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Mara Elliott
City Attorney Mara Elliott / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This week, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott took a major step toward forcing grocery delivery app Instacart to reclassify its shoppers as employees.

Also this week, an NBC story detailed how Elliott’s top deputy tried to get a state lawmaker to destroy correspondence, and the extent to which her office was involved in crafting a proposed law last year that would have decimated the Public Records Act.

It should go without saying: Elliott is ruthlessly, aggressively political.

That’s fine – she is, you know, an elected politician.

But a previous version of Elliott, the one running for office in 2016, claimed that if elected, she’d be a dispassionate legal counsel to the city of San Diego. Since then, she’s made decision after decision that have put her at the center of city political discussions, from the fate of the former Qualcomm Stadium to vacation rentals.

She clearly seems to relish being in the thick of important civic decisions.

Again, that’s what politicians do.

Which is why it’s so endlessly frustrating and bizarre that people like Elliott in 2016, and several other candidates running for local office, have continued to perpetuate the idea that acting politically – or even being a politician at all ­­­– is offensive.

Councilwoman Barbara Bry, who’s running for mayor, has adorned her campaign emails and yard signs with the words “not a politician.” Councilman Scott Sherman, one of her opponents, has said the same thing for years – though he recently admitted that this latest bid does, in fact, make him a politician.

Elliott’s opponent in the race for city attorney, Cory Briggs, is guilty of the same thing: He’s chided Elliott for “acting like a politician rather than a lawyer.” He did this in a … campaign email.

Congressional candidate Janessa Goldbeck’s campaign emails make clear she’s “not a politician.”

It’s a common trope.

That doesn’t mean it makes any sense.

Politics is hard. It means sprinting from event to event, constantly chasing money, talking until your voice goes raw, enduring attacks from people who don’t like you.

Back in 2016, I moderated a debate between the city attorney candidates. After it was over, Elliott and I were both walking in the same direction back to our cars. I remember hearing her telling a staffer she hoped she could make it home in time to tuck in her son. It was an endearing and humanizing moment.

But imagine going through all of that for a role you were actually ashamed of.

What VOSD Learned This Week

The city attorney’s Instacart lawsuit was just one in a series of fascinating court cases we covered this week.

Two other court rulings were dealt out against gig economy companies over worker classification issues.

This is a big deal that seems to have gotten lost in all the news: Hundreds of illegal entry convictions from San Diego’s federal court will be overturned.

As hotelier Bill Evans scrambles to keep his lawsuit against local unions alive, he’s making a very bold claim about Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Meanwhile, a New Mexico man has filed a class action over a fee charged by rental car companies at the San Diego International Airport.


Let it sink in: There’s only a little more than two weeks until the primary.

Lisa Halverstadt dug into the big assumptions Measure C backers are relying on to tout the benefits they say it will bring to the city.

And though school board election reform won’t be on the March ballot, it could be decided later this year.


These are two great stories about accusations of financial fraud at local schools.

San Diego City College officials recommended firing a supervisor who investigators said falsified timecards and took improper pay. Now, that woman is in charge of the school’s multimillion-dollar budget.

Over in southeastern San Diego, Will Huntsberry detailed the scene from a wild and contentious meeting where parents and community members hurled accusations of financial misspending and neglect.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“People have to realize that homelessness is connected to housing prices. They have to accept it’s hypocritical to say that you don’t like density but are worried about climate change. They have to internalize the lesson that if they want their children to have a stable financial future, they have to make space. They are going to have to change.” – Say it again for the boomers in the back.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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