Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2008| As a community activist, my goal is to change the way public business is conducted in San Diego. I want a city council that is an ethical, competent, hardworking body that is neither beholden to the oligarchy of developers, the hospitality industry, the downtown business interests that currently have a stranglehold on city government nor the leaders of municipal unions who shaft the general public. Council members that put the public interest the first and foremost determinant of their discretionary actions.

That is why I see the upcoming elections of four new council members as crucial to the fight for honest and open government. A crucible of this political fight is District 3 where three well-qualified candidates — John Hartley, Stephen Whitburn and Todd Gloria — are fighting it out. They are all registered Democrats in a heavily Democratic district and they all talk about standing up for the communities they would represent.

Even in local political races, money is the mother’s milk for candidates to establish their viability and to give them bragging rights to being the anointed leader. In District 3, however, money is talking loudly to those who listen. What the campaign contributions are shrilling is that Gloria is not the agent of change he claims to be. He has significantly bested his opponents in 2007 by raising $117,000 from his donors, whereas Whitburn raised $106,000 with the help of a $43,000 personal loan and Hartley raised $26,000 including a personal loan of $10,000.

So Gloria must be the choice of the people, the protector of communities and an agent of change at City Hall right? Even his own press release trumpets that message . In the press release, Gloria, drunk with the power money brings, gushed:

“It is wonderful to have money in a campaign, but it is secondary to having support from within the communities I am seeking to serve.”

But money does talk and what it says is that Gloria’s “communities” include registered city lobbyists, developers/builders, realtors, political operatives, movers and shakers, downtown parking lot interests, trash collectors and bar owners in disproportionate numbers. In fact, conservatively, more than $30,000 of the $117,000 donated in campaign contributions to Gloria was received from these special interest groups many with businesses dependent on the city council.

As examples, 17 registered city lobbyists and four of their staff donated over $5,000 to Gloria. Just for access I guess? The Baldwin family of builders/developers, in all eight of them, gave $270 each even though most live in Orange County. For what? Four executives of EDCO Waste and Recycling Services maxed out at $270 each presumably hoping to recruit Gloria to support privatization of city trash collection. Six executives of Black Mountain Ranch, LLC including its President Fred Mass, chair of the CCDC Board of Directors gave generously too. Are these business interests included in the communities that Gloria thanked?

In contrast, Whitburn and Hartley received virtually no support from special interests. It is true that Whitburn received $100 from Marco Gonzales, a registered city lobbyist. But Marco is an environmental lawyer-hardly in the same as class as Stephanie Saathoff of Carpi and Clay, or John Kern and the rest of the registered city lobbyists who maxed out for Gloria.

I believe that the campaign contributions to Gloria clearly distinguish him from Hartley and Whitburn. Voters in District 3 need to decide whether they want a 29-year-old career politician who stands for the status quo if it helps his career plans, or a more mature representative with core values who will truly make a change at city hall. I support Stephen Whitburn for numerous reasons but John Hartley also has core values and the ability to empower neighborhoods that I look for in city council candidates.

Money really does talk in District 3, you just have to listen.

If you have something to say about local candidates for office and would like to be a Contributing Voice on the 2008 Elections, send your article of no more than 900 words to scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org.

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