The national conversation surrounding 2016 is a big game of will (s)he or won’t (s)he.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in San Diego, too, about what will appear on the ballot. But unlike the presidential race, many of the candidates for local offices are already locked in (City Council candidates like Chris Ward and Justin DeCesare were laying campaign groundwork more than two years before the election). Instead, the intrigue centers on which issues San Diegans will get to vote on.
Here are some of the big ones.
A New Chargers Stadium
Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in his State of the City address that he would form a task force to create a plan and San Diegans would “have the final say with a public vote.”
Now, the group has been unveiled but the certainty of a public vote in 2016 is less clear. When he announced the group, Faulconer walked the idea back slightly:
“If there is broad support for the proposal, it will be slated for a citywide vote,” his office said in a press release (emphasis mine).
The Chargers, while also pushing for a new stadium, have said the same thing, though in stronger language.
If a stadium ballot measure were to appear in 2016, it’s unclear what it would look like. The Chargers say it’ll need to be a tax increase, which would require a two-thirds vote. But that doesn’t have to be the case. For instance, if the city simply commits money from its day-to-day budget – then only a 50 percent vote would be needed. The Chargers have said another scheme to avoid the two-thirds vote might exist.
A separate Convention Center expansion could also appear separately on the ballot.
A SANDAG Sales Tax Hike
SANDAG and its sales tax increase are like a pre-1996 Rachel and Ross – a long flirtation, and we’re all just waiting for them to make it official.
They’re still thinking about it, according to the Daily Transcript:
At a retreat at Barona Resort, the SANDAG board of directors and other local officials discussed adding a “quality of life” referendum to the June 2016 ballot, which would raise local sales taxes by as much as a ½ cent, generating $260 million per year to improve the county’s transportation and water systems, and preserve more wetlands and open space.
But sales tax hikes for specific needs, of course, require a two-thirds approval from voters, a tall order. And SANDAG won’t pull the trigger unless it feels like it has a guaranteed win, as Andy Keatts explained last year.
Last month, Mark Kersey, the head of the City Council’s infrastructure committee, announced a plan for a ballot measure to fund repairs in 2016.
The city has a $1.8 billion gap between the street, building, storm drain and other infrastructure repairs it needs over the next five years and the money it has to pay for them.
Kersey hasn’t said what his ballot measure will be, but most of the talk has been about a megabond.
There are a lot of hurdles before something like this would pass. Most likely, a megabond would require two-thirds of voters to approve it. Any big-ticket bond measure would need substantial community outreach to pass – and that takes time.
Plastic Bag Ban
Last year, state lawmakers passed a bill banning plastic grocery bags beginning this summer. That’s on hold now that – who else – plastic makers collected signatures to force the issue onto the 2016 ballot. The state is still verifying the signatures, but it looks likely that voters will be asked to weigh in.
The ban still has a good shot at becoming reality, though. A USC-L.A. Times poll late last year found the ban is incredibly popular.
California was the first state to usher in medical marijuana, but it’s been left in the dust by other states when it comes to full-blown legalization.
But the trouble’s never really been the voters – it’s mostly infighting among the pro-legalization crowd, as Buzzfeed detailed recently. Many of the players involved seem to recognize this, and have begun convening to talk about ways forward.
Attorney General Kamala Harris, who’s running for Senate in 2016, said this week she’s open to legalized pot.
The Assembly’s Tuition Tag-Team
Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein aren’t California’s only women leadership tag-team. The state Assembly is also led by two women, Speaker Toni Atkins, and Republican minority leader Kristin Olsen, who represents Modesto.
Atkins and Olsen teamed up this week on an issue that’s become perhaps Atkins’ signature priority so far as speaker: staving off tuition hikes at California colleges.
In a Sacramento Bee op-ed, the pair announced the Assembly will be throwing a harsh spotlight on the UC system to ensure it’s spending money wisely.
… aaaaaaand sure enough, UC President Janet Napolitano announced Wednesday she’s postponing the planned tuition increase.
Senate Race Spotlight
• Whoever ends up running on the Republican side, the political fortune-tellers over at the University of Virginia say the “nightmare scenario” for Democrats of losing the California Senate race is looking less and less likely.
Quick News Hits
• State Sen. Joel Anderson, who plans to run for the County Board of Supervisors in 2016, is partnering with a “proud progressive” on a privacy bill that would require law enforcement to get a warrant before searching personal electronic devices. (Sac Bee)
• State Sen. Marty Block says if the Chargers pack up and leave Qualcomm, the city should use the site for expanded SDSU facilities. (U-T)
• California could become the first state in the nation to make bike helmets mandatory for adults. A San Diego bike advocacy group says it doesn’t support the bill because it could discourage ridership. (U-T)
• All politics is local: Katie Orr examines how advocates are using a city-by-city approach for things like plastic-bag bans rather than pursuing statewide legislation. (Capitol Public Radio)
They See Me Rollin’, They Hatin’ …
Local state lawmakers Ben Hueso, Marty Block, Joel Anderson and Toni Atkins all get a pretty sweet perk when they’re in Sacramento: access to a fleet of state-purchased new cars.
“The state purchased $540,000 worth of new Ford Fusion Hybrids and other cars for legislators over the last 18 months, prompting criticism from taxpayer activists who call the vehicles unnecessary political perks given at a time when many Californians continue to struggle financially.”
The state says it’s a natural part of the process of swapping out older vehicles for newer, more efficient ones. Taxpayer advocates say the cars are more evidence of Sacramento’s “excesses and absurdities.”