As the San Diego Mayor’s race launched in June, it was interesting to see where the four major candidates announced their candidacies.

What did their choice of setting to announce their plans and visions say about them?

Councilman Carl DeMaio gave himself actually two launches: One at a Rancho Bernardo shopping center and the other at Jerome’s Furniture Warehouse.

Congressman Bob Filner launched his bid at San Diego City Hall, when he filed the papers.

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher announced his plans at a tech company. And District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis did it at a downtown condominium tower — Electra.

Whatever that says about them it’s probably not as interesting the location of their fundraising bases. Check out this map charting where in the city and surrounding areas supporters of each candidate are centered. It’s no surprise that La Jolla was important to each of them — it led the fundraising for all but Fletcher — but their other bases of support are spread out.

Filner’s Pension Plan in Others’ Hands

In case you missed it, Filner offered some talking points on a pension reform plan he wants to use to compete against the Republican-led pension reform initiative. DeMaio and others are feverishly trying to qualify that initiative for the ballot by gathering enough signatures.

Filner’s plan has three parts: unspecified employee concessions, a cap on employee pensions at $125,000 a year, and then a sort of refinancing: Right now the city is paying off the debt built up from its promises to current and former city employees using a 20-year timetable. Filner said his plan would be to change this to 30 years, lowering the city’s annual payment.

But that wouldn’t actually be Filner’s decision even if he did win the Mayor’s Office and have a big influence on the City Council. The decision, as city leaders learned very dramatically the last decade, resides with the city employees’ pension board.

And it lies with people like Ray Ellis, that board’s current president.

• Ellis himself just decided to run for City Council District 1 and try to oust incumbent Sherri Lightner.

Ellis is no easy read. He’s a businessman who can now afford to pursue philanthropic and civic endeavors. He’s helping form the Balboa Park Conservancy and serves on the board of the local Social Venture Partners chapter.

He gave $500 to support Proposition D, the failed sales tax increase on last year’s ballot. But he also says he supports the pension reform initiative.

I asked him how he would describe his politics. He said, “I don’t know if it’s political or not, but I believe very strongly in fiscal responsibility at the personal level and in the public sector.”

Recently some have wondered if we would have any barnburner City Council races, as no Republican challengers to specifically Democrats Sherri Lightner and Marti Emerald had filed.

With Ellis in, it looks like the two most fierce battles so far will be in that district, which under the new boundaries will comprise of mostly La Jolla, University City and Carmel Valley, but no longer contain Rancho Peñasquitos.

And then there’s District 5 in the Rancho Bernardo area. Normally a solid Republican area, Democrat Todd Phillips is looking to make it a tough ascension for Carl DeMaio’s chosen successor, Republican Mark Kersey.

Rebel With a Pipe Organ in Balboa Park

In addition to those council members, the city of San Diego employs scores of firefighters, police officers, librarians, grass-cutters and lifeguards. It also employs one civic organist.

That’s Carol Williams, and as we discovered in a profile, she’s a droll Brit with a bit of a wild side who defies the stuffy organist stereotype.

Volunteer Big Shots

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders depends on a couple of volunteer businessmen to handle major initiatives. Fred Maas, the developer and former head of CCDC, is helping coordinate the quest for a new stadium. Steve Cushman, the former port commissioner and car dealership magnate, is the point man trying to pull together a new Convention Center expansion deal.

Now, Jason Hughes, of prominent downtown commercial real estate firm Hughes Marino, has sent a letter to the mayor offering to help the city negotiate its downtown real estate leases for free.

“As an outspoken critic of the way the City has handled its evaluation of building the new City Hall proposed by CCDC years ago, I nevertheless am prepared to ‘walk the talk’ that I’ve been preaching over the years regarding all the money the City could save by handling its downtown real estate needs differently.”

He said he read DeMaio’s talking points for the city’s downtown leasing problems and was moved to offer help.

Things have not always been warm between Hughes and the Mayor’s Office, however. Hughes, who recently reorganized his company after dissolving Irving Hughes, is a major sponsor and advertiser in local media, including VOSD.

Picket Lines at Grocery Stores?

The Union-Tribune offered a good Q&A style explainer of the issues behind a labor battle that could bring another strike to Southern California grocery stores, including Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons.

The Pond Turtle’s Back

The LA Times reports that efforts to save the Southwestern Pond Turtle from extinction might be working.

Europe’s Problems Reverberate Here

Ongoing economic concerns in Western Europe have the mobile phone industry a bit worried, including San Diego’s chipmaker behemoth Qualcomm, The New York Times reports.

Romney’s Rich? Unbelievable

The Union-Tribune set off a firestorm of national media with its scoop that Republican presidential aspirant Mitt Romney had filed papers to quadruple the size of his La Jolla beachfront home. The paper’s social media feeds passed along outrage the story had provoked.

But I don’t understand the outrage. It was no secret that Romney had collected extraordinary wealth. I asked on Twitter if it was it somehow more acceptable if he doesn’t actually use his wealth and leaves it in other assets. It generated some interesting responses. Romney’s staff clarified to Politico that they had merely applied for permits to build, and they would surely not be approved during the time he was running for president.

C’mon, permits for quadrupling the size of a beachfront La Jolla home? What possible delays and hang-ups could that face in the permitting process?

I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of You can contact me directly at or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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