The Morning Report
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If I’ve learned anything about San Diego politics it’s the simple lesson that if the entire establishment is against you, then you’ll lose.
Ask Mike Aguirre. He ran for a bunch of elected positions and never quite got much of the establishment to support him. Finally, in 2004, the stars aligned for him as a scandal-plagued city validated his years of dissent. Not only did the establishment not oppose him, it embraced him and he squeaked out a win.
Four years go by and he lost nearly the whole coalition he had cobbled together. And he was crushed.
“Establishment” is one of those cheap words we all can use to describe the faceless blob of powerful people and organizations at which we periodically tilt our swords. It can serve as an easy substitute for something that’s frustrating enough to complain about but not frustrating enough to actually name.
Hence the emergence of frustration with the “establishment” from people like City Councilman Carl DeMaio and Republican Party chief Tony Krvaric.
Krvaric wrote this to me the other day on Twitter: “Do you ‘get it’ yet Scott? The establishment has been playing us for far too long. Time to stop feeding the beast. NO on D!”
It was hilarious to see the leader of the San Diego Republican Party grumble about San Diego’s establishment playing “us.” But what is happening that allows him to say that? He’s not just crazy.
The establishment has clearly split. Whether Prop. D is a symptom or the cause of it, I’m not sure. And it’s not to say these people are always united. They’re not. But a group of younger and angrier Republicans are revolting against a Republican mayor.
At the same time, each side of the Prop. D debate is trying to prove that it is the true representative of business. One the one side, a pioneer of local innovation like Irwin Jacobs and Robert Price, who helped manage one of the most impactful retail organizations in the world, have supported Prop. D with donations. On the other side, restaurant owners and others whose margins are already tight are fighting it fiercely.
So I’ve tried to gather some perspectives about where individual business leaders actually stand on Prop. D from my own research and the reports of others. This is in alphabetical order, with the person’s name, their vote, followed by their truncated perspective. I don’t pretend that it’s comprehensive, it’s only a sampling. But it was an interesting exercise for me to gather their quotes:
April Boling, CPA, former chairwoman of the city’s Pension Reform Committee: No. “It purports to be about reform, when it is nothing more than a sales tax hike that serves to delay any meaningful change in the way the City does business.”
Malin Burnham, vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield Global Real Estate Solutions: Yes “I’ve heard a few business owners suggest the city should do what their business does when they lose customers due to recession: Cut spending more. But the city of San Diego doesn’t lose customers. In fact, with San Diego families cutting back their own expenses, city government has more customers than ever.” (Via the Union Tribune.)
Stephen Cushman, port commissioner, former president Cush Automotive Group: Yes. “I abhor sales tax increases as they hurt the less fortunate more than anyone. Having said that, we must pay for the past so we can move this city forward.”
Julie Dillon, president/owner Dillon Development: Yes. “Because of the mayor, I’m supporting it. I’m trusting he can get the reforms through that the council was not willing to bring forward before.”
Steve Francis, founder AMN Healthcare: No “The increased sales tax revenue that would result from the passage of Proposition D will greatly hamper the city’s ability to negotiate a substantial but fair decrease in future pension obligations.” (Via Union-Tribune.)
Bill Geppert, GM Cox Communications San Diego: Yes. “Prop. D is the only solution that combines reform and revenue to resolve the budget deficit that is in front of the voters.” (Via the Union-Tribune.)
Mel Katz, executive officer, Manpower: Yes. “Proposition D … represents the first time all of the natural adversaries at City Hall have come together to put forward a constructive solution to the city’s seemingly endless cycle of deficits and service cuts.”
Dave Miller, general manager of John Hine Mazda: No. “If passed, this additional tax would cause people to pull back on the purchase of new vehicles or limit their choices.” (Via the Union Tribune)
Cecelia Moreno, owner of Crest Café: No “It’s a regressive tax and it causes our customers to pull back their spending even further.” (Via the Union Tribune.)
Phil Pace, owner of Phil’s BBQ: No.“If they (city leaders) don’t know how to fix a problem, then let’s just raise taxes. If that’s the way I ran my business, I’d be out of business because my customers could not afford to eat here.” (Via the Union-Tribune.)
Jay Porter, owner of The Linkery restaurant: Skeptical.“… as far as I can tell, Prop. D is a funding bill for a really awesome downtown NFL stadium. Which is cool; I love stadiums. I’m just not ready to vote for the city to pay for one right now, given the financial distress of more basic, and important, city services.”
Greg Rogers, CEO Pacific Building Group: No. “Additional sales tax is something our industry can’t stand.” (Via San Diego Newsroom.)
Dan Shea, owner of Donovan’s Steak and Chop House: No. “This proposition is not about protecting fire and police services; there are other areas to cut from or better yet to reform, eliminating or mitigating the need for cuts. Let’s send a message to our elected officials to cut some of their legacy projects that are better delayed until they fix what is broken now.”
Duane Roth, CEO of CONNECT: Yes “I support the mayor’s concept of Prop D as a means to negotiate the needed long term structural reforms the City must make. The implementation of the reforms before the tax increase is key to Prop D success.”
Tom Sudberry, chairman of Sudberry Properties: No. “I will be voting No on Prop D.”
Dick Vortmann, former president, NASSCO: Skeptical. “Why, after not doing any of these tough decisions so far when we had budget crises, and actually were forced to cut critical services, are we now to believe with a new found $100M in their pocket, they will now do what they would not do before?”
Jim Waring, former top aide to Mayor Jerry Sanders, chairman CleanTech San Diego: Yes. “There is no other plan, much less a better alternative. Mayor Sanders says that the increase, combined with the concessions he will get BEFORE the tax goes into effect, will get San Diego to a balanced budget, with no structural deficit, within five years. Through his work he has earned the right to ask citizens to support him in passing Proposition D.”
Tom Wornham, executive vice president at Wells Fargo bank and chairman of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce: Yes. “I am convinced that [Prop. D] is the only plausible solution I’ve seen that fixes the deficit.”
Julie Meier Wright, CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.: Yes “We were extremely disappointed that none of the opponents of Proposition D, including two city Councilmembers, has laid out their compelling ways to eliminate the structural deficit so that the citizens of San Diego could have a rich debate about the future of our city and truly understand the options before them.”
I think that’s about all we can say on Prop. D. Now it’s time for the votes to do the talking. Stay with us all through Election Day and beyond.