Tony Krvaric
Tony Krvaric / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

San Diego Republicans are at a crossroads following a drubbing in the November election.

Scott Lewis reports that Mayor Kevin Faulconer called a meeting with fellow Republicans and business leaders at the end of last month to try to sort out next steps as capitalists grapple with whether they can continue to rely on the GOP to drive their agenda in the age of Trump.

What followed – and continues to – was a debate about issues local Republicans should seize on to draw more voter support and how candidates like City Councilman Chris Cate managed to hold onto his seat while now-former Councilwoman Lorie Zapf had a dramatic 16-point loss.

Also on the meeting agenda: a sober reminder that Republicans only maintain a registration advantage in one of the city’s nine City Council districts, and a political consultant’s message that fiscal issues that once inspired voters have fallen behind homelessness and roads as resonating causes.

  • The woes facing Republicans statewide have inspired lots of soul-searching – both in print and behind the scenes. In a column for Jewish Journal, onetime Republican strategist and USC professor Dan Schnur argues that centrists should fashion a third party that draws from Democratic and Republican principles that resound with voters now registered as having no party preference.

The Pension Snowball Effect

In this week’s Learning Curve, VOSD’s Will Huntsberry reports on the backstory behind the news that San Diego Unified is once again facing down a budget shortfall – and must find more than $35 million to trim from its budgets the next two years.

The short answer: The blockbuster $400 million pension debt is the gift that keeps on giving even as state commits to big spending increases in education.

Also in this week’s Learning Curve: Huntsberry rounds up news on Gompers Preparatory Academy teachers’ efforts to unionize, a controversial active shooter drill at Montgomery High School and more.

– NBC 7 San Diego reports that 300 Sweetwater Union school district employees have agreed to take an early retirement deal in that district’s ongoing financial struggle. But it’s unclear how much money the deal could save the district and whether Sweetwater’s board will actually vote to approve it.

Breaking: Nothing, the Mayor’s Fine

Thursday afternoon text messages and tweets started flying after Scott Lay, who writes The Nooner newsletter in Sacramento, passed along a rumor San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer was going to … resign! The theory was confusing. It was kind of a political martyrdom triple double: Faulconer would resign because he wants an early special election on the Convention Center tax increase.

The City Council hasn’t been very amenable to a special election, so, the theory went, he’d just throw himself on the sword. His resignation would provoke a new mayoral election and the special election on the hotel tax. It would have the side benefit of helping a more conservative mayoral candidate advance.

Alas, the mayor’s aide Matt Awbrey adroitly dumped on the rumor. “Kevin Faulconer likes to fill unexpected vacancies, not create them,” he wrote. It was a reference to the phenomenon of Faulconer’s political career: Since college, he has always stepped into higher office after the guy above him flames out in scandal and resigns.

Judge Deals City Another Blow to Real Estate Purchased for Homelessness

Faulconer’s plan to turn a motel near Imperial Beach into a drug treatment facility for homeless people suffered a setback this week when a judge ruled it needed a special permit for certain types of development near the coast due to a lawsuit by attorney Cory Briggs, as the Union-Tribune reported. The city already spent $11.2 million to buy and renovate the facility.

We covered that project last year, when Councilman David Alvarez opposed it in part because he said it would likely need a coastal development permit.

A Faulconer spokesperson said they’d work with the city attorney’s office to determine their next steps. That could mean simply pursuing the permit, which might be tough to get given previous comments by Coastal Commission staff, appeal the judge’s ruling or walk away from the idea and try to sell the motel. Newly elected Councilwoman Vivian Moreno, who represents the area, said the city should move on.

News Nuggets

  • MTS voted Thursday to raise fares on seniors and disabled riders, raising the cost of a monthly pass from from $18 to $23, the Union-Tribune reported. Staff had originally proposed increasing the cost to $26 a month, but the board scaled back the hike after community pushback. Other fare increases are likely on the way as MTS seeks to plug a projected $10 million budget hole. At the same meeting, MTS approved a new contract to revamp and modernize its fare collection system.
  • The Union-Tribune says San Diego’s brewery boom seems to be slowing.
  • Circulation at city libraries is up 24 percent after the city in July decided to eliminate fines for late returns and a January decision that instead marked items as automatically renewed if they weren’t renewed on time, but library officials are holding back from declaring the policies a success. (Union-Tribune)
  • Jimmie Slack was the chief of staff of the last two representatives for the city’s 4th Council District, and held a staff role under Leon Williams when he represented the same area on the county’s Board of Supervisors. But he’s out of government, after newly elected Councilwoman Monica Montgomery pledged on the campaign trail to clean house, responding to constituent concerns that the office had become non-responsive. Slack joined the Union-Tribune to reflect on his time in local government.
  • KPBS reports that some parents are pushing back against Vista Unified’s plan to change its magnet school lottery process, a shift the district believes could balance school demographics.
  • Apple, which has recently feuded with local telecom giant Qualcomm, announced Thursday that it’s planning to expand and add 1,000 jobs in San Diego. The Union-Tribune notes that Apple hasn’t invested in a significant engineering workforce here but now owns two tech other companies with a San Diego footprint.
  • State Senate leader Toni Atkins is poised to play a central role in deciding whether to elevate fellow lawmakers who have argued that giving the state greater say over local zoning could deliver far more housing. But as KPBS explains, it’s not clear where the longtime housing advocate stands.

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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