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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have no problem with politicians changing their minds. It shows thoughtfulness and often courage to take a radically different position than before.
But the key is you have to explain it. You have own it.
So if they do that, no problem.
Flips, though, also help us understand the changing political power market. If someone makes a bold proposal and then backs off of it, they’re likely responding to a true exertion of power or influence. Or they found an argument that moved them.
Here are the top five flips so far in the mayoral contest and what they might mean.
5. Carl DeMaio Loving Arts Funding: The city councilman running for mayor does not go to an event or debate without his beloved Roadmap to Recovery, a comprehensive guide to everything he wants to do to balance the city’s budget. He released it soon after voters crushed the mayor’s proposal to increase the city’s sales tax.
In it, DeMaio says the city must cut the funding it sends to arts organizations by 25 percent.
But the other night, in a debate in front of nonprofit leaders, which include arts supporters, DeMaio said he wanted to double arts funding from the city.
My colleague Kelly Bennett raced to follow up with him.
DeMaio says he has decided that such a cut is no longer needed.
Well, OK then. This would indicate that he’s decided that a frontal assault on a prized funding source by local arts organizations and their philanthropist supporters isn’t worth it in a quest to be mayor for the city.
Or DeMaio may really think the city’s financial position is much better than he’s said before. That, then, makes you wonder what of the other big changes he outlined in the Roadmap are no longer needed.
4. Bob Filner Thinks Marriage Stinks (But Not the Next One): This isn’t really a flip. I just found it hilarious and an interesting indication of how far our debate about marriage equality has come. The news source LGBT Weekly asked Congressman Bob Filner why he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman. His answer was a strange one. He basically said that, in his experience, marriage stinks and he couldn’t understand why gays and lesbians would want to do it.
What’s odd about that, of course, is that he just recently decided to get married again.
3. DeMaio Says New City Employees Will Get Social Security Under His Plan: DeMaio used to sell Proposition B, the so-called Comprehensive Pension Reform measure, differently than he does now.
If passed, it will mean that new employees do not get a guaranteed pension. But current employees also don’t get Social Security. So what happens with that?
DeMaio used to also say that most new employees would get an unprecedented choice. The city will offer employees 9 percent of their salaries for retirement. DeMaio said the employees would get to choose whether to take 6 percent of that and send it to Social Security or invest it themselves.
“In the ballot measure, we give an option, if they want to enroll in Social Security, we let them. What if they could actually take that money and put it into a 401(k)?” he told me in a rather uncomfortable radio interview last year.
But in a mini-debate with labor leader Lorena Gonzalez on San Diego 6 on Feb. 28, DeMaio said twice that if Proposition B, the pension reform measure, is passed, new city employees will get Social Security — no choice.
“My ballot measure closes the pension system and moves employees into 401(k)s and Social Security so that everyone is treated the same,” DeMaio said.
The Social Security issue turned out to be much more complicated than any of us thought as I have written.
It would seem that DeMaio has decided that talking about not giving city employees even Social Security as a guaranteed retirement benefit is not a great selling point.
2. Bonnie Dumanis Hating on Pensions: This was the biggest of flips in the race until last week. The district attorney wrestled with whether to endorse that pension reform initiative, now called Prop. B. She decided to oppose it. She felt that public safety personnel deserved more solid retirement benefits because of the risks they take.
Then she switched. Even though the reform would end guaranteed pensions for firefighters, Dumanis said it would offer ways to guarantee their retirements. (More on that here.) The shift reflects the popularity of the initiative. But it continues to haunt her.
Her own pension earned after decades in public service has become a major liability and compelled her to announce that she would donate all her mayoral salary to an education charity. But it will remain difficult for her to explain why pensions are unaffordable except hers.
1. Nathan Fletcher Not Being a Republican: I’m not sure how much more can be written about this. But the guy who only a few weeks ago was talking about how big of a Republican he was suddenly decided he was not part of that coalition anymore.
Nevertheless, people are still writing about it.
Here’s a smart piece from Fletcher’s friend Jon Fleischman, who said it was a move based on convenience, not conviction.
And here’s a much different take from Timm Herdt at the Ventura County Star: “Fletcher’s defection from partisan politics comes at a time in California when small seeds of a larger revolt are sprouting.”
We still have to wait to see what Fletcher’s move shows us about the political power market. If he found a market for his message, wow. One could envision a whole new wave of independent coalitions arising to challenge partisan politics. This could happen especially as the effects of Proposition 14 become clear. This is the initiative that made it so the top two contestants in a primary election move on to the final — not just the winners of the Republican and Democratic parties.
If Fletcher’s move falls flat, then perhaps not much has changed except his future.
I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of voiceofsandiego.org. Please contact me if you’d like at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):
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