The hot dog vendor spotted an opportunity.

About 50 supporters and opponents of Proposition D, the ballot measure to make the city of San Diego’s strong mayor government permanent, gathered in the Civic Center Plaza outside City Hall for a noon press conference.

As City Councilwoman Donna Frye spoke to a few cameras about how the system has led to backroom deals and cost the city millions, Alex Soto handed out coupons for $5 lunch specials at Brooklyn Dogs, a hot dog cart on the plaza’s edge.

“I was just trying to hand out as many as I could,” Soto said.

Soto arrived at an opportune time. People, signs and flyers dueled before, during and after the event, called by Frye and the strong mayor opposition.

Frye wanted to reveal an analysis she said proved the system costs the city $1 million a year extra to fund the mayor’s staff. Not to be outdone, Councilman Kevin Faulconer, a strong mayor proponent, tweeted at 11:30 that he would be there for his own rally.

Before the press conference started, pro-strong mayor strategist Adrian Kwiatkowski was there. He walked up to the television stations as they set up their equipment.

“Just wanted to let you know the other side is here if you guys want a counterbalance,” Kwiatkowski told the cameramen.

Frye strode up to Kwiatkowski when she arrived. She referred to him as “our paid lobbyist.”

“Time to act like a gentleman,” Frye said.

“I think I am a gentleman,” Kwiatkowski replied.

Both sides semi-circled around Frye as she began speaking. It wasn’t clear who was on what side.

Sari Reznick, a volunteer with a new neighborhood organization that opposes strong mayor, carried a clipboard, handed out flyers and spoke to people in the crowd.

She stood next to a member of the mayor’s press staff who took in Reznick’s pitch and then politely thanked her.

Opponents of strong mayor, who have raised no money, wore handmade campaign buttons and carried handmade signs.

Tom Geldner, a Mira Mesa man, picked up one of the flashy “Yes on D” signs that were leaning against a pillar and held it aloft while Frye and other opponents like Councilwoman Marti Emerald and members of community organizations spoke. He said he had donated to the strong mayor campaign, one that’s raised nearly $500,000, and had heard about the press conference. He didn’t think the city should go back to a system that allowed the city’s pension and disclosure scandal to happen. Getting a sign was a bonus.

“I’ll stick it my yard when I go back home,” Geldner said.

Toward the end of the 25 minutes of speeches, Frye decided to call out Kwiatkowski, who had signed the ballot statement in favor of strong mayor.

“Who’s Adrian Kwiatkowski?” she asked.

“Well, Adrian Kwiatkowski, according to the ballot statement, is some former planner, volunteer planner for one of the community planning groups,” she said. “Well, sure enough. But what he doesn’t tell you is who he really is. He’s really a paid lobbyist for the Monger Corp. in favor of Prop D. They don’t want you to know who they are.”

Asked about Frye’s pronouncement, Kwiatkowski said his role in campaign was transparent. Yes, he used his town council title on the ballot statement. But his position as a lobbyist for the campaign is on all the public disclosure reports.

“I used my title when I was on the town council,” Kwiatkowski said. “And that’s a fact. I had that title before. There’s nothing sinister, wrong, illegal about that. I have a right to have an opinion just like she does.”

Besides, Kwiatkowski said, Frye and Emerald used their taxpayer-funded titles on the ballot statement opposed to the proposition.

“It’s disingenuous to pick on one person when they’re doing something similar,” he said.

By the time Frye and the others were finished speaking, many of the cameras already had moved to the other side of the plaza. There Faulconer was giving interviews rebutting Frye. Faulconer’s spokesman shooed reporters over to the TV cameras to get everyone in one place.

Meantime, Soto was back at his hot dog cart. Today, he said, was no different than other days when there’s a crowd in the plaza. He hands out coupons every time.


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