Six Highlights from District 1′s First Debate

Six Highlights from District 1′s First Debate

Photo by Keegan Kyle

City Council District 1 residents pack a community room in the La Jolla Village Square, waiting to hear from the four candidates campaigning to represent them.

 

I was embedded in City Council District 1 this week to learn about its residents’ concerns and the four candidates campaigning to represent them.

By coincidence, those two worlds collided in the packed community meeting room of a shopping mall Wednesday night. I just couldn’t miss it!

A planning group hosted the first and only scheduled forum with all four candidates. Residents asked questions from the audience and then the candidates weighed in.

The candidates include incumbent Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, former retirement board president Ray Ellis, attorney Bryan Pease and Torrey Pines planning board chairman Dennis Ridz.

The residents raised some of the same issues I’ve been reporting all week. They talked about potholes, fire stations and the controversial Regents Road Bridge, as well as others.

Here are six highlights from the discussion:

Regents Road Bridge

The candidates were first asked whether they support or oppose building the Regents Road Bridge across Rose Canyon, a nature preserve in University City.

Lightner, Pease and Ridz each said they oppose the bridge. Ellis steered clear of defining his position, saying the city had other issues to deal with first. “We shouldn’t be thinking about new infrastructure,” Ellis said. “Right now, it’s off the table.”

The issue resurfaced later and the crowd focused on Ellis’ position. Debbie Knight, a bridge opponent, said bridge supporters have been putting up Ellis’ campaign signs in their yards. She asked him if he supports the bridge.

Again, Ellis declined to provide a definitive position. “It’s off the table,” he repeated. “That means we cannot address the issue in the short-term.”

A New Fire Station

As I noted earlier that day, some residents want UC San Diego to pay for a new fire station near the campus. At the forum, Lightner announced that the city is close to a deal.

“We are in the final negotiations of that,” she said. “UCSD will build a fire station there.”

Managed Competition

Lightner called herself a leader in managed competition, a bidding process that pits city employees against the private sector to provide public services.

Ellis and Ridz called her remark a joke. They said it took the City Council too long to put services out to bid. Voters endorsed the process in 2006. The council approved the city’s first contract in 2011, three years after Lightner took office.

Pease also said managed competition is part of the reason he entered the race. He opposes it. Lightner, Ellis and Ridz support it.

Proposition A

A lesser-known initiative on the June ballot showed some of the starkest differences between the candidates. The measure would ban the city from requiring union-friendly pacts on construction projects. (Here’s a quick primer.)

Lightner opposed the initiative, saying it would jeopardize state funding for construction projects. Ellis supported it, arguing it would level competition among bidders and increase transparency by posting all contracts online.

Ridz said he hadn’t read the initiative and couldn’t therefore offer his position on it. And Pease, well, misunderstood the issue.

Pease said he opposes the initiative because he opposes managed competition. But the initiative has nothing to do with managed competition. It’s an entirely different bidding process.

A Proud Carpetbagger?

A resident asked each of the candidates to explain how long they’ve lived in District 1. My hand wasn’t quick enough to write down the numbers for Lightner, Ellis and Ridz. I got caught up in Pease’s response.

“Thank you for exposing me as the carpetbagger I am!” Pease exclaimed. He said he moved to the district a few months ago because he was troubled by the opinions of the other candidates.

Pease is the only one in the race who opposes managed competition and a high-profile pension reform initiative on the June ballot, Proposition B. “I am the progressive in the race,” he said.

Throughout the debate, Pease also talked about Councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio. While the other candidates talked about their own resume or experiences in their closing arguments, Pease contrasted himself to DeMaio.

“Carl DeMaio represents a brand that is very anti-labor and that is what I stand against,” he said.

An Uncomfortable Lightner?

Lightner looked more uncomfortable than her challengers and made it known to the crowd several times. She said her chair was sticky and complained about the room’s rising temperature.

At times, she just seemed out of her element. The other candidates spoke freely during their opening and closing arguments. She read from note cards. Her final remarks sounded like a formal valediction.

“I look forward to working for you in the future and I view community service as the highest honor,” she said.

Lightner’s challengers have urged her to debate again before the election. Before the crowd dispersed, one resident stepped forward and invited the candidates to a meeting in Carmel Valley.

Lightner didn’t respond yes or no. She just started packing up her things.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.


Keegan Kyle

Keegan Kyle
  • 506 Posts
  • 11
    Followers

Show comments
Before you comment, read these simple guidelines on what is not allowed.

16 comments
Petr Krysl
Petr Krysl subscriber

Sherri Lightner has the support of many residents in district 1 for the simple reason that she has done a lot for the district. She may not be as slick as some and she may not be hiding her principles behind the façade of smooth talk just to get elected, but that may be why she has my vote really! We don't need another unprincipled operator like Peters. We need an honest politician for change.

PetrKrysl
PetrKrysl

Sherri Lightner has the support of many residents in district 1 for the simple reason that she has done a lot for the district. She may not be as slick as some and she may not be hiding her principles behind the façade of smooth talk just to get elected, but that may be why she has my vote really! We don't need another unprincipled operator like Peters. We need an honest politician for change.

Janet Shelton
Janet Shelton subscriber

I don't think snarky petty attacks against a candidate belong in a news article. When they are only directed at one candidate, the article appears biased. If the Voice wants to include such judgements, at least have it be a quote from someone other than the reporter. And as many commented, the important question is whether a candidate is knowledgeable about the issues and serves its district and the city well, not how comfortable they are at public meetings.

myearth
myearth

I don't think snarky petty attacks against a candidate belong in a news article. When they are only directed at one candidate, the article appears biased. If the Voice wants to include such judgements, at least have it be a quote from someone other than the reporter. And as many commented, the important question is whether a candidate is knowledgeable about the issues and serves its district and the city well, not how comfortable they are at public meetings.

Pamela Colquitt
Pamela Colquitt subscriber

You say Sherri Lightner looked uncomfortable because her chair was sticky? She certainly answered all the questions with confidence and knowledge of what is going on in District 1. She is always out there talking to her constituents, meeting with leaders of each of the communities making up District 1. She knows more about the issues than the other 3 put together. I will bank on Sherri any day. Thank you, Sherri for what you have accomplished for our community.

Pam Resident
Pam Resident

You say Sherri Lightner looked uncomfortable because her chair was sticky? She certainly answered all the questions with confidence and knowledge of what is going on in District 1. She is always out there talking to her constituents, meeting with leaders of each of the communities making up District 1. She knows more about the issues than the other 3 put together. I will bank on Sherri any day. Thank you, Sherri for what you have accomplished for our community.

Josephe Brooks
Josephe Brooks subscriber

As they say...Sherri, Sherri, Sherri!

JHB
JHB

As they say...Sherri, Sherri, Sherri!

Sandy Lippe
Sandy Lippe subscribermember

I've spent decades fighting for our community at City Hall meetings. First "the suits" come in and talk to "the other suits" and then the vote goes against the community needs. With Sherri Lightner and her capable community representatives, I've seen so much get accomplished in University City... from filling potholes to working on public safety. We need Sherri Lightner to continue to lead City Hall in the right direction, the moderate direction. Nobody owns Sherri and Sherri doesn't owe anybody but her neighborhoods. I'd rather have a humble, shy leader who works day and night, shows up on weekends in communities... not for the cameras but for the work... than a smooth talking "suit" who campaigns like a pro and then serves the wrong interests.

Sandra Lippe
Sandra Lippe

I've spent decades fighting for our community at City Hall meetings. First "the suits" come in and talk to "the other suits" and then the vote goes against the community needs. With Sherri Lightner and her capable community representatives, I've seen so much get accomplished in University City... from filling potholes to working on public safety. We need Sherri Lightner to continue to lead City Hall in the right direction, the moderate direction. Nobody owns Sherri and Sherri doesn't owe anybody but her neighborhoods. I'd rather have a humble, shy leader who works day and night, shows up on weekends in communities... not for the cameras but for the work... than a smooth talking "suit" who campaigns like a pro and then serves the wrong interests.

Kevin Wirsing
Kevin Wirsing subscriber

well Keegan, you're absolutely right Sherri is noooo John Edwards, nope, no sirree, because she really likes to think about what she says and is sooooo awfully careful and deliberate (and as Ms. Knight noted excruciatingly sincere) the words don't come tripping over her tongue....as to "uncomfortable" I can't imagine Sherri was nearly as uncomfortable as city staff usually are when Sherri starts asking questions about the cost of city projects and programs--she is a wizard with those numbers!

elgatojorge
elgatojorge

well Keegan, you're absolutely right Sherri is noooo John Edwards, nope, no sirree, because she really likes to think about what she says and is sooooo awfully careful and deliberate (and as Ms. Knight noted excruciatingly sincere) the words don't come tripping over her tongue....as to "uncomfortable" I can't imagine Sherri was nearly as uncomfortable as city staff usually are when Sherri starts asking questions about the cost of city projects and programs--she is a wizard with those numbers!

William Moore
William Moore subscriber

Folks up here in D1 like our public servants working, not just talking. That's why Sherri's perfect for us.

Will Moore
Will Moore

Folks up here in D1 like our public servants working, not just talking. That's why Sherri's perfect for us.

Deborah Knight
Deborah Knight subscriber

Sherri promised when she ran in 2008 to "bring neighborhood interests to city hall", and she has done that extremely well. She listens to her district. She is genuine and personable, and studies the issues. She isn't a gladhander or smooth talking politician. But that isn't what matters. She didn't fudge or evade on a single issue at the debate, and stated her position clearly on every issue that came up. Thank you, Sherri.

dknight
dknight

Sherri promised when she ran in 2008 to "bring neighborhood interests to city hall", and she has done that extremely well. She listens to her district. She is genuine and personable, and studies the issues. She isn't a gladhander or smooth talking politician. But that isn't what matters. She didn't fudge or evade on a single issue at the debate, and stated her position clearly on every issue that came up. Thank you, Sherri.