Ok, last night I was chastened a bit for not making a local connection in my first post.  Ok, so here’s the local connection … former San Diego Congressman Ron Packard, who served with great distinction in the U.S. Congress (in fact he was elected by his peers to serve as one of the Appropriations Committee sub-committee chairs) was a Mormon. Dr. Packard (he was a dentist) never wore his religion on his sleeve, but never hid the fact that he attended Brigham Young or that he was LDS (Latter Day Saints.) For him, it really was never relevant to how he operated as a congressman, except in how he approached governance (by being honest and ethical). I can hear the guffaws already, but anyone that actually knows Dr. Packard and recalls his service in congress knows this to be true. My point here is that perhaps the real measure of a person’s qualifications for elected office should be less about his or her religious views (even if they’re atheists, as one reader comments) and more about their belief in honest, ethical behavior in office.

Now, that brings me back to some of the comments on my first post. I was a bit disappointed, but not surprised being the somewhat cynical sort, that some readers would focus on my profession as a communications professional (and yes, a registered lobbyist in the city of San Diego) to suggest that somehow my opinions on matters like religion in politics aren’t relevant. It’s sad that our society is littered with intellectually bankrupt hyperbole such as this that is aimed at demonizing people in certain professions.  Shouldn’t we engage in open, honest dialogue about our issues that engage our populace rather than fomenting hate mongering? Perhaps it’s the inclination of some that lack the ability to debate the merits of an issue that have caused our political system to devolve into vitriolic partisanship devoid of great debate coupled with mutual respect for other’s opinions.

OK, now I feel better.

With regard to lobbying government … like I said, I practice my profession and represent my clients, including Sunroad Enterprises. As my registration at the city indicates, I was not working with Sunroad when the permits were issued, not that it matters. I do proudly serve them now and believe much of what’s being said in the media and by those opposing the project is inaccurate and misinformed. Simply look around downtown San Diego to see that the main flight path to Lindbergh Field has many building protruding above the FAA’s so-called horizontal barrier. In fact, most airports have these so-called “intrusions” without them being labeled unsafe. But, we can debate that matter at another time.

A question: for the armchair city council members out there … what is inherently wrong with petitioning our government? It is a right afforded under the Constitution of this great country, and a concept that is referred to by our founding fathers and a theme in the feud between England and the colonies that led to the Declaration of Independence and our war for independence. To suggest that all lobbyists are bad shows a true ignorance that cannot be overstated and a clear disdain for the rights that differentiate us from other countries.  

In local government, some of the main influencers are interests for the environment, public employees, organized employees outside of government service and, yes, those representing developers. Much of the unregulated money being spent to support local government elections comes from these environmental and union groups. That’s not wrong, in my mind, but the hypothesis that all government actions are linked to developer control is simply wrong. In fact, one need only look at the city’s financial situation to know that it wasn’t developers that created the pension crisis, it was the interaction between city staff, the council and their employee groups.  

Perhaps the reason you see so many “development” interests is that the lobbying ordinance allows many “lobbyists” for these other interest groups to escape through loopholes rather than disclosing their true activities at City Hall. Sadly, despite guidance from the Ethics Commission, none of these interests present themselves accurately as lobbyists for their cause … and, yet, they show up on the schedules of council members lobbying their interests, undetectable to the general public. Why is it these interests fear exposing who they are or what they do?

That’s not to say I support the Ethics Commission’s overhaul of city lobbying regulations, but that is certainly one loophole that should be closed.  For those of us following the rules and disclosing whom we represent, the presence of these loopholes is inequitable and in contradiction to the notion of open and transparent government. We’ll see if the council has the will to make some reasonable changes to their lobbying rules without further demonizing those representing the business community.

PS: for those that think developers are horrible and the business community is bad. I wonder if these people live in a house or work at a business. I guess the purist in me would suggest that those living in glass homes or working in glass offices should stop and think about who they are, what they do and where they live before throwing the first stone. Interestingly enough, that concept is rooted in religion, relating to a story told by Jesus in the Book of John.  In John 8:7, Jesus says, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” 

So, readers, start casting stones. But, now we’re back to religion and politics, my bad.

CRAIG BENEDETTO

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