By Doug Porter
Oops. They’ve doing it again. San Diego’s voters are once again being hoodwinked into signing petitions. Given that our City Attorney apparently thinks this behavior is part of the “democratic process,” the likelihood is they’ll get away with it.
Currently supporters of an initiative to overturn yet another City Council action have deployed an army of paid signature gatherers at shopping centers in San Diego. At issue is an ordinance restoring linkage fees on large scale developments to pre-recession levels as a mechanism for funding low income housing.
As has happened with other recent signature drives sponsored by corporate interests, those individuals are “stretching the truth” in their quest to earn their pay-per-signature wages. Whether or not these representations cross the line into outright lies is something I hope the courts will someday decide. These latest tactics shouldn’t surprise anybody in the wake of the hysterical “the Navy is leaving” campaign staged by opponents of the Barrio Logan Community Plan.
I’ve now been approached twice by petition bearers working for the so-called Jobs Coalition. All I can say for sure is they’re tip-toeing along a mighty fine line between lying and salesmanship.
Incident number one involved bait and switch. A scraggly young man stopped me last week in front of a Ralph’s grocery store, asking me to sign a petition opposing cuts in MediCare and Social Security. Given that I was unaware of any actual pending legislation taking that position on those issues, I wanted to know more.
I was presented with a printed out version of a general online petition, something like you might see at Change.org, where just about anybody with a cause can call for public support. I said I wasn’t sure about the petition’s purpose. And then came the closer: “Was I opposed to tax increases?” No context was presented, but there was an official petition shoved under my nose…
Incident number two was a bit more nuanced. A youngish man wearing a tie approached me at a shopping center asking me to join his cause in opposing all tax increases. Nothing was said about the real issue at hand, but there, again, was that initiative petition.
And then there’s the above photograph, sent in by reader David Batterson, taken in North Park yesterday. At least this canvasser calls it the “Jobs Tax” the misnomer being used by the “Jobs Coalition”. I wasn’t aware of all the “Mom and Pop” businesses constructing large buildings in the city.
Today’s UT-San Diego reports the backers of the petition believe they are on track to reach the required 33,000+ signatures required to make the June ballot.
The initiative process, which emerged out of a national progressive reform movement, was originally conceived as method for citizen redress of grievances triggered by the influences of gilded era tycoons on legislative bodies.
I’m sure Dr. John Haynes and Gov. Hiram Johnson, the reformers largely responsible bringing the initiative process to California, are rolling in their graves as they watch just how corrupted the process has become. In 1911 their movement helped free the Golden State from the control of the Southern Pacific Railroad which regularly paid bribes to get the legislation they wanted. These days it looks like the bribes are taking the form of fees paid by consulting companies to homeless people to hoodwink voters.
Is it democracy when corporations pay people to gain signatures on ballot initiatives using false pretenses? At what point should we be concerned about the abuse of the referendum process as a means of undermining the routine actions of elected officials by moneyed interests?
What I can tell you is to just say “no” to anybody being paid to circulate a petition. Ask them. If the downtown business owners behind this current initiative could deploy actual “moms & pops” or otherwise dedicated supporters, I’d be okay with it. But the reality is their cause benefits so few (wealthy) individuals they could never get the people power needed to qualify for the ballot. So they deploy mercenaries instead.
UPDATE: OMG Qualcomm’s Leaving! That’s the rumor the downtown types want you to believe. Here’s the “Jobs Coalition” PR guy on Twitter:
Are other cities courting @Qualcomm bc of the City of SD’s jobs tax? Why yes, yes they are. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/jan/09/linkage-fee-referendum/ … #stopthejobstax
Here’s the relevant quote:
Qualcomm is cited in campaign talking points used by petition circulators to lay out the impact of the fee. Spokeswoman Christine Trimble said the company is considering building an additional 1.2 million square feet of local space that would carry a fee of $4.97 million, up from $960,000, if built within the city limits. Meanwhile, she said, officials from Carlsbad, Escondido and Poway have called to offer sites in their cities.
Qualcomm has never taken a stand on this issue. Nor are they likely to, given that many of this campaign’s supporters provided copious amounts of funding for attack ads on Qualcomm employee and former mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher.
Here’s Fletcher (speaking as a candidate, not as a company spokesman) in a Voice of San Diego interview:
Fletcher: Well, clearly it needs to be adjusted back up. Sixteen years ago it was cut in half, and it needs to be adjusted back up. But this is not significantly different from the Barrio Logan issue. You have one group of people that says, ‘I take a pledge to toe the industry line no matter what,’ and then you have another group of folks who say, ‘We’ll do the immediate 500 or 800 whatever percentage it is overnight,’ and I’ve just got to, here again, I don’t know, call me crazy, I’ve got to think that there has to be some way to look at what other cities do to figure out a better way to do it. But I want to make — clearly it has to go back up, it’s a question of how you get there and how you do it in a smooth way, and you do it in a way that meets the needs.
SDFP’s Andy Cohen Goes Legit
Be sure to catch SDFP editor Andy Cohen on NBC7 San Diego Sunday morning talking about the so-called jobs tax with reporter Gene Cubbison and California Strategies’ Craig Benedetto. Andy’s terrific column about all these so-called “Job-Killing Taxes” can be read here.
A snippet, for your reading pleasure:
As far as the Lincoln Club, or the San Diego Taxpayers Association, or the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, or, to a lesser extent, the SanDiego Regional Economic Development Corporation is concerned, any revenues raised by the city for the provision of services—or just day-to-day operations—is a JOBS KILLING tax. Any regulations placed on any local businesses are JOBS KILLERS and are a hindrance to our economy. Anything that benefits workers is a JOBS KILLER.
During the mayoral special election, Kevin Faulconer often laments that the city council’s vote to essentially restore the housing impact fee to its original form—a 1.5 percent fee on commercial developments, with room for several exceptions, is going to tank our economy and drive businesses out of town. But Faulconer and his backers have never provided a scintilla of proof of their assertions. Only scary rhetoric and threats.
Hopefully Andy will tell us how he really feels…LOL. (He’s the big guy on the right in the picture)
The ‘Jobs Coalition’ Likes Unicorns
One of the little “truth bombs” former Mayor Jerry Sanders has been dropping lately concerns the “alternatives” the business community opposing the linkage fee for low income housing has researched and or supported.
Andrew Keatts over at Voice of San Diego dug a little deeper:
A group of local business leaders calling themselves the Jobs Coalition calls the City Council’s recent move to hike the fee it charges to help build subsidized housing the “jobs-killing tax.” That same group, which is working to overturn the fee hike, now says it supports six different tax increases that would fund subsidized housing construction instead.
You read that right: A group formed to oppose a tax says it supports six alternative tax increases. Surprise is the appropriate reaction.
Wow! Let’s get right on that!… Oops! No can do…
But since those broad-based taxes affect more people and more businesses, passing them requires a two-thirds vote of city residents. Affordable housing advocates have always defended increasing the development fee as the one funding source that’s realistically achievable.
Getting two-thirds of voters to approve a tax increase is really hard to do. The coalition nonetheless says it would support these six proposals if they were ever brought forward by affordable housing advocates.
Perhaps the Jobs Coalition should propose waiting for unicorns to fly in with the needed cash. Because that’s much more likely than a 66% voter approval for any new tax in San Diego. And the real expert on just how difficult that level of approval should be none other than Jerry Sanders, whose support for Proposition D—a half cent increase in sales taxes—translated into 38.14% support at the ballot box in 2010.
Speaking of mercenaries, Mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer has taken to Facebook and other social media looking for warm bodies to support his cause.
To be sure, most political campaigns have paid employees. But this is a little different. K-Faulc and crew don’t care what their hirees believe or support. They’re paying for warm bodies to canvass.
Given the latest rollout of the “A Mayor for All San Diegans” meme by the Faulconer campaign, I guess it doesn’t really matter what those door-knockers really think. And God—forbid the campaign would have to send actual Republicans into some of those neighborhoods.
From John R. Lamb at CityBeat:
… Alvarez ground forces have noticed lately that paid walkers for Faulconer’s independent-expenditure committee have begun knocking on the doors of Democratic voters. With Faulconer now boasting a new inclusionary political tagline—“A mayor for all San Diegans”—similar to Alvarez’s “A mayor for all of us,” the new south-of-8 office, even a familiar small-business walk a couple of weeks back, it’s not surprising that an Alvarez worker noted, “It seems like whatever we do, he [Faulconer] follows.”
Usually those folks come via grass roots supporters. Hell, usually paid staffers come from grass roots supporters. Just sayin…
Meanwhile the cash continues to roll in for both candidates. Labor groups and the Democratic party are solidly behind David Alvarez, whose campaign and “non-affiliated” committees have raised about $3 million for both primary and runoff elections. An array of conservative and Republican party groups are backing Faulconer and his “non-affiliated” committees to the tune of about $2.25 million for the same periods. The inewsource.org has a terrific site up where you can see regular reports for both candidates.
Next Year’s California Budget
The chattering class is busy doing what they do best today, dissecting Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget for next year.
The big winners include virtually all levels of education statewide. Monies promised from past years, but never actually paid, will be given along with an increase in funding that has many districts already talking about restoring cuts made over the past several years.
Here’s Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s take:
“I am most encouraged to see the $6 billion year-over-year increase to our K-12 schools, which were devastated by several years’ worth of deferred funding, as well as a 7 percent increase for community college funding. These alone are a huge boost to the future of the 80th Assembly District. I am also glad to see the Governor agrees with the Assembly Democrats’ wish to establish a ‘rainy day fund’ to prevent the kind of sharp cuts to vital state programs that we saw during down economic times in the past decade. Lastly, I am hopeful that, by the end of this process, more resources will be available for affordable quality child care and preschool for California’s working families.”
Not everybody in education was thrilled, as this statement emailed to us by UC Berkeley student Jack Tibbetts indicates:
“It was very disheartening to hear that the Governor would not support an oil extraction tax during this session. His budget was promising and does bring a degree of relief to students. However, we still have a long way to go until funding for higher education is fully restored and tuition is affordable. Tuition is still so high that it bars young people from earning a degree and average student debt in California still hovers around $18,000 dollars. Assigning a modest tax on oil extraction to create an endowment provides a sustainable revenue source that protects Californian taxpayers in the long term. So long as California is the only oil producing state in the nation that doesn’t tax this natural resource, we owe it to the vitality of our state to end the giveaway. If the Senate and the Assembly passes legislation this year we hope the Governor will sign it.”
The big losers would appear to be in-home health care workers. Coming off a big win via a Presidential declaration requiring overtime pay for domestic workers who put in more than 40 hours a week in 2015, they’ve learned that California’s response will be to simply limit hours to 40 per week. They say this move will lead to less care for many seniors and disabled persons.
Needless to say, the conservative wing of the chattering class is crushed by release of this budget. Proclamations of doom and gloom are already forthcoming.
On This Day: 1911 – Major Jimmie Erickson took the first photograph from an airplane while flying over San Diego, CA. 1949 – Vinyl records were introduced by RCA (45 rpm) and Columbia (33.3 rpm). 1990 – Chinese Premier Li Peng ended martial law in Beijing after seven months. He said that crushing pro-democracy protests had saved China from “the abyss of misery.”
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Lucas O'Connor says
How much are the petition pushers spending on this effort, and how much have they pledged to support the campaigns for their own proposed taxes?
Since they’re so eager to pay the six other taxes they propose, seems like those would provide much less money for affordable housing, or they’re making up the negative impacts since their own proposal costs the same.
Brent Beltran says
They’re probably saying they support those six new taxes because they know there is no way 2/3rds of sandiegans would vote for it.
Brent Beltran says
Andy looks legit. Perhaps he has a future as a tv talking head.
Andy Cohen says
Like I said on Twitter……face for radio, voice for print media. It was fun though. Hopefully I represented well.
Andy Cohen says
Here’s another point about their tax increase proposal….actually, a coupla points: As Brent already mentioned, they know it would never pass due to the 2/3 threshold, so there’s no real danger in proposing it. But even if it did make the ballot, they would then turn around and oppose their own proposal, ’cause, you know, “tax increases are bad.” They would rail against it in order to defeat their own proposal.
Second, if I’m not mistaken, there were actually two tax increase proposals, including one TOT increase. But they’ve already technically (but not actually) raised the TOT through the TMD and Convention Center funding, which adds up to 5% to the existing TOT. The actual TOT is 10.5%, rising to over 15% with the TMD and Convention Center “fees”. Does anyone really believe that the Chamber of Commerce and the TMD/tourism folks would support raising the TOT to an effective rate of 20%? Even I would never support that. Around 15% is about the norm. And we know that the tourism people would NEVER go along with dropping the TMD assessment. That’s their cash cow!
Last week at Ralph’s, the same people hit me with the petition. The guy was doing a horrible job explaining what he was trying to advocate for, so I asked if I could just read the petition. When I read it and saw that it was for the fee I said, “This is to recall the linkage fee. I won’t sign that.”
The woman who was with him walked up and said, “What is this linkage fee you’re talking about? I don’t understand.” REALLY?!?!
Doug Porter says
Here’s a mailer from the San Diego Housing Federation on dealing with these signature gatherers:
As we prepare to enter the big Chargers playoff weekend, signature gatherers are no doubt going to be out in large numbers at local grocery stores and other shopping centers asking shoppers for their signature for a referendum to overturn the Workforce Housing Offset. As we saw with the Barrio Logan Community Plan referendum, signature gathers share a lot of false and misleading information in order to get people to sign. As such, we are trying to collect information on whether similar cases are happening with the “Jobs Coalition” signature gathering effort. You can help us with this effort by sharing what you encounter this weekend when you’re out shopping and running errands. If you do, please see below for some guidelines on how to interact with signature gatherers.
If you are approached by or engage with a signature gatherer:
Ø Try to film as you are approached or begin to engage
Filming your interaction will help to provide proof for situations in which you may be given false information about the issue. Be sure to be respectful as you are filming as this may make the signature gatherer uncomfortable. Since signature gatherers are conducting their work in public places, it is legal to film or take photos.
Ø Ask about the issue
Inquire with the signature gatherer about what they are collecting signatures for. Be sure to keep your questions general. Asking questions that are too specific could mean that you are “entrapping” the signature gatherer. When you are given information, simply ask to hear more. Keep your questions simple: What is this for? Who will be paying? Think of things that you would want to know about this if you were completely unaware of what it is about.
Ø Don’t be confrontational
It is important to be civil in your interaction with the signature gatherer. You are trying to collect information about what you are being told by the paid signature gatherers, not trying to engage in a debate on the issue. A best practice will be to let the signature gatherer do the majority of the talking in your interaction with them.
Ø Ask to see the “Statement of Reasons”
The “Statement of Reasons” is the legally required document that is necessary to file a referendum. This document is important as it explains why the referendum is being filed. Information in the document that is found to be false could lead to a disqualification of the referendum. You should be able to keep a copy of the Statement of Reasons if you request one from a signature gatherer.
Ø If you do believe that a signature gatherer is providing outright lies, email us immediately
Email Susan Riggs, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Laura Nunn, email@example.com. Please provide information about the location where you witnessed the lies and information about their nature. Please also provide a phone number so we can contact you.
Thank you for your continued support in upholding the Workforce Housing Offset! For more information on the background and history of WHO, please visit: http://housingsandiego.org/workforce-housing-offset/.