Never before had so many different elements of San Diego politics come together in an effort to solve the city’s financial problems. A Republican mayor, his long-standing Democratic opponent, organized labor and legacy business groups all supported Proposition D, a sales tax/financial reform ballot measure.

In the wake of the measure’s spectacular failure Tuesday, some within the Prop. D coalition expect the ties will continue — especially as Prop. D’s opponents plan to go on the offensive with their own financial plan later this week.

Frank De Clercq, head of the city firefighter’s union, said the Yes on D campaign was made up of “people who recognize what happened in the past, but don’t dwell on it.” Outgoing City Councilwoman Donna Frye, who joined with Mayor Jerry Sanders on a financial plan for the first time, said she believed Sanders and the business community trusted her now.

But already signs of discord are surfacing. And the issue is (what else?) money.

At the beginning of the campaign, strategist Tom Shepard said there was substantial discussion over how much money to spend. He had proposed a budget of between $870,000 and $1.4 million. Those numbers, he said, were well below successful local tax campaigns in the past.

Shepard, Sanders’ political advisor and a labor adversary, said it was organized labor that balked at the figures. Labor groups, he said, wanted a $450,000 budget.

“They said that’s as much as they can do,” Shepard said.

The campaign finished with more money than that, about $600,000 Shepard said, with greater donations than expected from labor and business groups.

But that amount was just over what was raised this summer for the campaign to make the city’s strong-mayor form of government permanent. That campaign had no funded opposition and wasn’t a tax increase.

“I think we could have competed a lot more effectively, if we had a little bit more (money),” Shepard said.

Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and a key member of the coalition, rolled her eyes at Shepard’s take that labor was unwilling to pony up. After all, employee unions did pay for the majority of the campaign.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that Tom Shepard would turn around and blame this on labor,” Gonzalez said. “That’s probably the politics of what makes San Diego wrong. Quite honestly, the hardworking people of San Diego had a lot of priorities this election. I think labor carried the financial burden of this campaign. For Tom Shepard to suggest that, I think that he’s probably just a little angry that he didn’t get paid enough.”

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter:

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.