For the twelve days of Christmas I give you: The madness of 2013, one month at a time-A month by month recap of stories that appeared in the Starting Line last year.
By Doug Porter
#1 Walmart CEO Optimistic About Food Stamp Cuts
Today’s the day.
Twenty three million Americans, including four million in California and more than a quarter million in San Diego will see a 5% reduction in their food stamp benefits starting November 1st.
As many as one in nine California families receive food benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — known as CalFresh in this state. The cuts mean a family of four will receive $632, or $36 less per month in federal food assistance, even as California food costs rise. That is the equivalent of losing roughly 21 individual meals per month based on calculations used by the Department of Agriculture.
Walmart’s CEO Bill Simon says they’re “cautious but modestly optimistic” about those cuts, despite the fact that $14 billion of the $80 billion appropriated for food stamps was spent in their stores last year. Simon told a meeting of financial analysts earlier this year when the benefits are cut, price becomes more important to the consumers, which he said will play to Walmart’s advantage.
The House of Representatives has already approved a Republican measure to further cut benefits by $40 billion over the next 10 years. They believe this is a much-needed overhaul to a bloated entitlement and will encourage able-bodied adults to get back into the workforce.
Children, seniors, and people with disabilities make up the majority of the recipients in California. About 44% of workers in the restaurant and food services sector have a family member enrolled in a public assistance program, according to a recent UC Berkeley study.
Despite the Walmart CEO’s spin on the subject his own company’s analysts aren’t so sure. From the Wall Street Journal:
On the business side of the equation, the cuts will fall particularly hard on the grocers, discounters, dollar stores and gas stations that depend heavily on low-income shoppers. Weak spending in that stressed consumer segment has already led retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. to lower their sales forecasts for the rest of the year ahead of holidays.
#2 Wooing the Youth Vote with Libertarian Promises
Failed mayoral candidate and wannabe Congressman Carl DeMaio is taking his message of “opportunity” to college students in the San Diego area this week, hoping that a smiling face and a pocketful of libertarian promises will woo the youth vote into the Republican fold.
Like the witch in Hansel and Gretel he’s hoping to lure young votes with the lure of sweet success: he’s the “new” Republican. Students are supposed to forget about all those nasty old white men waving their transvaginal wands to ward off people of color and other likely Democrats from voting booths around the country.
“I’m taking on the Republican Party and trying to get them off those divisive social issues — let individuals decide these kinds of issues for themselves,” the 39-year-old DeMaio told UT-San Diego. “The whole tone and tenor and culture has to change.”
Lest college students be lured by the sirens of his “Free to Be” call, I suggest a little research on Mr. DeMaio. My article from the 2012 mayoral contest, The Psychology of a ‘Political Sociopath’ and Jim Miller’s Carl DeMaio Is a Dangerous, Mean-Spirited Liar and other Tales of Fear and Loathing in San Diego are good places to start. And the SD Free Press has an extensive archive on this “new” Republican…
… DeMaio isn’t visiting any of the Community Colleges in our area. He did find college students to be a useful constituency during his mayoral campaign; he used them to flyer local campuses saying the Bob Filner would close down their favorite bars.
#3 Faulconer, the Non-Partisan Republican
The race for mayor of San Diego is technically non-partisan, but don’t tell that to the various political action committees and “social welfare” groups around town.
While media speculation has focused on the foibles of newly minted Democrat Nathan Fletcher, and David Alvarez’s unabashed support from organized labor, Kevin Faulconer’s campaign has been conducting a master class in how avoid the “R” word.
I hadn’t given it much thought until yesterday, when the email from Faulconer spokesman Tony Manolatos to reporter Clare Trageser surfaced, complaining about her KPBS feature, saying that the account focused on “Kevin being a Republican and a tool for big business”.
That’s right. A Republican mayoral candidate’s spokesman is mad because a news story called him a Republican.
Later I saw the second email discounting that reporter’s requests for specifics, alleging the information would be spun because of her boyfriend’s politics. And I went “huh?”
You can read Trageser’s work for yourself, but partisan is hardly the adjective I’d use to describe it.
So I went to Faulconer’s website. Not one word about his party affiliation, despite nearly $1 million in donations from mostly Republican individuals and (non)-affiliated committees. Not a peep about positions on social issues, despite his campaign’s assertion Faulconer is “pro-choice, supports the Dream Act, supports California’s gun control laws, which are the most liberal in the country, etc.” Google wasn’t any help, either…
…For someone who wants so badly for you to forget his party affiliation, Faulconer certainly is well-versed in GOP talking points.
Kevin Faulconer is avoiding the Republican “brand” (but not its substance) because he’s smart enough to know embracing it would associate him with the social wingnuttia driving the party off a cliff. He’s also smart enough to know that you don’t need to call people names when you can enact economic policies that are equally if not more devastating.
Kevin Faulconer. Republican. Tell your friends.
#4 Immigration Reform Dying on the Vine, for Now
Now that the off-year elections are behind for most of the country advocates are working hard to insure that immigration reform measures already passed by the Senate get considered in the House of Representatives.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is non-committal on the subject, saying the issue deserves consideration while not pushing for committee and floor votes. My guess is he’s waiting to see which way the political winds are blowing. If the right wing of the party can keep Obamacare and Benghazi in the headlines, the speaker won’t act.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told the right wing media outlet Newsmax yesterday should Boehner bring immigration reform up for a vote in the House, his leadership position could be in jeopardy.
Advocates of reform legislation today announced a coordinated effort, joining the financial and political power of the AFL-CIO and SEIU labor unions with smaller advocacy groups, including America’s Voice, PICO National Network, Mi Familia Vota and CASA in Action, to target nine House GOP lawmakers who support establishing a way for eligible immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship. Four of those targeted are from California…
..Meanwhile San Diego’s own Congressman Darrell Issa is trying to float his own version of an immigration reform bill.
Issa’s constituents are mostly white and largely affluent. Still, Issa isn’t immune to the demographic changes taking place throughout Californiaand the nation. About one-quarter of Issa’s district is Latino, and close to 50 percent of his hometown of Vista is now Latino…
…The details of Issa’s plan for immigration reform are still scarce, and his office didn’t respond to numerous requests for an interview. But the plan would reportedly include a six-year period of temporary relief from deportation for undocumented immigrants.
During that time, they would be expected to find a legal way to stay here or leave.
Issa told Politico it’s “halfway between full amnesty and simply rejecting people.”
The Vista Congressman’s ideas have already been rejected out of hand in an article published at the Heritage Foundation’s blog, so it’s likely what he’s really looking for are a few headlines painting him as being “reasonable” on the issue.
#5 The Horse is Out of the Barn on Facial Recognition
Facial recognition technology developed for battlefield use in Afghanistan and Iraq is getting its first major domestic field test right here in San Diego County. A report by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), based on documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) through a California Public Records Act request, spells out the parameters of this endeavor.
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is coordinating a program involving twenty five local state and federal agencies in the region using a vast data sharing program called the Automated Regional Justice Information System. Participants include U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, San Diego State University and the San Diego Unified School District Police.
Utilizing tablet and android cell phone technologies, law enforcement officers are snapping photographs of individuals they encounter and running them through databases that include 32 million driver’s license photos. The system can quickly match images with the 1.4 million arrest mug shots in the San Diego County system…
…The program is most likely legal, given the body of court decisions expanding police powers in recent years. And the policies built in for protecting law biding citizens from abuse are a joke.…
…Because SANDAG is –functionally– an unelected regional government, these facial recognition programs have escaped public scrutiny. Here’s a link to their Board of Directors, which includes iMayor Todd Gloria and County Supervisor Greg Cox, along with top elected officials from virtually every local government in the region.
San Diego City Councilwoman Marti Emerald, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Supervisor Bill Horn all serve on the SANDAG Public Safety Committee. The information published by SANDAG is in an unsearchable PDF format, so it’s possible they’ve slipped info about this program in somewhere, but I haven’t found it.
Finally, this quote from the Center for Investigative Reporting story:
Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, expressed alarm at the normalization of military-grade technology in daily police activity. She said she believes the San Diego regional government’s lack of transparency around the facial recognition program is designed to minimize opposition and public debate.
“It becomes accepted and is much harder to push back when an agency has purchased 150 devices and deployed them in the field,” Lynch said.
I understand that the horse is out of the barn here. While there is absolutely no historical precedent for undoing technological intrusions in the name of protecting us from “terrorists”, we can and should urge our elected officials to build in safeguards that protect our constitutional freedoms and insist that justice be served when (not if—it’s gonna happen) law enforcement official abuse their powers.
Personally I’d say abuses should be considered a felony—one that eliminates any prospect of ever getting a pension. That ought to provide some motivation where it counts.
#6 Young Republicans Roll Into Town for Faulconer
Young college Republicans from all over California descended upon San Diego this weekend to canvass for Kevin Faulconer’s mayoral campaign. It was a smackdown: Young Republicans vs College Republicans.
Local clubs earned $50 for every 10 people who turned up and the club fielding the most volunteers was promised free pizza for a year. The local party promised hotel accommodations and meals.
Here’s the call to arms from the California Young Republican Federation Facebook page:
- Time to put your YR Money where your mouth is and sign up for this upcoming 3 fold extravaganza:
- Mission One – GOTV to Elect Republican Kevin Faulconer for Mayor
- Mission Two – Annihilation of a traitor’s political aspirations. NO NATHAN FLETCHER!
- Mission Three – We Work Hard Therefor We Play Hard. See you all at the finish line.
If you watched KUSI news you might have been left with the impression that young people of no political persuasion were coming off the streets to support his candidacy.
#7 Congressman Issa: Because He Can
Once again, Vista’s GOP Congressman Darrell Issa is proving to the country that he’d rather be on the evening news than actually do any work in Washington DC.
Issa is so eager to get to the bottom of the Healthcare.gov “scandal” that he’s willing to stop the people working to fix it so he can grab a few headlines. After all, he’s got to do something in light of his Benghazi and IRS investigations going nowhere.
This week he wants answers directly from White House Chief of Technology Todd Park, who already responded positively to an earlier request to appear, and he wants them Now.
From MSNBC’s Steven Benen::
For reasons no one has been able to explain, Issa has said that’s not good enough. Late Friday, the far-right committee chairman subpoenaed Park, insisting that he stop working on fixing the website and start talking to lawmakers about why the website isn’t working. If that seems nonsensical on its face, welcome to the world of House Republican policymaking.
Indeed, this is the first time in quite a while that I can think of a committee reaching out to a potential witness, the witness agreeing to testify, and then having the committee subpoena him anyway, just for the sake of doing so.
#8 The Phone Calls Stop When You Vote
Voting throughout San Diego is already heavier than expected in the mayoral special election. Pro Tip: The phone calls stop when you vote.
The best candidate phone call out there is the one from the breathless woman telling you not to vote for Nathan Fletcher… “Oh, and by the way, they told me I had to say this call was sponsored by the Lincoln Club of San Diego”
Wendy Fry at NBCSanDiego aired a story yesterday about changes in voter registration for San Diego. Almost eight thousand people have registered lately, nearly five thousand of the registering as independent. Democrats have registered 2,741 new voters. And GOP County Chair Tony Krvaric must be beaming with pride at 243 new voters who identified themselves as Republicans.
KPBS has a story up about the various candidates’ social media helpers. All of the candidates are directly involved, but each gets some help in maintaining the steady drum beat of impressions required to keep their names top of mind…
…KPBS also has a story up about how Nathan Fletcher’s campaign is splitting San Diego progressives. Mostly I’d say they’re confused by Lorena Gonzalez’s (and her allies) presence in the Fletcher camp.
I hate these kinds of stories because of their focus on personalities. And yes, the constraints of “he said/she said” journalism pretty much guarantee that’s the kind of political coverage we see most of the time.
Those of you who’ve read Jim Miller’s accounts here at San Diego Free Press on the race for mayor should understand that the “divisions” are more about activist (David Alvarez) vs. old style (Nathan Fletcher) approaches to issues.
#9 Barrio Logan Fights the Lies
The stories have been circulating for weeks about simply outrageous falsehoods being told by signature gatherers employed by backers of a referendum to overturn the Barrio Logan Community plan. Now community members, led by the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC), are fighting back.
The three biggest lies being told are:
- 46,000 jobs were endangered
- Businesses were going to be replaced by condominiums
- The Navy would abandon San Diego
This morning they filed legal documents seeking to block any referendum on the basis that organizers deliberately made misrepresentations in order to gather signatures.
From the EHC:
Barrio Logan‘s community-developed plan, approved by City Council on September 17, breaks a 30-year history of toxic land-use planning that allowed houses, parks and schools to intermingle with polluting industrial properties. The newly approved plan–which the City developed through a five-year, facilitated community input process–will finally separate industrial establishments and residential neighborhoods in the interest of breathable air, affordable community housing and support for the maritime workforce. Represented by the Port of San Diego Ship Repair Association, the out-of-state corporations couldn’t get voters to sign its petition to repeal the plan by telling the truth, so they resorted to lies to illegally gather signatures.
#10 Faulconer Stands with the Fraudsters
Mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer’s campaign made a big deal out of his appearance at an Allied Gardens grocery store on Wednesday to “save middle class jobs”.
Opponents to the Barrio Logan Community Plan are gathering signatures on a second petition to overturn related ordinances passed by the City Council earlier this fall. A first petition was turned in at the end of October directly aimed at overturning implementation of the plan.
Supporters of the Barrio Logan plan filed suit this week, claiming that signatures were being gathered under false premises. And, wouldn’t you know it, even as Faulconer was making his appearance, the paid signature gatherers continued to peddle falsehoods, as documented by a KPBS reporter on hand:
The signature-gatherers wouldn’t give their names to KPBS and they weren’t exactly being upfront about the community plan when they repeatedly told passers-by “they want to build condos and force out the shipyards.”
Here’s the weak sauce Faulconer dished up when asked about these misrepresentations, via KPBS:
Asked whether he was concerned that the signature gatherers might be spreading misinformation, Faulconer said, “I think it’s clear that this signature drive is all about protecting these jobs, protecting the ship repair industry. It says so very clearly on the petition about what is at stake.”
FYI -there is no study, document or government agency backing up this claim that jobs will be lost. In fact, the City of San Diego’s report projects a 4,000+ job gain.
#11 Alvarez Pulls Off a Victory
Mayoral candidate David Alvarez isn’t taking the victory laps today on the morning talk shows. He can’t. He completely lost his voice talking to voters as the special election neared.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting this morning, Faulconer received 89,043 votes, Alvarez 52,283 votes, and Fletcher 49,645 votes. There remain as many as 34,500 mail and provisional ballots still to be counted. By shortly after 10pm last night Alvarez had moved into second place and his lead grew throughout the night.
What little life was left in his vocal chords was expended as he thanked supporters last night at a rally held in the old Weber bakery building in the heart of the neighborhood he came from. Back in the day the bakery marketed its white bread as the ideal food for the white bread leaders of the community.
From a 1931 Evening Tribune supplement:
“The big business man eats good white bread and milk because that food keeps him well fed, alert — able to cope with every problem quickly and efficiently.”
Today the 43,000 square foot structure has been repurposed as Bread & Salt, a multi-use office/workshop/gallery. The very mixed demographics of the overflow crowd last night were suggestive of the actual make up of a San Diego that has evolved away from its era of white bread dominance. Draft beer and Tecate in cans washed down the free tacos dispensed from the food truck adjacent to the building.
The election night parties of the three top candidates were an accurate reflection of their campaigns’ appeal. Former Assembly Nathan Fletcher’s campaign hosted an event at their campaign headquarters in a soul-less Mission Valley office building. The enthusiastic crowds were professionals; not too white collar and not too Caucasian.
The party wound down not long after election results came in suggesting a third place finish. One participant texted me wanting to know if they were serving up craft beer over at the Alvarez party.
City Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s event was at the historic US Grant Hotel, symbolic of an era when tycoons ruled the city and much of the riff-raff present at the other candidate’s parties knew their place (or went to jail, in the case of the unions). Business attire was the preferred costume. Cocktails were the beverage of choice.
Smug satisfaction permeated the air as the GOP’s consensus candidate coasted to a first place win. The Traitor (Fletcher) had been vanquished. Compromise with those pesky neighborhoods at the expense of downtown developers could be dispatched with mere lip service. As one tweet noted, “San Diego republicans way more excited to spike the football in Fletcher’s face than they are about Faulconer’s win.”
The plan for the next round is simple: Kevin smiles a lot, while his buddies “independently” gin up fear about Another Filner with a dash of (wink, wink) racism.
#12 Rolling Back the Filner Agenda
Now that the first round of elections has past, iMayor Todd Gloria has decided it’s time to roll back another item unpopular with business interests from the Filner agenda.
Calling his proposal a “no-brainer’, Gloria along with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, sweet talked the City Council yesterday into releasing up to $10 million in funds frozen for legal reasons last spring.
The funds have been withheld due to the failure of hotel owners to sign on to an agreement that would have indemnified the city from liability should a lawsuit over the questionable method being used to raise those funds prevail in court. City taxpayers are now on the hook for millions of dollars in potential liabilities should the suit prevail. The hotel owners, meanwhile will have received the ‘benefit’ of those monies, which are supposed to be spent on advertising and marketing.
If the truth were to be told, a majority of hotel owners in San Diego were against the occupancy fee/tax added to room charges. Rather than risk losing on the issue, (which they did if a simple majority rule had been used) organizers of the effort weighted the voting based on the number of rooms.
As former Mayor Filner tried to hold the hoteliers’ hand to the fire on this issue, stories of doom and gloom, of jobs being lost, of a looming economic disaster were given credence by the local media.
Now the excuse being given for needing these monies immediately is that other cities are growing faster than San Diego.
From the UT-San Diego account:
Data compiled by Smith Travel Research show that San Diego County hotel revenues grew just 3.7 percent through the end of September over the same period last year. By comparison, growth rates for Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Francisco ranged from 7 percent to 12 percent.
While the Independent Budget Analyst’s report pointed out that it’s very difficult to prove that the diminished spending on tourism marketing is to blame, Financial Management Director Jeff Sturak said he’s concerned about the city’s slower growth in hotel tax revenue that helps fund municipal services. He’s projecting a 5.7 percent increase in hotel room tax revenues for the current fiscal year, which is higher growth than the previous year but lower than what occurred during the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years…
…City Attorney Jan Goldsmith sought to reassure the council that it retains the option at any time to hold back additional tourism assessment money in the event it fears the city’s general fund is at risk.
Historically San Diego’s growth rate in tourism has been slower than the other markets mentioned. While there were years back in the mid-2000’s where growth approached or surpassed double digit figures that growth was tied to the national economy.
Sequestration and military budget cuts have impacted San Diego’s economy in ways that have also cut into travel.
This is just sheer stupidity.
Again from UT-San Diego:
Councilman David Alvarez, who is running against fellow Councilman Kevin Faulconer to be the city’s next mayor, was the lone dissenting vote, saying he still is concerned about the potential liabilities the city faces.
“We could be in a position where any single hotel could make claims and expose to the city to millions in liability,” Alvarez said. “The costs of taking this action are huge and the benefits are small initially.”
Finally, I refer readers to this most excellent opinion piece by George Mullen from last month in the Voice of San Diego challenging the effectiveness of the Tourism Authority.
Referencing the numerous press accounts warning of impending disaster, he says:
In fact, the numbers look great in light of the draconian cutbacks at the Authority – even more so in an economy growing at less than 2 percent. It begs the existential question: Why fund the Tourism Authority at all?
The Tourism Authority has spent more than $100 million of taxpayer dollars promoting San Diego since TMD’s 2008 formation, yet San Diego still lacks a compelling, long-term brand and message. The only thing San Diego has to show for all this time and money is a string of throwaway ad campaigns that have likely done more harm than good – all for the sake of filling hotel rooms in the short term.
On This Day: 1936 – The first pop music chart based on national sales was published by “Billboard” magazine. 1965 – In his State of the Union address, President Johnson proclaimed the building of the “Great Society.” 2006 – Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House of Representatives. She was the first woman to hold the position.
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Here’s the rest of this series:
October * The Light at the End of the Shutdown
September * The Repackaging of Kevin Faulconer, Wherein Barney Fife Gets Transformed into John Wayne
August * All Filner, All The Time
July * San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s World Starts to Fall Apart
June *Issa’s Joe McCarthy Imitation, DeMaio’s Koch Connection and #filnereverywhere
May * Bigger Than Watergate, Dumber Than Obamacare and More Dangerous Than a Leftist Bagman
April * Cochella (Twice), Taxes, Terrorists, and Testing
March *Sequestration, Taxifornication, Misinformation, and the Great Tourism Recession in San Diego
February * Guns, Governors, God and the Gipper
January * Ted Nugent’s Guns, Obama’s Gays, Manchester’s Minions and Huffpost’s Sideboobs