It wasn’t that long ago that the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce had a very meek voice in local politics. It was timid. It was unfocused. It was irregular.
Now, it is none of those things. When Jerry Sanders left the mayor’s office, he went to Italy. It seemed as though his new appointment as CEO of the Chamber might have been just a cushy featherbed for him to fall on prepared by a grateful group of business leaders.
But after his vacation, Sanders got to work. Regardless of what you think about their accomplishments since then, you can’t deny that he has given the business coalition he represents its loudest voice in perhaps a decade.
They managed to shut down a new community plan for Barrio Logan, opposed by shipbuilders in the area. Sanders was not only the lead organizer but he was featured in the campaign’s ads. The Sanders juggernaut threw out a new affordable housing fee (and eventually negotiated one more palatable for his side.) They stopped a minimum wage increase in its tracks, forcing a public vote.
He’s everywhere. He was an important voice in the room when Republicans chose to support Kevin Faulconer for mayor over Carl DeMaio. And he stayed loyal to the decision, refusing to join the national Chamber of Commerce when it endorsed Scott Peters over DeMaio, much to Peters’ chagrin.
Peters wanted Sanders to pull the trigger and support him. For good reason, Sanders’ voice matters. Obviously, as mayor, he had a platform. But now he seems more loose and, crucially, more conservative when it comes to business and fiscal matters.
He may no longer be mayor but you can bet he has the mayor’s ear. He’s one of the loudest voices of the year.
This is part of our Voice of the Year package, profiling the people who drove the biggest conversations in San Diego this year. Check out the previous story, The Murrieta Protesters: The Voice of Nativists, and the top story, Voice of the Year: The SeaWorld Agitators.