I don’t ever remember a summer like this in the six years I have watched San Diego politics.
Let’s just dig into today’s news that the school board will consider pulling its parcel tax off the ballot at the city’s request.
I’m not certain that the significance of what is happening is settling in for everyone.
Let’s start with the biggest deal here.
I. The Mayor: Not long ago the mayor refused to explicitly support (but didn’t deny!) that he and his team were angling to put a sales tax increase on the November ballot. Then he said it was the wrong time to do it. His spokesman, Darren Pudgil, told me that “key people” who would have been needed to get it moved forward would not support that.
I’m going to go ahead and deduce that this was one of the key people.
And the mayor’s office released a statement claiming that many San Diegans had approached him hoping that he’d support a ballot measure to raise the sales tax.
“After carefully considering the idea, the mayor has concluded that this is not the proper time,” Pudgil wrote.
Apparently that was just not true. Now after the crack reporting of Emily Alpert, we hear that the mayor met with Richard Barrera, the president of the school board, as part of a series of meetings to persuade Barrera to get his colleagues to remove from the ballot a measure to raise a property parcel tax in support of schools.
Barrera apparently agreed. So the mayor is, apparently, in support of the sales tax increase.
Watching him vacillate quietly like this is like watching a circus of insecurity.
But the school district was apparently hurting the show. And that brings us to the second biggest deal today.
II. The School Board President: Not long ago, Barrera was pretty frank about how bad he thought things would get if the school board didn’t pass a new parcel tax for schools.
At least I thought he was being sincere.
“This is about avoiding disaster,” he said.
Now, he’s decided that it’s not that important. What did the mayor and members of the City Council say that was so powerful?
Who knows? This is what Barrera told Alpert:
He said Sanders and Councilmen Ben Hueso and Todd Gloria have agreed to help lobby against deeper state cuts to school budgets, to push for a lower 55 percent threshold for passing school parcel taxes and to help pass a school parcel tax if San Diego Unified pursues one in the future.
So if the parcel tax was needed to avoid disaster, doesn’t dropping it mean we’re headed for disaster?
Obviously, that was either not true or he doesn’t mind going through a disaster here and there.
The truth is Barrera got thrown into the middle of a mad scramble. The mayor and his colleagues at City Hall have suddenly realized that if something doesn’t happen now, the trajectory of the city points in a very bad place.
To fix it, a comprehensive recovery is required. But if that includes a ballot measure, they only have a couple of days to decide how, or wait two years and watch the city fall apart.
And that’s why we’re watching the city convulse like this.
— SCOTT LEWIS