By Doug Porter
As predicted, things are getting nasty in San Diego’s mayoral contest between City Councilmen David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer.
The “non-affiliated groups”, fostered via right wing challenges to rules about campaign finance, are doing the heavy lifting. In theory this separates the candidates from the ugliness. In practice nobody can tell the difference. Or cares.
Two of these major mudslinging efforts are under scrutiny in the local media scene this week. Voice of San Diego took on a labor council backed TV ad putting Kevin Faulconer in the crosshairs and UT-San Diego ran a “fact check” on a Lincoln Club backed mailer attacking David Alvarez. (Yes, the actual entities doing the dirty work have “official names”, but the truth is that these groups are the real contenders in this race.)
The Lincoln Club mailers have also attracted the attention of Presente.org, a national Latino advocacy group whose other recent campaigns have included urging the FDA to stop the sale of mentholated cigarettes and urging the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to take a more aggressive role on immigration issues.
A mass email circulated yesterday even as the first debate between the candidates was taking place, entitled “Say No to Racist Attacks in the San Diego Mayor’s Race!” urges recipients to sign a petition urging Kevin Faulconer to “publicly reject the racist attack on David Alvarez”.
The Best They Can Do?
Over at Voice of San Diego editor Scott Lewis used his column to call out the pro-Alvarez TV ads for being hypocritical in highlighting the support of corporate leaders for Kevin Faulconer:
Apparently, the best attack on Faulconer the Labor Council could come up with is that people who lead companies in San Diego support him for mayor.
Lewis somehow doesn’t get the implication raised by the ad about the larger issue of economic inequality at the heart of the differences between the candidates and chooses to interpret the message as a personal attack on San Diego business leaders. It’s this refusal to recognize the true nature of disparities between the rich and poor central to contemporary politics that is the greatest weakness of the platform (VOSD) he stands on.*
And I have to wonder what’s with the one-sided approach to complaining about attacks ads. If you follow the ‘what’s good for the goose…’ logic in Lewis’ column, VOSD would have reported on the visceral reaction by many around town to the anti-Alvarez ads as racist.
The problem here may between one of white privilege. I’ve seen plenty of the “the ads are not really racist” in the twitter feeds of people who ought to know better. If you’re not tuned into the issue or think racism isn’t really a problem in San Diego, I supposed the cleverness of ads suggesting a candidate is one of the “other” goes right by you. Or if you’re somehow unaware of the Republicans’ history of exploiting this issue it flies right over your head. Trust me: the political consultants at the Lincoln Club knew exactly what they doing.
They’re Coming for Your Daughters
The reporting over at UT-San Diego focuses on claims in the pro-Faulconer direct mail campaign attacking Alvarez as a candidate who doesn’t care about most of the city’s neighborhoods. Not much is left to the imagination in those circulars, whose content was carefully modified by neighborhood and known political affiliation, as the suggestion is made that he’ll cut funding for neighborhoods.
Reporter Lori Weisberg diligently checks the accuracy of the anti-Alvarez claims, pointing out the remarks quoted in the mailer refer to federal funding targeting economically challenged neighborhoods.
A review of the nearly three dozen proposals receiving block grant funding for the current year shows that most are meant to serve residents citywide, offering assistance in such areas as homelessness, small business development, homeownership and senior services.
However, of those funding grants benefiting specific communities, they tend to mostly target the very areas where Alvarez would like to beef up funding, most notably City Heights and San Ysidro.
Again, it is easy to draw the conclusion from the UT story that the ads have bogus content. You might even say the campaign is hypocritical if you want to venture into what neighborhoods in this city have been historically neglected. (Street lights in City Heights, anybody?)
The “truth” wouldn’t sell in today’s political market place.
What They Can’t Say in Political Ads
Literal messages in ad campaigns are used to evoke emotional responses. Faulconer’s side can’t run ads saying “Latinos will pillage your neighborhood and rape your daughters and trash the economy if Alavarez is elected.” Alvarez’s side can’t run ads saying “San Diegans have mostly been screwed for years and the wealthy older white males doing the screwing are gonna keep at it if Faulconer is elected.”
It’s easy enough to bemoan the battle lines and the-behind-the-scenes players here, but the fact is that the voters have already rejected a candidate (Nathan Fletcher) who attempted to straddle that divide. It’s also easy to play the “hate negative advertising” card, also known as “why can’t we all just be friends.”
Sorry folks, but campaign mudslinging is as American as apple pie. It is part of our heritage, adapted to trying to stand out above the overwhelming amount of marketing noise woven into the fabric of modern society.
The dirty little secret here is that most messages get ignored. Dead Tree and Digital publishers alike have a vested interest in subverting this reality. Advertising, that great modernist component of the consumerist society doesn’t work anymore most of the time. So it comes down to who can scream the most outrageous thing the loudest.
Underneath all this marketing crap is a very ugly truth. The economic policies of the past have created an ever-widening gap between rich and poor. In the largest sense, that is what this election is all about.
One side in this election wants to continue those policies. One side doesn’t.
I voted for David Alvarez this morning.
*(Full disclosure: I am a donor to VOSD, along with many other non-profit media organizations. I am fully aware that my minimal contribution brands me as “the enemy” in some quarters. They do publish worthwhile reporting; context, not so much. They don’t see it as part of their mission, IMO.)
A Tweet I Didn’t Want to See
Canvassers outside Target telling people to sign their petition “stop job tax” also telling them which mayoral candidate not to vote for
— Angel (@Angelonsite) January 16, 2014
Albertsons Bails on City Heights
Here’s the gist of a press release from City Councilwoman Marty Emerald’s office yesterday:
“The neighborhoods largest grocery store, Albertsons at University and Fairmount Avenue, is closing its doors February 20th. Councilmember Marti Emerald says this is a serious blow to consumers who have come to rely on the foods and pharmacy services provided at the City Heights store.
This planned closure of a major national retailer is unfortunately a common story in older, low income neighborhoods. “Albertsons says this store is not meeting the company’s financial goals. But the store and its on-site pharmacy are hugely important to the community,” according to Councilmember Marti Emerald….
…The City Heights Albertsons is one of eleven stores in Southern California targeted for closure. A company spokesperson says, “Albertsons has a responsibility to do what is best for the long-term growth and success of the company as a whole.” A liquidation sale begins next week. Doors close permanently February 20th, according to the company spokesperson.
The grocery business is a perfect example of our corporatist culture. Chances are we’ll never know the whole truth about this decision. I can tell you that Albertsons seems to have raised its prices along with discontinuing its discounts for regular shoppers last year. (I now treat my local outlet like it’s a convenience store.) I can also speculate that big parts of the grocery store business have more to do with the customer profiles and payments for ‘placement’ than actual sales revenues.
Congressional Budget:We Love War, Hate the Environment
Here’s the Military Times, reporting on the compromise budget passed by the House of Representatives this week [emphasis mine]:
In the end, winners included the personnel budget, reduced by less than 1 percent from both the House and Senate versions; the budget for Afghanistan and other overseas military operations, which, at $85 billion, is nearly $6 billion more than the administration’s request…
And there’s this story in The Hill, which is particularly endearing, in light of the West Virginia water pollution crisis:
A GOP rider in the $1 trillion omnibus racing to President Obama’s desk would prevent the administration from tightening rules on waste materials that mining companies can dump in streams.
It is one of several riders in the bill approved by the House on Wednesday that weaken the administration’s efforts to regulate chemical waste in waterways and would weaken the Environmental Protection Agency’s power under the Clean Water Act.
The language would keep the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from working on a new rule this year on “fill material” — the untreated waste left over from mining operations like mountain top removal.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) inserted the language and said he acted to help the coal industry and prevent a backroom rule from being implemented.
Big Balls is All it Takes to Win for California GOP Candidate
From Think Progress, just so you know what the rest of the country is laughing about today:
California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R) wants voters to know that his testicles are very large. And that he wants to put “a gun in every Californian’s gun safe.”
That’s the image Donnelly’s decided to present to voters in a surreal ad starring himself and Cuban-born singer and actress María Conchita Alonso. At one point, the ad degenerates into a discussion of whether Donnelly’s wife or Alonso is more sexually attractive. Also, Donnelly wants voters to know that he’s very angry. And that he thinks McDonald’s restaurants in his state should pay $20 per hour because “we’re Californians.”
Though the decision to include Alonso, who speaks exclusively in Spanish during Donnelly’s ad, is likely an attempt to appeal to Latino voters, he’s probably facing an uphill climb with that particular constituency. Donnelly is a founder of the Minuteman movement in California, a group of anti-immigrant vigilantes. Indeed, Donnelly was featured on the Colbert Report proclaiming that “it is a great day to be a vigilante.” He then discusses how he considered hiring “illegal aliens” to build a border fence at the California-Mexico border.
On This Day: 1920 – Prohibition went into effect in the U.S. 1988 – Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was fired as a CBS sports commentator one day after telling a TV station in Washington, DC, that, during the era of slavery, blacks had been bred to produce stronger offspring. 1996 – Jamaican authorities fired upon on Jimmy Buffett’s seaplane, after mistaking it for a drug trafficker’s plane. U2 singer Bono was with Buffett, but neither was hurt.
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