The Republican candidate for Mayor of San Diego demonstrably and provably lies in his latest campaign ad.
By Andy Cohen
I will certainly be grateful when this mayoral campaign is over and we can begin to move on to the 2014 midterms. That sounds weird coming from a reporter/columnist that thrives on these election cycles. This mayoral special election has certainly been the gift that keeps on giving, providing endless material for all of us San Diego political observer types to offer up to hungry readers. Otherwise at this time of year we’d be struggling to find subject matter to fill our website with. For a weekly columnist that’s not always easy (but then again, as they say, if it were easy everyone would do it). For a daily columnist like my colleague Doug Porter, this mayoral special election is a godsend.
But what I’m tired of are the TV ads and the mailers that deliberately mislead their audience; the voters of San Diego. I’m absolutely disgusted by the TV commercials that attempt to rewrite history.
In other words, the candidate ads that LIE.
Yesterday, SDFP columnist Jim Miller addressed the latest Kevin Faulconer ad that attacks “33 year old David Alvarez” for his union support; for the “union cronies” that are donating heavily to his campaign. See the ad for yourself:
Attacking Alvarez for his age is pretty low, but I suppose it’s fair game. Yes, he’s young. That does not mean he’s inexperienced or too young to measure up to the responsibilities required of the mayor of the eighth largest city in the United States. There is absolutely no question in my mind that he will. Todd Gloria is only two years older than Alvarez, and by all accounts he’s been a tremendous fill-in as interim mayor.
Despite what Kevin Faulconer would have you believe, age is not a disqualifying factor. But what really struck me, and what Miller did not fully address in his column, was the base dishonesty of the content of the ad itself. Yes, Miller is right: Faulconer hates unions, and by extension lacks any respect whatsoever for the workers who are represented by those unions. Depending on your political perspective that may or not be a bad thing.
It’s quite a thing to call a sitting politician or candidate for office a liar. It’s a very serious charge and not to be done lightly if you are a responsible member of the media community. There is the potential for serious consequences, and one risks considerable damage to his or her reputation and credibility by making such a bold charge and being wrong. I consider myself a responsible member of the media community. I do not make such bold and controversial charges unless I’m certain that I can back them up. And if I’m wrong, I will humbly admit that I made a mistake, which is not always easy to do.
With that said, Kevin Faulconer is a liar. Or at least whoever is writing his campaign ads and mailers is, which by default makes him a liar since he himself is supposed to approve of all material released on his behalf. The words “I’m Kevin Faulconer and I approve this message,” or the “Paid for by Kevin Faulconer for Mayor” at the end of a spot are legally required for a reason. And Kevin Faulconer is counting on your ignorance and indifference to the facts in order to win an election.
Here’s what I mean: In this particular TV commercial, the dire female voice tells us “we can’t afford to go back” (the title of the ad, I might add). “33 year old David Alvarez will turn back the clock to a time when union cronies ruled.” The spot goes on to blame the YOONyuns for the pension crisis that San Diego found itself mired in from 1996 to 2008 when the City Council finally got serious about solving a real problem. Alvarez is being funded, the ad continues, by “the same unions that nearly bankrupted us.”
This is a lie. Demonstrably and provably so. The unions did not nearly bankrupt the City of San Diego. Our own local government is responsible for the deliberate underfunding of the city’s pension fund that led to the massive deficit we found ourselves with by 2005 (“Enron by the Sea” ring a bell?).
How do we know this? Well, it’s all spelled out right there in a 2010 San Diego Grand Jury report that looked into the crisis:
In a sequence of events in 1996, 2000, and 2002, SDCERS (San Diego City Employees Retirement System) adopted proposals, advanced by City officials as a strategy to balance the City’s budget that enabled the City to contribute less money to the pension system than was required to keep it adequately funded. The 1996 proposal was known as City Manager’s Proposal 1 (MP1) and the 2002 proposal was known as City Manager’s Proposal 2 (MP2) .…..
The report also listed as “fact” that “in 1996, 2000, and 2002 SDCERS adopted City proposals to put less money into the pension fund than was required to keep it adequately funded. This enabled the City to address budget shortfalls.” (emphasis mine)
The pension crisis that San Diego is still digging itself out of was caused by the deliberate underfunding of the pension system, a decision made by City officials—the City Manager and City Council—under the leadership of Republican Mayor Susan Golding in 1996 and Republican Mayor Dick Murphy in 2000 and 2002. The City went to the employee representatives with a proposal to increase employee benefits if they would go along with the scheme. The unions, because they represent the best interests of the workers, viewed this as a pretty good deal for their members and accepted the offer. They would have been foolish not to.
This is the kind of fundamental dishonesty that Kevin Faulconer has become known for. He has been dishonest about the effects of the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update. He has been dishonest about the increase in the Workforce Housing Offset. He has been dishonest about his “neighborhoods plan” (he doesn’t really have one)—in fact, he stole the meme from David Alvarez in the first place because he knew that it was resonating with voters.
Further, we can lay this dishonesty squarely at the feet of the Faulconer for Mayor 2013/14 campaign, and not the Lincoln Club—who has had its own issues regarding its relationship to the truth in this campaign in supporting Faulconer’s candidacy—since the ad clearly states that it was paid for and produced by Faulconer’s campaign and not an independent expenditure committee (PAC). Candidates can often distance themselves from questionable statements or advertising made on their behalf because, well, it wasn’t their campaign that was responsible for it, they didn’t approve it, and thus they cannot be held accountable for what a third party says or does. That’s the nature of modern campaign finance and PAC’s. This is not the case here.
Which begs the question: Is this the kind of honesty, integrity, and transparency we can expect if Kevin Faulconer is elected as San Diego’s next mayor?
The ad certainly gets one thing right: We can’t afford to go back to the policies and governance that got us into the financial crisis in the first place. A return to those “good ‘ol days” is what Kevin Faulconer represents.