Avarice and denial shadowed mayor's ballot bid

Short of cash and signatures, Faulconer lashes out

The coalition assembled by Faulconer and ex-mayor Jerry Sanders was off the rails.
  • The coalition assembled by Faulconer and ex-mayor Jerry Sanders was off the rails.

To San Diego campaign watchers, Kevin Faulconer's bid to hike taxes for expanding the city's convention center while lining the pockets of his friends in the public relations industry was an obvious non-starter, though true to city hall's fairytale world, nobody dared point out the Republican mayor's lack of clothing.

David Alvarez: "This is the mayor's failure."

David Alvarez: "This is the mayor's failure."

As a result, Faulconer's plan to garner convention center glory along with cash for the homeless to offset the negative hit of last year's downtown hepatitis debacle failed spectacularly with this week's refusal by the city council on a 4-4 vote to put his room tax hike initiative on November's ballot.

Chris Wahl from Southwest Strategies

Chris Wahl from Southwest Strategies

As first noted here May 1, political insiders found it obvious that the coalition assembled by Faulconer and ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, was off the rails, lavishing cash on PR fees while shorting the paid signature gathering.

Orange County's Rick Manter, Faulconer's chum and colleague when both worked together at the public relations and lobbying firm of NCG Porter Novelli, tapped into the effort for $61,433, and a firm run by ex-port commissioner Bob Nelson,Manolatos Nelson Murphy Advertising & PR, picked up $33,136.

Rick Manter worked with Faulconer at NCG Porter Novelli.

Rick Manter worked with Faulconer at NCG Porter Novelli.

Then, as the situation deteriorated, Southwest Strategies, the lobbying and political consulting outfit run by Chris Wahl, a Sanders favorite from their days spending military contractor cash to crush the Barrio Logan community plan, was brought in as fixer, running up a $77,691 bill while assuring the media that the signature drive remained alive.

"We are on track to submit our signatures next week to qualify for the November ballot,” said Wahl in a June 21 Union-Tribune account. "

A week later, Sanders, known for his contempt for the grassroots, put out a call for his chamber of commerce members to gather signatures themselves.

Said Wahl, "We have chosen to delay our submission to complete our verification — in order to pass the registrar of voters’ rigorous random sampling process.” The sample came up short, forcing a full 30-day validation check scheduled to conclude past this week's November ballot deadline.

According to disclosure filings, Arno Petition Consultants has received a grand total of at least $829,799 from the initiative committee, far less than the $1.9 million paid the firm by the San Diego Chargers football team for sufficient signatures to get its failed stadium measure on the ballot in 2016.

Similarly, Friends of SDSU, the San Diego State University backed group seeking to obtain the site of what was formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium, spent $1.2 million for its signature contractor.

Per an August 9 U-T report, the disgruntled Faulconer committee is currently threatening to sue Arno, alleging fraud and breach of contract, a development that if it comes to pass is likely to shed yet more light on the way the group went about its secretive maneuvering.

In addition to disproportionate PR spending, Faulconer, Sanders and their allies were unable to convince well-heeled San Diegans to come up with money to sustain the signature-gathering, forcing backers to plead for funding from out-of-town givers having business at city hall.

Styrofoam maker Dart Container Corp. of Mason, Michigan, fighting a possible city ban on take-out plastic dinnerware; vacation rental giant Airbnb, battling city regulation; and Geo Group of Boca Raton, Florida, a private prison operator, all anted up, though the special interest money evaded the radar of local media, including the U-T.

But the mayor's dealings with the money men did not go unnoticed by the local hotel lobby, which largely withheld their donations in favor of sitting back to watch national chains based in Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Maryland ante up what turned out to be inadequate financial support.

The funding performance gap is viewed by insiders as yet another sign that Falconer and the Sanders-led Republican establishment can no longer count on local special interest money to fuel their ambitions and will end up going hat-in-hand to benefactors in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and beyond, as they did in the case of Barrio Logan.

The diminishing Union-Tribune editorial page, a cog in Faulconer's machine under former owner Doug Manchester, took a hit as the mayor's troubled initiative drive limped towards the finish line, roundly criticizing him, but proclaiming in an August 8 editorial before the failed council vote: "The U-T editorial board agrees that the council should move the proposal forward."

Stormed Faulconer after the vote, “For four members, to sit up there today, and put politics, process over moving this forward for San Diegans, when the incredible coalition that we have… It is the absolute wrong thing to do,”

"This is the mayor's failure and he wants excuses to cover his failure," shot back Council Democrat David Alvarez, who was on the losing end of Faulconer's effort to roll back the Barrio Logan community plan in 2014

"He brought this to the council over a year ago. He could've come to the council, had public meetings, listened to the public, see what they wanted to say, but no, he wanted to do it his way."

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Comments

While every city has over time had some real useless POS's for mayors. San Diego, however, seems to have the ability to have very few good mayors.

I wanted Donna Frye to become mayor; she would have shaken things up.

Funny how the initiative process, which was originally created to allow citizens to use the strength of their numbers against the power of big money, has been corrupted so that now only big money can get an initiative on the ballot.

Oh, corruption in politics?...to quote the great Gomer Pyle, "surprise, surprise." All initiatives are big money; ain't no homespun laws going be made around these parts, ever!

The best part of this Schadenfreude-fest is knowing that this is end of the line for Kev-boy's ambitions for elected office. Let him now go and drink himself into oblivion as the office mascot at some pitying PR firm.

End of the line. He won't be running for office; rather, he'll be running for the hills...the Laguna hills. You're right Cassander: "let him drink himself into oblivion" and return to his family's business: falconry. For years, the eastern Sierra Nevadas, KF and his clan raised falcons, hawks, and chickens as birds of combat, participating in an underground world of bird warfare. Like cock fights but with other avian breeds. KF would work 22 hour days following the birds around, cheering them on, and cleaning up the carnage-the results of a long and exhausting bird-fighting tournaments. This explains his egg-shaped head; molded to be a homing device for birds. When he was but 28, KF said enough with this birdbrained world and flew the coop to SD's political realm. Now he's sitting in the catbird seat but will his rule last? No, of course not especially if term limits are implemented.

someone should lash out at the mayor's thinning hair and poorly articulated "swoop back." His forehead is too big for such a hair"style." Then there's his overdone moonpie face...let's get on these issues and find solutions before it's too late! One possibility: bald, and only bald mayors in the future.

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