Chris Ward
San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

We got a hold of a summary of a poll this week that showed San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward performing well below an unknown candidate to us, Sarah Davis, in the race for Assembly District 78.

This isn’t supposed to be a tough race for Ward. But more interesting than the poll is who paid for it: PORAC, the Peace Officers Research Association of California. It’s kind of the Labor Council of police unions.

The group is not pleased with Ward.

Bryan Zmijewski, the president of the San Diego-Imperial Counties chapter of PORAC, told us that Ward interviewed for an endorsement in the race. During that discussion, he told the group of police officers that he did not support Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill, AB 392, as it was written.

At that time, the bill would have updated existing law to make it easier to file criminal charges against an officer who used lethal force. It would have required law enforcement officers prove a killing was necessary and it would have laid out exactly what “necessary” means. PORAC opposed it.

After Ward interviewed with PORAC, the City Council decided to consider endorsing the measure, as it was written.

Ward voted for the resolution, and it passed.

“He told us he could not support it the way it was written. But then he went on to support it – he supported it when there were no changes and when we were against it. That ruffled our feathers,” Zmijewski said.

We asked Ward if this was true. His team said he didn’t have time for an interview but provided a written statement:

“I haven’t heard from PORAC about their internal conversations, but I did vote for the council’s resolution in support of AB 392 on the basis of the comments I made at council,” he wrote.

That’s not a denial of the claim. We looked up his comments at the May 14 Council meeting.

“We should all be able to easily agree on the foundation that nobody should be shot unless it’s absolutely necessary. That should be common ground to start from,” he said at the meeting. He got emotional as he addressed the fear and concern officers and the public carried and he said he was glad more training would accompany new standards.

“It is important that AB 392 still maintains the standard that an objectively reasonable officer with the same information available in the moment would find no reasonable alternative,” he said. “No reasonable alternative is a standard we should want to make work.”

But the law was replacing “reasonable” with “necessary.” Not long after the Council vote, PORAC and Weber agreed to a compromise in which “necessary” would become the law but the definition of that would be stripped from the bill.

Ward still enjoys the endorsement of the San Diego Police Officers Association, the union that represents city of San Diego police.

McQuary’s Real Sort of Reason(s) for Not Running

San Diego Unified school board trustees Mike McQuary (left) and John Lee Evans (right) / Photos by Jamie Scott Lytle

It was kind of weird this week when San Diego Unified School District board member John Lee Evans announced he would not be seeking re-election and then warned against “bomb throwers” running for his seat but then also absolutely torched the majority of people he has served with on the board.

On his personal website, he wrote that most of the other trustees he had served with were not qualified to be there or had bad ethics.

Seems as though he may like throwing a bomb or two himself, just depends on whom it scalds.

When we saw his post, we called his colleague, Mike McQuary, who had not initially been listed as one of the John Lee Evans Approved™ quality board members. McQuary then broke the news to us that he would not be seeking re-election either but his departure isn’t until 2022.

McQuary told us that he was not going to seek re-election because he felt like two terms is the right number of terms for the board. This was odd, considering he had supported the new three term-limits restriction approved by voters last year – but no big deal.

Well, maybe it was a big deal to him. The U-T picked up our scoop on McQuary. But when McQuary talked to the newspaper, he cited a different reason for leaving: He was going to be on the board of the organization Sister Cities International and he was going to move his focus to a “more global platform.”

He had not told us about this global position. This brought up a few more questions like, for example, why will the global platform be too distracting for McQuary in two years but not now?

But before we could ask, McQuary sent us a statement, unprompted: He said he had been asked to join the international board last weekend and, like he told the paper, his focus would be shifting to that.

“I will be working to connect schools to schools in cities that have Sister City International partnerships,” he wrote.

There may be some parents who would prefer his focus remain on things like this, but OK.

We had to ask, though, was he backing off his point that two terms is ideal?

He replied that he doesn’t think there should be term limits – voters should vote out anyone they don’t like. “However, if term limits are required for school board members, then I agree with our committee recommendation, board resolution and the passed initiative establishing a three-term limit,” he wrote.

He continued: “For me personally, two terms will be sufficient for me to accomplish my SDUSD Board Member goals: complete Vision 2020 and begin Vision 2030.”

To review: McQuary is not going to run for re-election because two terms is the right number even though he thinks three terms is fine and so is all the terms, hundreds of terms. But he’s not leaving because of that. He’s leaving because he joined the board of Sister Cities International and so he can’t focus on San Diego Unified. But he can focus on San Diego Unified for two more years.

We Do Not Know What Is Up With the Civil Case Against Beiser

San Diego Unified Trustee Kevin Beiser attended his first San Diego Unified school board meeting since four men accused him of harassment and assault. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

It was a strange day at the San Diego Superior Court for those of us wondering if the civil case for sexual assault and sexual harassment against San Diego Unified School Board Trustee Kevin Beiser had been resolved.

The case had a settlement conference before the judge Friday morning. That caught the attention of at least five media outlets, who were dutifully waiting in Judge Frederick Link’s courtroom at the assigned time.

While waiting for Beiser and Dan Gilleon, the unnamed plaintiff’s attorney, to arrive, Link teased the assembled reporters about why they were there. He assured us that we wouldn’t get much we could use, because the settlement would be entirely confidential.

Then Beiser, flanked by his attorneys, walked through the courtroom and into the judge’s chambers. The plaintiff and his attorneys soon joined them, and the media was told to go outside.

Three hours later, Gilleon left the courtroom and told the media that he could not confirm whether there was even a settlement, let alone what was in it.

We waited for Beiser or his attorneys. Then, the clerk of the court emerged to ask why we were still in the hallway. Everyone had already left, she said, and the court was done for the day.

Throughout the morning, bailiffs told us that while judges had their own elevators, they were not available to defendants looking to leave the courthouse discretely. So how did Beiser leave? We don’t know! It’s a mystery.

Neither Gilleon nor Beiser has responded to a request for confirmation that there was a settlement.

So the civil case has either been settled, or it has not been settled!

The First CA-53 Domino

City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez officially announced this week she’s running to replace Rep. Susan Davis in Congress. She has thus officially decided to give up her Council seat, the council presidency and the chair of the Metropolitan Transit System.

The Council has five elections in 2020 and all five are open seats with no incumbent running.

Now the race begins to replace Gómez in all these positions.

Gómez’s Council seat is likely to get a lot of attention. It’s another safe Democratic district and home to a number of ambitious activists and political professionals who could stage a bid.

But just as interesting will be the jockeying among the other Council members for Council president. Come December 2020 when they need to make that decision, there won’t be many elected leaders who will have been there very long. Republican Councilman Chris Cate will be there, as will Councilwomen Monica Montgomery, Vivian Moreno and Jen Campbell, who will be finishing their second years in City Hall. All others will be new.

All expectations are that Democrats will maintain or extend their 6-3 Council advantage next year. Cate won’t get it. It’s likewise hard to imagine someone taking the chair just after being elected. That leaves Montgomery, Moreno and Campbell to see who can cobble together five votes from their colleagues.

Gómez will also surrender her position on MTS and the San Diego Association of Governments. Gómez is chair of MTS now, and can continue in that role as she runs for Congress. It’s likely, though not assured, that she would have stepped away from that role at the start of 2021 regardless. She had become the driving figure behind a 2020 ballot measure for a sales tax to expand transit.

It’s fair to wonder whether she’ll still be able to continue now that she has her own campaign to worry about.

And Gómez is one of the most powerful people at SANDAG, wielding half of the city’s ballyhooed weighted vote, which gives it greater say in regional decision-making than other cities. Whoever takes over for her as Council President will get that responsibility as well.

Faulconer to CA GOP: ‘Be the party that says “Yes!”’

Mayor Kevin Faulconer delivers his 2019 State of the City address. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Dispatch from Lisa Halverstadt: Mayor Kevin Faulconer is back in the GOP limelight and his approach to homelessness is drawing headlines.

The mayor spoke at the state GOP’s fall convention in Indian Wells, highlighting opportunities for the state’s Republican minority to bat back the Democratic supermajority. His proposed method: Deliver homelessness solutions in a state crying out for them.

“It’s time for California Republicans to provide a real alternative to the machine majority. And let’s start by showing how we make a difference in places where we are in leadership – like cities,” Faulconer said. “In San Diego, we’re doing things differently and getting results. Nowhere is that more apparent than in how we address homelessness.”

“San Diego County was one of the only places in the state where homelessness decreased this year,” Faulconer said. “It went down by 6 percent.”

That statement is missing some context. The group that conducts San Diego’s homeless census changed its methodology this year. The task force has cautioned that this year’s data isn’t comparable to past years’ counts.

What is true: San Diego County didn’t have the surge in homelessness that other major counties saw this year.

Before San Diego’s deadly hepatitis A outbreak, Faulconer acknowledged he sought consensus before taking action. Since then, he has dramatically increased spending to address homelessness in the city and pushed for code changes to make it easier to build homeless housing in the city. He’s also increased city trash clean-ups and created a Neighborhood Policing Division to focus on quality-of-life crimes that can be linked to homelessness, an approach that has proven controversial.

Faulconer argued that state Republicans can – and should – distinguish themselves by offering up homelessness solutions across the state.

“This is our chance to be the party that says ‘Yes!’ to solving this crisis. ‘Yes!’ to mental health services to get the sick off the sidewalks. ‘Yes!’ to common-sense projects like bridge shelters, so people have a safe and clean place to sleep at night. And ‘Yes!’ to building the housing our state needs. My fellow Republicans, we need to be the party of ‘Yes!’” Faulconer said.

Those comments echo his State of the City speech this year, in which he positioned himself as a so-called YIMBY, begging city leaders to join him in saying “yes” to making way for more housing.

You can read Faulconer’s full remarks here.

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Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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