Donna Frye / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Councilwoman Barbara Bry is running something of a populist mayoral campaign, and now she’s got an endorsement from one of the city’s most successful populist politicians of recent vintage.

Former Councilwoman Donna Frye, who once received more votes for mayor than any other candidate in that election and yet did not become mayor, says she is on Team Bry. We gave her a call to ask about her decision-making process.

“I’m going to have to vote for one of them – that’s the beginning of the decision-making process,” she told us Friday. “One of them will be mayor, and I will be voting. You start there.”

“I’m a firm believer in local control.” Frye said she chose Bry because she’s most aligned with her on land-use issues. She said she’s a big believer in local control of land-use decisions, and that communities need to be listened to if there are going to be changes to building heights, community plans, parking requirements or housing density.

She dinged Gloria for his support of SB 330, a state bill that deprived cities of some land use authority, and for his record on the City Council supporting local projects that flaunted local restrictions. She hasn’t agreed with every vote Bry’s taken on the topic, but appreciates her opposition to SB 50, a significant state bill that would limit local land-use control.

“The way I feel about it is that I am much more closely aligned with Barbara,” she said.

Frye said she’s not with Bry on everything, but that’s OK. All three Democratic candidates support the initiative to increase hotel taxes to expand the Convention Center and create homelessness funding, for instance, and she doesn’t.

“You have issues you agree on and that you disagree on, but the reality is that one of them is going to be representing us, and so who is most closely aligned with the positions I have? Barbara.”

Ikhrata: MTS Tax Plan Is a Down Payment on SANDAG’s Long-Term Vision

Hasan Ikhrata is executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The MTS board this week discussed two spending plans for Elevate SD, its potential tax measure for transit, and SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata came by to say he was on board.

That may not be surprising, coming from someone who has pledged to revolutionize the region’s transit system. But so many people have wondered about whether the bold pronouncements he was making about a long-term vision aligned with MTS’s focus on immediate improvements that former MTS Chair Georgette Gómez this summer felt it necessary to shut down the idea that there was any tension between the two agencies.

Ikhrata did the same Thursday during public comment at MTS’s board meeting.

“I came here for the purpose of making sure you hear it from me, clarifying what we’re doing at SANDAG, what we’re doing at MTS, and how we’re working together,” he said. “First thing’s first: We are coordinating as one agency … There is no two visions. There is one vision, that both agencies are working on.”

People keep asking him how MTS could propose a list of projects for its tax measure before SANDAG has released its new long-term transit plan. He said it doesn’t make sense.

SANDAG will release more detail on its vision in March, he said. And that vision will include the same projects MTS is now proposing.

“So I personally think Elevate 2020 is a down payment on a greater transportation system. SANDAG will eventually decide and the people of San Diego will eventually have to agree to pay for a system. It’s not going to be cheap. It’s not going to be easy. But it’s going to be an important system for the future of San Diego.”

And About the Purple Line …

An MTS trolley makes its way through downtown San Diego. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

When Ikhrata came to town, he demonstrated how his approach to transit building would differ from his predecessors by criticizing what had been the plan for the Purple Line, a new transit line from the South Bay to Kearny Mesa included in a 2016 ballot measure that would have largely followed I-805.

No one lives on a freeway, he told us in March, so why would we build a transit line that by definition no one can live especially close to?

Instead, he pledged to build the line through the inland South Bay communities it’s meant to serve, even if that meant building a 20-mile tunnel to make it happen.

On Thursday, he reiterated the point.

“Let me make it clear: There is only one Purple Line that will work great for San Diego County,” he said. “There is one alignment. And it cannot be determined by the amount of money, or the right-of-way. We’re going to do it right. That alignment, we’re totally together.”

Building the line along the freeway would make it cheaper and easier, but it would also make it less useful, lowering the number of people who use it.

MTS apparently agrees: A presentation delivered to the board said the version of the line that begins in East Chula Vista served a low-density area, “reducing access and ridership potential.”

Instead, MTS proposes beginning it at the existing Blue Line station at E Street in West Chula Vista, cutting across National City with three stops there, intersecting with the Orange Line in southeastern San Diego, before heading north through City Heights with stops at University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard. It would then share a stop with the Green Line at the new SDSU West development and then head to Kearny Mesa.

Looks like Ikhrata won that one.

Gaspar Ballot Statement Is Something

San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar’s re-election campaign is going to be something to watch. Unlike many Republican officials, especially in moderate districts, she doesn’t seem interested in moderating her message at all.

Case in point: Her Candidate Statement of Qualifications – the pitch that will appear in those little voter guide booklets. Check out its lead:

“Make no mistake, public employee unions have launched a multi-million-dollar campaign to take over the Board of Supervisors. Union bosses more interested in gold-plated pensions, lavish compensation, and bloated union-only contracts risk our financial stability which will result in cuts to services and increased taxes.”

She goes on: “Kristin Gaspar has fought a system that lines the pockets of union leaders at the expense of taxpayers. As a result, San Diego County maintains a AAA credit rating and is recognized as one of the best run governments in America.”

The county of San Diego’s union leaders (er, most of them!) have, indeed, made it clear they view ousting Gaspar as a top priority. Particularly SEIU Local 221, which represents more than 5,000 workers in county government. The union has endorsed Democrat Terra Lawson Remer in the primary. Escondido City Councilwoman Olga Diaz, also a Democrat, is also running.

In the general, SEIU 221 will likely support either Diaz or Lawson Remer – whoever advances through the primary.

“Kristin Gaspar is obviously trying to make ballot statements great again,” said SEUI Political Director David Lagstein.

But there is one irony in Gaspar’s statement. It mentions just one group supporting her candidacy. That group? The Deputy Sheriffs’ Association.

The Deputy Sheriffs’ Association is, of course, a public employee union, which in March had 2,453 members.

Buttigieg’s Investor Circle

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been getting a bit of negative press for his fundraising efforts. A group of protesters crashed a recent fundraiser. As he surges in the primary race, he’s getting more blowback. Friday, his campaign released the names of dozens of so-called bundlers: The mavens of politics who have helped bring in more than $25,000 each. The campaign calls them the Investors Circle.

On the list: La Jolla’s Christine Forester. She is often the main contact for major national campaigns of moderate Democrats who want to come connect with San Diego supporters. She provided pivotal support and worked for President Obama and has facilitated local visits of candidates like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

Correction: The original version of this post misstated how much the bundlers for Buttigieg’s campaign had raised. It is more than $25,000 each.

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at

Scott Lewis

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...

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