Opinion

Fletcher’s Midnight Deal Still Haunts

Fletcher’s Midnight Deal Still Haunts

File photo by Sam Hodgson

Nathan Fletcher

 

Most observers, when they describe Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher’s most important legislative achievement, the one that put him on track to run for mayor, point to Chelsea’s Law for convicted sex offenders.

Yes, that was a big deal.

But it was actually a different move that really endeared him to some of San Diego’s most powerful people and gave him necessary political traction to run for mayor. It’s also the move that will continue to dog him in the next several weeks, and into November if he makes it to the final election after June.

In October 2010, Fletcher found himself in a powerful position. Democrats in Sacramento needed a vote to pass the state budget they’d cobbled together. The independent-minded Fletcher, still a Republican then, was a natural target.

He later left the GOP amid much fanfare and talk. But that night in Sacramento might have been one of the most important hints for Fletcher of how powerful being an independent could be.

As we discovered later, he and Mayor Jerry Sanders and others had been working for months on a bill that would remove limits on downtown redevelopment and pave the way for the state to subsidize more building downtown, including potentially a new Chargers stadium.

That bill would also, however, circumvent a year-long public process the mayor had pledged to respect. It was an effort to decide if further redevelopment was necessary.

It would also sabotage negotiations with the county of San Diego, which would be one of the prime investors in downtown redevelopment. The county was being asked to sacrifice near-term revenues for the promise of long-term growth.

Concerns about redevelopment, its abuses, its corporate welfare and what it forced neighborhoods and schools to sacrifice had been simmering.

But Fletcher, the mayor and downtown insiders saw a golden opportunity in the state budget drama. With his decisive vote, he suddenly had tremendous power.

And he decided to wield it to deliver for Mayor Sanders the bill to unleash billions on San Diego’s downtown redevelopment dreams.

Flashback to that night. It was Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010. I was awake, unable to sleep. On Twitter, I began to see mentions of a bill from Fletcher about redevelopment in San Diego. Conservative lawmakers were bemoaning it as corporate welfare for a new stadium in San Diego.

Could it really be? I wondered.

Yep. I was able to pull together the bits about what happened by the early morning. And then the news exploded.

It was a giant insult to the public critics of redevelopment. It infuriated county officials.

But downtown insiders and what you might call the Get Shit Done Coalition hailed him as a champion.

He was perfect to them. Long frustrated with the public process and envious of other cities that got more money from the state and regularly pushed through bigger, bolder deals, these people looked at Fletcher as someone who could work his way into a position of power and then act decisively. The moans from the “naysayers” in San Diego only confirmed it.

The move also crystallized support among those most passionate about building a new stadium in San Diego.

Things got messy for Fletcher, soon after his big bold move. You see, others wanted to be that deliverer-in-chief. They included Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who also was thinking about running for mayor. He’d been leading the public process to get the job done the long way. He was incensed by the maneuver.

Then there was then-Councilwoman Donna Frye, who held a long-standing suspicion of downtown redevelopment. Combined, they ignited a firestorm.

And if there’s a firestorm, nobody is better at channeling it than Councilman Carl DeMaio. In an infamous confrontation with former Centre City Development Corp. Chairman Fred Maas, DeMaio showed fury not regularly seen at Council. Their argument led Maas to later promise an unprecedented political hit on DeMaio.

We’re still waiting to see what he meant by that.

Then, Frye found an opening to kill the bill. She noted, after all, that it was just a bill and then-Gov. Schwarzenegger had not yet signed it. The City Council could send a letter to him. If they were united against it, he’d have to listen.

And that’s when principled passion gave way to pragmatic politics.

As mad as Faulconer was, he apparently wasn’t that mad about it. He admitted he liked the results Fletcher had gotten. Faulconer delivered the decisive vote to let it be.

Frye and Councilwoman Marti Emerald decided to send a letter to the governor anyway. But even DeMaio wouldn’t sign it. Again, as irritated as he was, DeMaio didn’t think it was worth trying to undo.

Eventually, the next governor abolished the whole system of redevelopment making much of the drama moot.

Mayor Sanders, however, left his new friend hanging. The incumbent endorsed Fletcher’s rival, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, for mayor.

And, as if to pour salt on that unkind cut, just last week, Dumanis hammered Fletcher for the midnight redevelopment deal during a debate in front of a downtown audience. I don’t have exactly what she said but several people thought I should know about it. DeMaio has also picked at Fletcher for it frequently.

So, would Dumanis not have done the same deal for Sanders? That seems like a stretch. And DeMaio could have gone one step further to undo the deal, but chose to let it lie.

Does that mean their punches don’t land? I don’t know. Fletcher stole a process from the public in the kind of deal that has created the very resistance to progress in San Diego its supporters bemoan. His campaign may be proud he “delivered more infrastructure dollars” to San Diego with the vote. But those dollars never actually made it.

Fans of the move will remember it forever. He’ll have to hope that critics of it do not.

I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you’d like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):

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Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis

I'm Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it's a blast!): @vosdscott.

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34 comments
Eva Vargas
Eva Vargas subscriber

You can't tell me that Nathan didn't have a glue about the state shutting down redevelopment and armed with that information it would not HURT him to go through with the deal--puts him at an advantage of sorts. He made a name for himself other wise how could he expect to become mayor if no one has a clue to who he is, smart move on his part. I still didn't vote for him--mail in vote for Filner. Keep it simple.

evavrgs
evavrgs

You can't tell me that Nathan didn't have a glue about the state shutting down redevelopment and armed with that information it would not HURT him to go through with the deal--puts him at an advantage of sorts. He made a name for himself other wise how could he expect to become mayor if no one has a clue to who he is, smart move on his part. I still didn't vote for him--mail in vote for Filner. Keep it simple.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

Let's not make this analysis of Fletcher too complicated. He's for home, motherhood, patriotism, a strong military, family values. And, he can "bring people together to get things done". Let's elect him by acclamation!

toulon
toulon

Let's not make this analysis of Fletcher too complicated. He's for home, motherhood, patriotism, a strong military, family values. And, he can "bring people together to get things done". Let's elect him by acclamation!

Omar Passons
Omar Passons subscribermember

ustrated that it's not okay to be both in today's political climate. I think that describes Nathan Fletcher, too. And while it may partially describe at least one other candidate, there is no getting around that most people want to be inspired by leadership and encouraged rather than browbeaten and insulted as incompetent and greedy. "Fix the problem, not the blame" is a nice motto, in my opinion. By the way, a growing group of politically-interested, craft beer lovers get together to discuss this type of stuff around town. If Twitter is among your online activities, I think your perspective would be an asset to the dialogue, if you are so inclined. Cheers

omarpassons
omarpassons

ustrated that it's not okay to be both in today's political climate. I think that describes Nathan Fletcher, too. And while it may partially describe at least one other candidate, there is no getting around that most people want to be inspired by leadership and encouraged rather than browbeaten and insulted as incompetent and greedy. "Fix the problem, not the blame" is a nice motto, in my opinion. By the way, a growing group of politically-interested, craft beer lovers get together to discuss this type of stuff around town. If Twitter is among your online activities, I think your perspective would be an asset to the dialogue, if you are so inclined. Cheers

Greg Fitchitt
Greg Fitchitt subscriber

As for those who accuse him of being an "Empty Suit", I'm pretty sure that Empty Suits don't enlist in the Marines, and they don't generally win combat awards for valor. And between just the "Midnight Deal" and Chelsea's Law, he's accomplished more (both bipartisan achievements, by the way) than most legislators do in their careers. I hope to see him elected Mayor so he can get some more good shit done for San Diego.

Greg PQ
Greg PQ

As for those who accuse him of being an "Empty Suit", I'm pretty sure that Empty Suits don't enlist in the Marines, and they don't generally win combat awards for valor. And between just the "Midnight Deal" and Chelsea's Law, he's accomplished more (both bipartisan achievements, by the way) than most legislators do in their careers. I hope to see him elected Mayor so he can get some more good shit done for San Diego.

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

In the early 1980s. then mayor Pete Wilson talked city employees into voting to take the city out of Social Security and Medicare by promising them that the city would provide them pensions and healthcare benefit better than the two federal pension and health care programs would have. He made that same promise to the federal government when he moved the city out of those programs. The city is now saying that those pledges were lies and refusing to honor them. Now Pete Wilson is sponsoring and raising funds for the mayoral candidacy of Nathan Fletcher. If you liked Pete Wilson's brand of political dishonesty, you'll probably love Nathan Fletcher.

Don Wood
Don Wood

In the early 1980s. then mayor Pete Wilson talked city employees into voting to take the city out of Social Security and Medicare by promising them that the city would provide them pensions and healthcare benefit better than the two federal pension and health care programs would have. He made that same promise to the federal government when he moved the city out of those programs. The city is now saying that those pledges were lies and refusing to honor them. Now Pete Wilson is sponsoring and raising funds for the mayoral candidacy of Nathan Fletcher. If you liked Pete Wilson's brand of political dishonesty, you'll probably love Nathan Fletcher.

Omar Passons
Omar Passons subscribermember

oint is well taken. I simply lack the knowledge to have a credible opinion on it

omarpassons
omarpassons

oint is well taken. I simply lack the knowledge to have a credible opinion on it

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage subscribermember

In CCDC's last Budget for Fiscal Year 2012, instead of the required 20 percent minimum for Affordable Housing, CCDC only budgeted one percent (1%). Lame. One good thing about the end of Redevelopment, is that the missing 19% for Affordable Housing in 2012 is now considered an official DEBT on the State's EOPS/ROPS.

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage

In CCDC's last Budget for Fiscal Year 2012, instead of the required 20 percent minimum for Affordable Housing, CCDC only budgeted one percent (1%). Lame. One good thing about the end of Redevelopment, is that the missing 19% for Affordable Housing in 2012 is now considered an official DEBT on the State's EOPS/ROPS.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

Mr. Fletcher puts this forth as a marque aspect of his leadership. I am suggesting that close scrutiny shows it to be a rather hollow effort.

B Chris Brewster
B Chris Brewster

Mr. Fletcher puts this forth as a marque aspect of his leadership. I am suggesting that close scrutiny shows it to be a rather hollow effort.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

He reminds me of Obama, and we don't need that sort of disaster here, we have enough problems.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

He reminds me of Obama, and we don't need that sort of disaster here, we have enough problems.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

How much a stretch is it to claim that Fletcher's midnight deal was the catalyst that allowed Jerry Brown to kill redevelopment? If so, maybe he's a hero after all, albeit an accidental and unwilling one.

toulon
toulon

How much a stretch is it to claim that Fletcher's midnight deal was the catalyst that allowed Jerry Brown to kill redevelopment? If so, maybe he's a hero after all, albeit an accidental and unwilling one.

Omar Passons
Omar Passons subscribermember

ifference, not a character flaw of the current Council for approving. Fiery rhetoric and personal attacks are often in vogue in comment sections, but I think it's more productive to talk about the policy differences so we can have the type of future we want. Just one opinion

omarpassons
omarpassons

ifference, not a character flaw of the current Council for approving. Fiery rhetoric and personal attacks are often in vogue in comment sections, but I think it's more productive to talk about the policy differences so we can have the type of future we want. Just one opinion

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

Mr. Fletcher has a very thin record as a political leader. He is mostly selling image. He has a record of pandering. This is one example. The Chelsea's Law process is another, in which an unfunded mandate was created, that is not fully implemented due to lack of funding, but for which he is magically given credit as if it were -- a classic example of getting major face-time without real substance. Then there is the ask for political party support and subsequent rejection of the party when he didn't get it. Classic 'sour grapes.' If he is judged on his record in political leadership, the thin exemplars include three that do not favorably stand scrutiny. Nice smile though.

B Chris Brewster
B Chris Brewster

Mr. Fletcher has a very thin record as a political leader. He is mostly selling image. He has a record of pandering. This is one example. The Chelsea's Law process is another, in which an unfunded mandate was created, that is not fully implemented due to lack of funding, but for which he is magically given credit as if it were -- a classic example of getting major face-time without real substance. Then there is the ask for political party support and subsequent rejection of the party when he didn't get it. Classic 'sour grapes.' If he is judged on his record in political leadership, the thin exemplars include three that do not favorably stand scrutiny. Nice smile though.

barb graham
barb graham subscriber

Good to know Fletcher's a master of the Mittflip!

imominous
imominous

Good to know Fletcher's a master of the Mittflip!

John Kroll
John Kroll subscriber

I agree with Ian Trowbridge. In addition, read Norma Damashek's online blog Numbers Runner for a useful article noting the siimilarities between Fletcher and DeMaio.

goodlead
goodlead

I agree with Ian Trowbridge. In addition, read Norma Damashek's online blog Numbers Runner for a useful article noting the siimilarities between Fletcher and DeMaio.

Robert Cohen
Robert Cohen subscriber

While I like Fletcher's background and would otherwise find him acceptable to be the next mayor, that midnight deal was so outrageous that I cannot, in my own small way (one vote), vote for him.

RobSD
RobSD

While I like Fletcher's background and would otherwise find him acceptable to be the next mayor, that midnight deal was so outrageous that I cannot, in my own small way (one vote), vote for him.

Ian Trowbridge
Ian Trowbridge subscribermember

The midnight deal is why I distrust Nathan and wouldn't vote for him under any circumstances. We already have enough untrustworthy local politicians.

iantrowbridge
iantrowbridge

The midnight deal is why I distrust Nathan and wouldn't vote for him under any circumstances. We already have enough untrustworthy local politicians.