is very dicey. Anybody lucky enough to get an extra couple of dozen voters to the polls on March 26th could emerge on top. I said “show me the money” and picked the candidates who I felt had the best and best funded campaigns. Do NOT place bets on these predictions.
I also should say that the pick of Myrtle Cole was mine alone. We did not put this to a vote of the editorial board. Somebody may disagree with me.
My colleague Andy Cohen has promised that we’ll have interviews with the contenders for the runoff election, which should be about six weeks after this contest.
Words of appreciation should be given to Voice of San Diego and City Beat, who actually sent real paid reporters out to cover this campaign. I strongly urge you to check out their work, even if it is at odds with my own analysis.
bob dorn says
I can only wish we could see responses to more detailed questions in ALL city races, like where candidates stand on public transit and subsidized housing (is there federal money?), and, why San Diego has a lower per capita expenditure on aid to the homeless than do Los Angeles and San Francisco, and should privatizers get tax money for private schools?
Anna Daniels says
Bad guys indeed. It is hard to figure out who should get the Big Sleaze award- the anonymous group with the official looking letter blasting Cole, or Voice and Viewpoint’s homophobic diatribe against Crenshaw.
I don’t live in District 4, but I hope that Cole and Crenshaw prevail in the election.
norma damashek says
Doug — I appreciate all the good work that went into writing up the District 4 story. Unfortunately, the invisible guy in this saga is the most reprehensible one — Tony Young did quite a number on “his community” both while he was in office and when he chose to leave prematurely.
My take on this primary is a bit different from what I’ve been reading. District 4 has historically gotten the short end of the stick, not just from the rest of the city but also from its own representatives on the City Council (not to mention its self-serving now-defunct redevelopment arm SEDC ).
Past history makes me wary of this new crop of candidates because some of them seem to be beholden to outside special interests and not focused on D4 residents.
Labor, for one, is a big player in this primary but has a poor historical record of positive involvement in D4.
The gay community would like to increase its political clout in the city but that does not necessarily have much to do with adequate representation for D4. And the nervous public silence around concerns about predatory behavior by one of the candidates should be addressed. It finally got some discreet airing in a Voice of San Diego article.
As for party politics – that’s clearly at work as the Republican party endorsed a little-known D4 candidate, perhaps as a smokescreen for the big money being directed at the Republican-turned-Democrat in this race.
Finally, guilt by association is not useful evidence to discredit a candidate who appears to have the interests of D4 at heart and deserves more thoughtful consideration.
How any one of these candidates will function on a nine-member City Council is important, and so is which one will be good for the constituents of District 4. The question is which one will be better at doing both.
norma damashek says
for anyone who’s interested, here’s the link to the VOSD article:
Brian Brady says
“The Republican party endorsed a little-known D4 candidate, perhaps as a smokescreen for the big money being directed at the Republican-turned-Democrat in this race.”
That’s not the case at all. Mr Williams left the GOP on his own accord. Mrs. Spackman impressed the committee with her independent thought and fresh ideas. She’s focused on the issues which really matter: making it easier for businesses to open in D4 and getting the City Council to focus on its core functions.
No smokescreen at all. My guess is she would have received the nod over Mr Williams because, while Mr Williams has a fine record working in government, Mrs Spackman brings a unique “outsider” perspective. This isn’t a career move for her–she simply wants to make her community a better place by serving it.
Doug Porter says
Readers should be aware that Mr Brady is connected with the very far right Oceanside Tea Party. (Click on his name, it will take you to the North County ‘Taxpayer” group they are connected with). If those are the kind of “fresh ideas” we’re talking about, be very afraid.
On another note…
One thing that we’re learning about Mr. Williams’ candidacy is that a bunch of (mostly out of town) developers are dumping money into a PAC called San Diegans for Strong Neighborhoods to support him.
Don Wood says
Just because Democrats are likely to end up with five seats on the city council, don’t expect that to mean good things for progressive politics in San Diego. Lately, Todd Gloria has become a DINO (Democrate In Name Only), voting with the council republicans in favor of a host of special interst projects, including Jacobs Bridge through the heart of Balboa Park, expanding the convention center using illegal taxes, extending the sweetheard deal with the big hotel owners, handing them $1 billion over the next forty years. Unless Gloria changes his tune, we’re looking at a republican majority on the council every time he votes with them in return for big campaign contributions.
Just because someone is a victim of oppression does not mean they won’t have oppressive feelings/actions toward other groups. It always astonishes me when someone is surprised to see a black person who is homophobic or likewise to see a gay person who is gung ho about securing the borders and owns a gun. One does not necessarily affect the other. I’ve only glanced at the San Diego V & V a couple times and I agree it DOES look like it at times has been put together by 5th graders or people who just recently got into politics and social causes, and is rather overly simplistic in its “View points”. It’s also very oriented towards Christian evangelical/fundamentalist angles, so the anti gay sentiment should not surprise anyone.