Journalism won’t die if you donate. Support Voice of San Diego today!
I got very fired up about Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Friday. (Notice I didn’t say I got fired up by Kevin Faulconer, because the only person who has ever said that is this guy.)
Faulconer released a statement in response to yet another story about how badly Republicans want him to run for governor. In the statement, he sort of, kind of, but not really – AGAIN – dispels a run.
My frustration here was two-fold. First, it’s with the mayor himself. If you’re going to take the time to write a statement about how you’re not running for governor, for the love of God, just SAY THE WORDS “I’M NOT RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR.” Instead, he spends an extraordinary amount of time not saying anything.
That’s where the second piece of the frustration comes in: State and national political reporters, who for more than a year have fawned over Faulconer, went into a frenzy over the statement.
J-Mart of the New York Times called it “big news that will echo.” The Sacramento Bee called Faulconer the state’s “top Republican.” Several L.A. Times reporters dashed off tweetstorms of analysis.
Even before Faulconer’s statement, national outlets had spent the week salivating over him. Politico magazine declared him, in perhaps the biggest disconnect between local and national news I have ever seen, one of America’s most interesting mayors.
Now, Faulconer and his supporters could rightly argue that his approach to politics has worked for him. He’s found great success in being risk-averse, low-key, always trying to get along with everyone. But I don’t know of anyone in San Diego – no matter where he or she lands on the political spectrum – who would describe him as interesting. Being uninteresting is his whole entire jam.
Type in “Faulconer” and “vanilla” and you will get a wealth of search results. He’s been called mayor of Pleasantville. Scott Lewis said this week that Faulconer was one of the 11 most interesting mayors and it turned out the 12th was an actual bag of flour.
So there you have it. Depending on who you ask, Faulconer is either so intriguing that he makes an exclusive list of fascinating leaders, or he is a bland white substance that literally dissolves into the air if you so much as blow in its direction.
Also depending on who you ask, he is either definitely not running for governor, or he is sorta, kinda, maybe, probably not running for governor.
What VOSD Learned
Do not be deterred by the wonky topic of interest-rate swaps: This story from Andrew Keatts and Ashly McGlone is big and it’s must-read: SANDAG bet against sophisticated banks like Goldman Sachs, and now has a roughly $100 million liability hanging over its head – that’s money taxpayers didn’t approve, and that could have gone toward building transportation projects.
The theme of San Diego education news over the last several months has been that the media, parents and community members are all grasping for answers and accountability, with little success. We already know engaged parent groups have been clamoring for basic information.
This week, Maya Srikrishnan dug into whether money from the state that’s intended to help vulnerable students is actually being spent on those students – and found a lot of haziness.
Though San Diego Unified has refused to fulfill Ashly McGlone’s request for data on its staffing levels, it did provide a very limited set of numbers that shows enrollment has dropped, but district staffing has risen over the last five years.
It’s not all hopeless, though. McGlone’s excellent podcast on the six-year anniversary of the Sweetwater schools scandal highlights a committed group of parents and community members who poured in time and effort and accomplished something big: They got everyone – including law enforcement – to pay attention to the secretive workings and corrupt dealings of little-known school officials.
Also, the Learning Curve is back! Send Maya Srikrishnan your questions on local schools and education policy.
No one knows yet whether efforts to build a border wall will lead to more underground tunnels to ferry drugs and people. But plenty of border agents and experts agree: For every measure taken to fortify the border, there have always been countermeasures to get around it.
Homelessness is hard!
Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s efforts to stem the problem have stalled, despite a lot of big promises he made at the beginning of the year.
And the City Council and city attorney’s office is finding that even when you have support for a program to help the homeless, you still end up running into all kinds of hurdles to pull it off.
What I’m Reading
• Though President Donald Trump and Republicans keep crowing about election fraud, a new analysis shows the fix was already in – and it benefited them: Gerrymandered congressional districts benefited the GOP bigly. (Associated Press)
• Facebook’s rules for policing hate speech end up protecting white men. (ProPublica)
• I’ve griped a lot of about the way the NFL treats its women fans, and this piece documents the challenges that Major League Baseball, too, has had in trying to cater to female fans without treating them like idiots. (Vice Sports)
• We all know California has a housing crisis on its hands. Pal Liam Dillon wrote an excellent piece underscoring how we got here that doesn’t shy away from how large a role racism plays into the whole thing. (L.A. Times)
• Related: Black Americans have lost a staggering amount of land over the last century. (The Nation)
• This. Is. Nuts: DNA evidence exonerated six people convicted in a murder case. But some of them still remember carrying out a crime they didn’t actually commit. (New Yorker)
Line of the Week
I usually refrain from using tweets as my line of the week but this was too good …
“I Did Not Like It One Bit When The President Stabbed That Little Girl In The Leg, commented one senator on his way to vote against trees” — Washington Post satirist Alexandra Petri