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I learned a lot going door-to-door with San Diego City Council District 8 candidate B.D. Howard last week in the city’s Otay Mesa/Nestor neighborhood.

First, he wears tattered shoes, the result of walking the district for more than 500 days. Howard carried door hangers, his ballot statement and a list of the neighborhood’s most frequent voters. Those were the homes he visited.

“It’s kind of like a sniper,” Howard said. “You want to pinpoint your targets.”

I called Howard a “populist” in my story Wednesday. He was patient and persistent with the people he met. But spending so much time with them allowed some to ask questions about the most radical parts of Howard’s platform — like doing away with property taxes.

“Forgive my cynicism here,” said Ken Bates, a mustachioed man wearing a blue T-shirt with a picture of the Underdog cartoon on it. “But eliminate property taxes?”

Howard told Bates yes, he did want to eliminate property taxes for homeowners, but not for businesses.

I asked Howard to clarify what he meant. He wanted to replace the city’s property taxes — which make up nearly a quarter of the city’s revenue — with an increased sales tax. He said he’d sponsor a ballot proposition to do so if needed.

Howard also said he wanted a second ballot proposition that would decide if the city should file bankruptcy to roll back city employees pensions. Getting to those benefits in a bankruptcy court, we found earlier this year, would be an unprecedented undertaking. Guaranteed pension rights haven’t been overturned, though no government has had the temerity to try.

Also, I asked Howard about some past newsworthy run-ins. He has accused the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council of not endorsing District 3 City Council candidate Stephen Whitburn two years ago because Whitburn wouldn’t support Ben Hueso, the labor council’s preferred choice, for City Council president. Howard was Whitburn’s campaign manager.

And Howard sued the city, though he later said he dropped the case, after two drunken driving arrests in 2007. Howard was never prosecuted, and the City Attorney’s Office lost one of his files.

Of the incident with the Labor Council, Howard said, “That’s in the past.” And he said his legal issues with the city were over.

“My past is clean,” he said. “The city attorney looked at my issues and my name was fully cleared.”

— LIAM DILLON

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