By Doug Porter
Homeless advocates in San Diego have a special donation for Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s re-election campaign: a shopping cart full of rocks. At midday on Tuesday, they deliver them to City Hall, urging the mayor to try cementing the rocks on his mattress before going to sleep.
It’s a payback that’s symbolic on many levels. Earlier this month, they say, the city began installing rockscapes under bridges where local homeless people sleep.
“You can’t treat human beings like pests,” declared Amikas president, Jeeni Criscenzo. “These are human beings, not birds. They need to be treated with respect. This action is not only cruel and a waste of taxpayer dollars, it does nothing to solve the problem.”
The mayor and his taxpayer-funded $3.6 million public relations machine will be busy elsewhere when the rocks roll up C Street to the Community Concourse.
Maybe Kevin Faulconer will be holding a press conference to announce the latest news from One San Diego, the non-profit funded by corporate donations doing good deeds that the mayor then claims credit for. Sort of.
One San Diego is part of his “brand,” except that Faulconer isn’t officially connected to it.
From Voice of San Diego:
The mayor’s political fundraiser Ashley Hayek is also One San Diego’s fundraiser. Elections lawyer Jim Sutton is the one who officially incorporated the charity.
So when he solicits $30,000 donations from companies doing business in San Diego that isn’t campaign funding for an organization he’s not officially part of, it’s okay, because the money goes to underserved communities. And he just happens to wander by when the TV cameras are rolling.
Credit Where it isn’t Due
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe there’s an evil bone in Kevin Faulconer’s body. He’s a politician and a damned good one, pushing all the right buttons (a Green Republican!), and keeping his smiling face on the news. Sometimes he’s just not too good at actually running the city… but he looks good doing it.
The mayor’s blessing of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan will, no doubt be the hallmark of his tenure. Fortunately for Faulconer, many of the politically challenging hurdles the plan faces will be down the road a bit.
When it came time for a stand on the environment vis a vis the future of transportation in the region, the mayor was conveniently absent from the vote, sending an alternate to approve a SANDAG plan likely to be bounced by the courts for failing to meet state standards.
Scientific American and the Guardian have both recently profiled “one of the most outlandish, as well as green-tinged, Republicans in the US.” The word bi-partisan gets thrown around a lot in coverage of the mayor, who’s doing his best to avoid political contamination from the sanity-challenged wing of his party.
The avoidance of conflict is the single most defining element of his persona. When in doubt, hide, at least until his handlers can figure out a way for him to benefit.
Faulconer’s most controversial decision, vetoing a minimum wage/earned sick day ordinance faded into the background after the local Chamber of Commerce stepped in with a referendum to delay implementation following the city council’s override vote.
Now candidate Ed Harris, one of the two candidates vying to replace Faulconer in 2016, is telling City Beat’s John Lamb about a recent phone poll suggesting that Faulconer “was there when minimum wage passed.”
The mayor’s top campaign advisor was in charge of running the astroturf group opposing the minimum wage ordinance, and now he’s got his candidate sorta claiming credit for the feel-good part.
San Diego’s Mayor is also lucky. After a decade of scandal, financial challenges and a predecessor characterized as a monster, there’s smooth sailing these days. Mostly it’s about the economy on the rebound. Things are good enough to make a limited government type stop clenching his teeth.
Lurking Around the Corner
There are two over-arching issues facing San Diego (no, not the Convention Center and football stadium): a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure and a homeless population, much of which is unseen.
After polling determined that a ballot measure raising taxes wasn’t feasible, Kevin Faulconer’s solution for the billions needed to fix stuff around the city was to pass the work (and the credit) off to City Councilman Mark Kersey for yet another in a series of financial schemes involving robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Now we’re going to be asked to vote on a Charter Amendment mandating budgetary guidelines for future City Councils. Growth in tax revenue will go to infrastructure. And if demand for city services increases because of the factors leading to an increase in tax collections, well that’s just tough. Take off the window dressing and these Republicans all want to drown government in a bathtub. Oh, and did I mention this scheme doesn’t actually raise the amount of needed funding?
When it comes to addressing the homeless issue, the mayor’s all about the press conferences. Except that these programs largely don’t involve actual homes, which is the one thing homeless people need the most.
Any serious solution would involve crossing swords with either NIMBYs or downtown developers. The developers have money and the NIMBYs have passion. (I didn’t say it was easy!)
In the meantime, the city’s regularly sweeping the homeless off the streets and laying down rocks under bridges so they don’t come back.
A People Problem, Good and Bad
A decade back or so the good people of San Diego were persuaded to ditch the City Manager form of government in favor of a Strong Mayor system. Guess what? That makes the Mayor in charge of actually running the city.
Running the city involves overseeing the humans who do the actual work. In this regard, Mayor Faulconer has a mixed record.
The re-do of the city’s digital presence (while still a work in progress) is seemingly headed for success. Credit should be given for the mayor’s encouragement of private sector talent to work with city staff in crafting solutions.
On the other hand, the San Diego Police Department is a festering sore of mismanagement under Faulconer’s hand-picked leader promoted from the ranks to bring a new direction to a scandal-ridden agency.
The department is losing people faster than they can train them and the chief of police is making the rounds saying it’s the media’s fault.
Meanwhile, according to attorney Dan Gilleon, more than a dozen officers have filed claims against the city, alleging egregious behavior on the part of their superiors.
The latest case involves a 16-year veteran claiming the department fired him for refusing to keep quiet about the misuse of federal grant proceeds, including the improper use of satellite phones by Mayor Faulconer and Chief Zimmerman.
From the Union-Tribune:
Specifically, Hart said he was told by superior officers at the chief’s insistence to buy a satellite-television dish for Faulconer’s city vehicle even though the expenditure did not meet terms of the federal grant. He said the purchase went forward despite his objection.
“SDPD’s motivation to terminate Officer Hart was enhanced by SDPD’s concern that Shannon Hart could and might disclose Chief Zimmerman’s and Mayor Faulconer’s false statements to the media when the satellite dish was discovered and reported, that Mayor Faulconer’s Expedition was authorized to carry a DirecTV satellite dish because it was a ‘command vehicle’,” the claim states.
CBS 8 reported last year that the mayor’s city-leased vehicle had been equipped with satellite television in 2014. The monthly cable subscription includes ESPN, NFL Sunday Ticket and other premium channels, the station reported.
Then there’s the couple last week who tried unsuccessfully to dial 911 after the family dog killed their three-day-old baby. The city can’t seem to find enough 911 operators. They’ve said so in public. Now, they’re acting.
From NBC7 News:
In an investigation NBC 7 found many local 911 calls are taking minutes, not seconds, and aside from pocket dials, understaffing is contributing to the problem.
Overtime is being required by the department until the dispatcher jobs are filled.
Officials said despite the long wait, it’s critical callers not hang up and stay on the phone.
Thanks for the advice; we’ll contemplate the Mayor’s record while waiting…
There’s lots more to tell about the Faulconer administration involving decisions where the mayor distanced himself or simply ignored public concerns and I’ll cover those topics as time allows in the future.
In the meantime, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is saying no to participating in more than three forums with his challengers where he might be asked hard questions. The first event was broadcast on a Spanish-language station last week, the next two will occur after most mail-in voters have cast their ballots.
Tomorrow: Meet the Mayor’s Challengers.
On This Day: 1944 – On the orders of President Roosevelt, the U.S. Army seized the Chicago headquarters of the unionized Montgomery Ward & Co. after management defied the National Labor Relations Board. 1960 – Filming for the Elvis Presley movie “G.I. Blues” began. 1986 – The world’s worst nuclear disaster to date occurred at Chernobyl, in Kiev. Thirty-one people died in the incident and thousands more were exposed to radioactive material.
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