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I’m headed out on vacation this week, so you folks will have to do your own learnin’ without me for the next couple weekends. I’ll be back in action in two weeks.
Have you ever heard another person’s perspective on something and thought, “Were you watching the same show I was?” It’s that feeling of disconnect that happens when you interpret the same event or story so very differently from someone who experienced the same thing.
That’s how I’ve felt the last few months as political reporters from across the state have parachuted into town to relay the story of a man whom folks are desperate to see run for governor. That man is Mayor Kevin Faulconer. The Los Angeles Times has deemed Faulconer “the ideal prospect” and “the fair-haired favorite of California Republicans desperate for a serious candidate.” The Sacramento Bee says Republicans see Faulconer as “the only leader from within their withering ranks with enough crossover appeal to present a serious challenge to Democrats in sapphire-blue California.”
This week on the VOSD podcast, Republican Ron Nehring said Faulconer has the crossover appeal to succeed in a deeply blue state.
Here in San Diego, though, there’s a competing narrative — one that applies to virtually every major issue the city has faced over the last several years: Where is the mayor? Back in 2015, when VOSD and other media outlets sued the city for access to video of a contested police shooting, the mayor was absent from what became an important discussion about policing, transparency and fairness. Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis were the faces of the city’s position. When the city’s 911 system showed serious flaws that contributed to at least one death, the mayor didn’t say much.
On last year’s Measure C, an issue that dwarfed city politics for more than a year, the mayor held off from taking a position for so long that Scott Lewis and Andy Keatts devoted an entire segment of the podcast to “Faulconer Watch.”
This week alone, three important issues have come up that could greatly benefit from even a modicum of leadership. Though he has started to become more vocal on homelessness (after an outcry over his silence), this week Faulconer once again tried to please everyone, and instead of backing one of the solutions being offered, he backed all of them — including one of the very solutions he previously rejected. As the SoccerCity proposal to redevelop Qualcomm Stadium gathers signatures, the mayor hasn’t said where he stands on the plan. And on the volatile issue of short-term vacation rentals, something that’s been brewing for years and that saw a heated town hall on Friday, your guess is as good as mine as to where Faulconer lands or what he wants to see in terms of city policy.
It could be that Faulconer’s strategy of offending no one and creating as few waves as possible is entirely strategic. Certainly there are worse things you could say about a politician than that he’s well-liked. But at some point Faulconer needs to cash in on all that goodwill and put it toward something. Anything.
What VOSD Learned This Week
Last week, Mario Koran explained why school district layoffs tend to hit poor schools the hardest. Lo and behold, Koran got his hands on the numbers and sure enough – the 20 San Diego Unified schools facing the most teacher layoffs are overwhelmingly poor.
Koran also laid out the reasons why many teachers leave poor schools. In the Sacramento Report, I covered Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s latest attempt to reform teacher tenure rules.
In other education news, Koran and Adriana Heldiz examined why San Diego – seemingly perfectly positioned to churn out bilingual job candidates – doesn’t have many.
When Liberty Station was transformed from a military barracks into an arts district, backers thought it could be a refuge for artists who often get pushed out by rising rents. But 10 years in, rising rents are pushing artists out of Liberty Station.
The drought is on its way out. But now Southern California might be hit with the opposite problem: Water agencies are planning too many projects aimed at getting us through future droughts.
SDSU gave us a clearer picture this week of what it wants out of the Qualcomm Stadium site: a $150 million stadium, and 35 acres of land it could grow into over the next 30 to 50 years.
Meanwhile, if the SoccerCity plan for the site being pushed by FS investors heads to the ballot, it might share space with a measure to fund the Convention Center, homelessness efforts and road repairs.
San Diego doesn’t have many resources to help people on the brink of homelessness from being forced onto the street. As Mayor Kevin Faulconer faces more pressure to address homelessness, he’s trying to have it both ways – pushing short-term shelters and permanent housing.
What I’m Reading
• The Global Gag Rule is back – and Jill Filipovic examines its potentially deadly, devastating consequences. (Foreign Policy)
• NBA players across this country are suffering from an addiction that is getting more intense by the day. I’m talking about PB&Js. (ESPN)
• The gig economy celebrates working yourself to death. (New Yorker)
• The four-day school week is spreading. (Quartz)
Line of the Week
“He got me so cranked up that I was about to take my tie off.” – Vice President Joe Biden, on a health care speech by Gov. Jerry Brown.