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Much of my City Hall coverage focuses on things that we talk about in the abstract. I’m thinking of budgets, pensions and blight. Well, maybe not blight.
For my looking-back-at-2010 piece, I wanted to write about three people who became household names in San Diego politics this year and why they will continue to matter in 2011.
1. Nathan Fletcher
The Republican assemblyman representing La Jolla and other northern San Diego communities began the year as a low-profile freshman legislator. He ended it as the presumed front-runner in San Diego’s 2012 mayor’s race.
Fletcher, who will turn 34 on Friday, authored one of the state’s highest-profile bills this year. The legislation, which brings tighter restrictions to sex offenders, was named Chelsea’s Law after the murder of Poway teenager Chelsea King by a registered sex offender. This fall, Fletcher engineered a controversial, secret, last-minute deal to keep billions in property tax dollars flowing to downtown redevelopment.
He cruised to re-election for state assembly in November, using his campaign war chest on television ads to introduce himself to a wide range of San Diego voters. Fletcher’s not only touted as San Diego’s next mayor, but also as a Republican who could appeal in a statewide election.
Frontrunner status comes with tougher critiques. Should he run for mayor, Fletcher will have to present a plan to fix the city’s finances if Jerry Sanders doesn’t get the job done. He’ll also face questions about his previous employment with convicted former U.S. Congressman Duke Cunningham — Fletcher was never accused of any wrongdoing — and the redevelopment deal. One other presumed mayoral contender, City Councilman Carl DeMaio, continues to take thinly veiled shots at Fletcher over “the midnight Sacramento raid.”
2. Kris Michell: The Most Powerful Person You Know Nothing About became known in 2010 and she made news of her own at the end of the year. Kris Michell, the 49-year-old chief of staff and political and policy mind for Mayor Jerry Sanders, left Sanders’ office to be head of a downtown advocacy organization. The job makes sense. She was the link between Sanders and the downtown establishment, a constituency Sanders has served through his promotion of $2 billion in proposed downtown buildings — a new City Hall, Chargers stadium, main library and expanded Convention Center.
Expect to see more of Michell’s name in the news next year. One of her hallmarks in the Mayor’s Office was never being quoted in the media, a tactic that belied her considerable influence. As president of the Downtown San Diego Partnership things should be different. To advocate, presumably one must speak publicly. Michell faces one complication in her new role: city ethics rules prevent her from lobbying public officials for a year.
3. Vince Mudd: The Poway businessman and incoming board chairman of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce ended 2009 as a political pariah, shunned by the city’s establishment for having the temerity to suggest that bankruptcy was an option to fix the city’s financial problems if serious reforms weren’t made.
He’s now the arbiter of San Diego’s fiscal future — a change that came after the establishment needed him.
The 47-year-old Mudd heads a task force of other area business leaders. The group didn’t think the fall’s Proposition D sales tax/financial reform measure went far enough to fix the city’s problems. This time the mayor and City Council listened. They endorsed the group’s proposals and passed legislation in two weeks.
After Prop. D’s failure, Mudd’s group began evaluating alternative proposals to fix the city’s decade-long budget problems. Mudd has the mayor’s continued blessing. His group is expected to release a third report in February.