By Eva Posner & Linda Perine / Democratic Woman’s Club
Relationships and money trails tell us who wields the power in our community.
It is hard to imagine, that in the 5th largest county in the United States, only a handful of people have any real influence on the day to day decisions that effect the lives of over 3 million people. But it’s true. And a lack of voter participation isn’t helping.
In both the February 2014 election to replace Bob Filner as Mayor of San Diego and in the June primary voter turnout was abysmally low. Overall voting turnout in the County in June was an anemic 27.2%, but many precincts registered in the single digits.
Pundits and analysts give many reasons for the lack of engagement: voter fatigue, uninspiring candidates, disillusionment surrounding the Filner debacle, and the lack of a culture of voting in areas with a large immigrant influence. We are told that working two (maybe three) jobs with transportation issues, childcare and other deterrents make it difficult to get to the polls. And indeed, all these causes had some influence on the undeniable “none of the above” message from the electorate.
But we think low propensity voters are saying something other than “it’s too hard”. (Particularly when vote by mail is an option.) We think it is something far more alarming: People don’t vote because they believe it simply does not matter who gets elected. They are not uninformed, culturally challenged civic slackers. They are realistic, maybe fatalistic, graduates of a school of particularly hard knocks.
It is way past time that we as people who believe in a government of, by and for the people acknowledge that we have a problem that is not going to be resolved by get out the vote platitudes and self-affirming mantras based in wishful thinking.
Our democracy is badly broken, nationally and right here at home in San Diego.
We all know it. We can sense it. We can see the symptoms of our sickly system. And we are tired of it. But instead of shrugging it off, we at the Democratic Woman’s Club want to start a robust, critical, and well-past-due conversation on how to fix it.
Step one in solving a problem is admitting you have one. Check.
Step two is a lot more complicated, and often painful. You have to identify the problem. Describe it. Find the root causes. In order to fight, you have to know your enemy.
There’s a story in San Diego that hasn’t been told. It’s one of abuse of power and a lack of accountability that has drowned out the voice of the people. It’s the story of a shadow government– one that you don’t get to vote for—that makes decisions every day that affect you, your family, and your community. It’s a story of leaders who put their personal ambitions over the interests of the people they represent. It’s a story that should make all county residents very angry.
This matters. It matters because the power of our democracy has been handed to a select few who do not have our interests at heart. More importantly, it matters because we can fix this, and return the power where it belongs: with us.
“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Political observers and writers from around the county have joined forces with Democratic Woman’s Club of San Diego County to start asking some tough questions about “Who Runs San Diego?”
Who are the people who make the decisions for the rest of us? How do they make their money? How do they take our money? Who are the winners and losers? And how do we level the playing field?
Here is a preview of the different segments we will cover:
Media– The fourth branch of government. The bridge between you and your community. These people should be holding leaders accountable and giving you the information you need to make decisions in your daily life. There aren’t very many media outlets in San Diego County. Many, if not most of them, are owned by a very small number of people. Do you see how this could be a problem?
Republican Surrogates– You don’t hear much out of the San Diego County Republican Party. Most of the right’s political direction and funding come from surrogates like the Lincoln Club, Chamber of Commerce, and San Diego County Taxpayers Association. It will be interesting to explore the relationships between these organizations, their donors, and the leadership of our government.
Tourism– Tourism is one of the three leading economic drivers in San Diego. This creates some problems, among them a preponderance of low-income jobs, a focus on appearance vs. reality, the use of public funds for private gain. There are extraordinarily large expenditures of taxpayer dollars that may not benefit the taxpayers as much as it benefits sports franchises and hotel owners. It’s your money. Aren’t you just a little curious?
“Nonprofits”- Downtown Partnership, Civic San Diego, the San Diego Foundation, and the Economic Development Corporation all have substantial influence. Some have quasi-governmental authority with virtually no accountability. These mixed use entities are home to some of the most obvious revolving door cronyism: power brokers who govern your community and then use the policies they create to make money.
We will also have segments on boards and commissions, developers, hi-tech, academia, lobbyists and others that wield undue influence over who gets what in San Diego.
We are excited to go on this journey. It is a necessary step in repairing our broken democracy. It is high time we find out who really runs San Diego so that we know where to take the fight. It’s time to take the power back.
Please join us. Articles will appear every Wednesday in the San Diego Free Press.
If you have any thoughts, insights, or suggestions please contact us at email@example.com.
The Democratic Woman’s Club mission is to promote Democratic Party principles including equality of opportunity, a level playing field, and fair and equal treatment for all.
John Lawrence says
Thanks, Eva and Linda, for bringing these matters to our attention. This is much needed information that will give all of us a better grasp of what actually is going on in the immediate neighborhood we live in. I’m looking forward to reading your weekly articles.
Anna Daniels says
Eva and Linda– I’m looking forward to the series!
Steve Chatfield says
Take a good idea and distort it to advance your own narrow political agenda? Sounds like you want to do the same.
1. Bob Filner was an example of the worst kind of power abuser. He never made an honest nickel out in the private sector yet is now far from impoverished, lied openly when he told his voters he would never seek a congressional seat when he had just been reelected to the city council and governed through ruthless intimidation.
2. You’re neglecting to mention the public sector unions who financed Filner’s campaign for mayor, hold public safety and services hostage to their bloated pension demands and wield far more power at the council than any organization with a conservative constituency.
3. Carpet bagging careerist politicians of all stripes, conservative and liberal, play their games for power tokens, the coin of their respective realms. Let’s not demonize one side without shedding equal daylight on the other.
Or was this really just about advancing the narrative of the San Diego Democratic Party to a non-critical audience?
Doug Porter says
We’re sorry that you missed the part about “Progressive Views” in the logo at the top of the page. If you really came into the site expecting equivalency, we’ve got some discount passes for the Coronado Bridge to sell you.
bob dorn says
Wishful thoughts, even yours so fervently and hatefully held, Steve S, don’t equal truth.
1. Filner made his living as a community college history professor, and I can’t remember anybody but you saying he was ruthless as a city councilmember.
2. You have Disunion Disease. When you see a union member do you hallucinate and hear voices? Have you ever been one, and now hate yourself? Do you prefer… hardworking tailors and cobblers? Slaves on Egyptian galleys?
3. Carpet bagging is a Southern term referring to Northerners coming into the South after the Civil War. Filner was born in Pittsburgh and got to San Diego
before you did. Where are you from, Steve.
Us regulars over here are glad to see another GOP guy jump into our pool. It’s fun. Y’all are so easy.
Leslie Wade says
Hey Bob. I’m sure I’m just shell-shocked from the comments by my conservative friends on Facebook. :) I’ll defer to the affordable housing experts, but I’ve been aware that affordable housing dollars could be spent outside of the redevelopment area for more than 10 or 15 years – and they have been. I think it’s fine. Particularly with regard to homeless services, which is a city-wide issue. My frustration (and likely yours too) is that the city is always robbing Peter to pay Paul. North Park took on density in the 1970s with the rezoning that allowed all of the “Huffman Six Packs” to be built everywhere. And all with the promise that schools, parks and other infrastructure would follow. It never did. The same game just played out on a larger scale in downtown, with a huge money grab after the redevelopment coffers were full for the first time in 20 years.
Good job, I would love to be part of that, because I am a freelance journalist
Doug Porter says
See the tab at the top of the page that says “About” if you’re interested in joining this merry band of troublemakers. Note that it says we are a “volunteer” organization.
Leslie Wade says
Okay, I love you guys and I’m with you, but can we lighten up on the “downtown special interest” stuff? I know it polls well, but it divides our city. Downtown doesn’t have the real power in the region. Politically speaking, the residents of downtown now have enough clout to have an equal if not larger voice in the council race for that seat. In any event, I strongly believe it hurts us as a city when we pit our downtown, which we all have a stake in, against our neighborhoods. I could go on about the strengths and weaknesses of redevelopment, but I’ll save that for another discussion. The point is that we need a strong downtown because the area has the potential to take the densities that our smaller and sometimes NIMBYish communities don’t want and it generates a significant amount of revenue for our tax base. Please keep going with this important discussion of who runs the city, but be fair. We’ve got organizations that wield a whole lot of power there too and I’m a strong believer that power has the ability to corrupt almost anyone. And, no, the ends don’t justify the means. I leave these comments with a positive civic spirit and hope that it doesn’t engender attacks. I’m a bit fatigued by all the name-calling, stereotyping, scapegoating, etc. that the other side dishes out. We need not play that game.
bob dorn says
Please, keep tuned in, Leslie Wade; I haven’t seen a single attack on you.
I’d be interested in seeing your reaction to La Playa Heritage’s letter (below)
which describes how money raised in downtown for redevelopment can now
flow to neighborhoods and to the development of affordable housing both
downtown and in the periphery.
Jim Boydston says
Having recently been in the trenches saving the San Diego Opera, and a now a part of the effort to try to bring about a grassroots Balboa Park 1915 Exposition Centennial celebration, I’ve come to find my moniker for San Diego of “Enron-By-The-Sea” is not much if any of an exaggeration, so I’m looking forward to reading what you folks uncover in this series.
Please be sure to take a long hard look at the Chamber of Commerce and its chairman, for mayor Jerry Sanders. He is ultimately responsible for the formation of Balboa Park Celebrations, Inc., and the disappearance of upwards of $3 million – a good portion of it public money – collected by that organization, with bupkes to show for it.
Also, under the heading of no profits, I suppose, be sure and take a look at who’s in charge of operating various venues for the city, and their lack of transparency. San Diego Theaters, Inc., and Faye Wilson, its head should be interesting research subjects. You might ask why, after decades of three-year lease renewals, did the city suddenly grant them a 50-year lease, and what of these alleged plans to do a $30 million renovation on the Civic?
All good questions, IMNSHO.
Jim Boydston says
It was supposed to be “former mayor Jerry Sanders.” Sorry.
Jim Boydston says
bob dorn says
I like “formayor” better. He’s still running the show, if from a slight distance, and so he’s more like “for(mer)mayor.”
La Playa Heritage says
Great news, Civic San Diego and the City of San Diego have finally admitted the Low Moderate Income Housing Asset Fund (LMIHAF) revenue of the Successor Housing Entity could have always use former Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Tax Increment (TI) from downtown, citywide, for Affordable Housing and Homeless solutions. This meant Successor Agency property taxes collected downtown could have been used citywide for the poor, seniors, children, mentally ill, homeless.
The Successor Housing Entity Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP) is the proof that former Mayor Filner’s idea of moving money from downtown to neighborhoods was possible. Civic San Diego, the Independent budget Analyst (IBA), and City Attorney Goldsmith states the use of RDA TI outside of downtown was Impossible, because of Bond restrictions.
This AHMP report finally encourages $281 million in Successor Housing Entity assets to be used citywide. This AHMP report finally acknowledges that former Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Tax Increment (TI) and unencumbered bond proceeds could have always been used anywhere within City limits for Affordable Housing and Homeless solutions. Previous the City Attorney and Civic San Diego insisted that Bond Proceeds had to be used downtown, and a “finding of benefit” was insufficient to allow money created from downtown property taxes to go into neighborhoods for both Affordable Housing and Homeless. There were always loopholes for the poor.
It would be great if the City Attorney Goldsmmith and the IBA acknolwedged that false information was given to Mayor Faulconer and the City Council which forbid the use of CCDC controlled RDA TI into neighborhoods that welcome both density and public funding to build Affordable Housing and Homeless projects citywide.
Outstanding Issues on the AHMP:
How much of the existing $281 million in Assets of the Successor Housing Entity (June 30, 2014) would be available new for Homeless solutions immediately as was promised in the orginal 2013 AHMP through the deleted NOFA in Spring 2014, in time for FY-2015 Budget that never happened? It is not fair to wait a year for nothing? Recommend to create an ongoing NOFA for FY-2015.
Where is the required SB-341 audit of the LMIHAF? Was is the audit not part of the Affordable Housing Master Plan? Please include a preliminary audit as part of this approval before the next Civic San Diego hearing.
http://tinyurl.com/20130107a See Page 5.
Need Documentation and complete audit accounting of the $281 Million in Assets of the Successor Housing Entity including breakdown into initial and final balances, Revenue and Expenses for:
Cash or Equivilent
Cash and Investment with Fiscal Agents
Interest Receivable with Fiscal Agents
Land Held for Resale.
Need additional information on
Other Revenue Sources.
Residual Distribution to the Taxing Agencies
How much is Encumbered?
Exactly how much is available?
There are many outstanding questions:
Why no FY-2015 NOFA?
Can funds be used for Emergency Shelter Tents with Associated Social Services?
Can funds be used for SRO Rehab to get rid of bed bug problem?
Can funds be used for Senior Homeless Vouchers for SROs, previously issued under former RDA? Why not?
La Playa Heritage says
Correct first link, please add an “a”
Fotios "Frank" Tsimboukakis says
This will be very interesting to see. This is what I HAVE discovered in the process of running for office.
1) For profit local media is just that: for profit. example: KUSI which is watched my many seniors has gone off the deep right end. Unless you are a conservative or you buy some ad time forget about getting on air.
2) Loyalists will vote no matter what, along party lines,
3)Most Seniors, who are the most consistent voters, do not use internet of social media, rather relying on radio, print and TV media so control that you control the WORDS/MESSAGE in the flow of info,
4) Many voters, Democrat , Republican and the 30% of others are UNFORTUNATELY motivated by the small picture (self benefits) than the WHOLE picture (tree vs forest), and
5) Most voters like to hear bla bla bla ABSTRACT MESSAGES akin to getting a gorgeous lover with Herpes for the moment.
It’s a sport to bitch about nothing getting done by Congress or other governmental entities only to later NOT vote or vote for the same monkies people bitch about. It’s like the joke about peace and war. Imagine the boredom if peace broke out everywhere. Imagine if we did things right? For everyone and not just the fat RATS in the rat race. Imagine?
Philly Joe Swendoza says
San Diego’s “shadow government” is as old as Father Serra. In our own time alone it has driven three mayors from office (Murphy, Hedgecock & Filner), while harassing a fourth (Golding) to the brink. Read our disturbing experience carefully, because political affiliation doesn’t matter to the Shadow, & only the Shadow knows who will be next. This is an astonishing history lesson, especially for those who jumped on the “dump Filner” dog pile, thinking they could scrape the doo off their shoes & just walk away. Meanwhile, the Big Dogs bark & bite against raising minimum wage, accountability, fair taxation, etc. etc. etc., while fetching a new Charger stadium at public expense, endless toys for the Grubbers, Groggers, Gamers & Girlie Men who are turning our downtown into Vegas West, yadda yadda yadda. Fido Faulconer heels to his masters like there is no tomorrow. He may be right because demographics are against them & the best they can do is enlarge their kennel before the stray dogs catch the car. Woof. woof.