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When all was said and done, we actually found it pretty easy to select the overall top spot: SANDAG Director Hasan Ikhrata, who completely changed the way the region discusses transportation, climate change, growth and more.
There was, however, one other major contender for the top Voice of the Year spot, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who kicked off a monumental debate about the future of work that continued gaining steam this week.
I’m not here to endorse Gonzalez or Ikhrata’s ideas or their policy proposals. But I do think they both represent something San Diego desperately needs more of: A clear view of what they think the region should look like, and the courage to pursue it despite the intense pushback those efforts might generate.
We were over the moon last year when Assemblyman Todd Gloria gave a name to the phenomenon we’ve all observed for years – the San Diego special – in which seemingly solvable problems fester because local politicians are too timid to pursue the kind of polarizing efforts that might solve them.
Yet Gloria himself has certainly chosen caution over courage at times: He declined to run for mayor against Kevin Faulconer in 2014 and 2016, for example, and instead pursued the far safer path of running for Assembly.
Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins holds one of the most powerful positions in the most powerful state in the most powerful country on Earth, but if you put a gun to my head and asked me what big thing she did this year, I’d probably say, “Uh, her staffers improperly tinkered with the wording on her Wikipedia page?”
Though Faulconer is often mentioned as a potential candidate for higher office, he’s declined throughout his mayorship to take a leading role on some of the most significant issues facing the city, whether it’s homelessness, vacation rentals or policing problems.
There are, of course, other local politicians who aren’t afraid of controversy. I disagree with almost everything Carl DeMaio has ever said but, to his credit, he has a very clear view of how government should operate and has pursued major efforts – like the gas tax repeal – to make his vision reality. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber has promised to take on yet another gnarly issue in 2020.
But they’re too few and far between.
As a journalist who wants messy, complex, explosive, consequential things to cover and a resident who wants her elected officials to just do something, anything at this point, for the love of god, here’s hoping 2020 manages to get more San Diego leaders saying and doing big things.
What VOSD Learned This Week
Councilwoman Barbara Bry also made the Voice of the Year list because of how she’s managed to shape the mayor’s race around people who like their neighborhoods and don’t want them to accommodate more housing. But when Andrew Keatts looked deeper into that defining campaign narrative – that Bry is a NIMBY and Assemblyman Todd Gloria is a YIMBY – he found it doesn’t really hold up.
Of course, the mayor’s race won’t be the only place on the ballot to weigh in on housing. Kayla Jimenez broke down two ballot measures that will help determine how San Diego County grows. On the podcast, we broke down how those two measures are fueling some interesting tensions within the Democratic Party.
Grossmont Union High School District is still expelling far more black students than other districts in the county.
Meanwhile, county education officials think schools should be pushing much harder to get students to complete the FAFSA.
What I’m Reading
- I died laughing reading this oral history of a, shall we say, memorable Folgers ad. (Bonus points for the unexpected cameo by Jonah from “Veep.”) (GQ)
- States regularly flout the nation’s primary law to protect against child abuse. (ProPublica/Boston Globe)
- I tried to pull out a line from this magnificent piece about the Trump family’s creepy Christmas aesthetic, but it was too hard so please just read each and every one. (New Republic)
- This is honestly wild: A proposed rule change could let banks get away with meeting their federal requirements to help the poor by financing sports stadiums in poor neighborhoods. (Bloomberg)
- Many criminal justice reform conversations revolve around the current system’s astronomical costs to taxpayers. This heartbreaking piece instead zeroes in on the costs incurred by individual families who try to maintain ties with incarcerated loved ones. (Marshall Project)
- Dahlia Lithwick’s reflections on what calls for “civility” really mean in 2019 is so good I actually stopped to read it at 4:45 on the Friday before a holiday. (Slate)
Line of the Week
“Who are you to sit there and say this is a disgusting establishment? It’s not named ‘Butts and Sluts.’ Even if I named it ‘Church’ they wouldn’t like it.” – Please read every word in this story, which is an absolute delight.