Roque de la Fuente is running for president and Congress. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Many journalists have taken notice over the years of Otay Mesa businessman Roque de la Fuente’s strange foray into politics.

He’s run for more than a dozen offices in just four years — sometimes as a Democrat, sometimes as a Republican, sometimes under his self-created American Delta Party.

He’s even running for Congress against one of his sons … and for president against one of his other sons.

But none have delved into a concurrent effort of de la Fuente’s as he works to actually appear on the ballot before voters: He’s filed numerous lawsuits in several states trying to secure access to the ballot

In Washington, for instance, he submitted the 1,000 signatures needed to qualify as an independent, but was kept off the ballot because he didn’t publish a notice in a newspaper least 10 days before gathering signatures.

His lawyer said he wants to bring attention to the broken two-party system. But some of those efforts could be backfiring: He risks setting bad precedents in the courts, and the fact he’s run for so many offices may impact how seriously judges take him as a candidate.

In the meantime, get a load of this whacky ad where he dives into a pool in a full suit.

Speaking of people running for president, here’s a guy whose name might be a bit more familiar …

Bloomberg Is Investing Heavily in San Diego and Beyond

Mike Bloomberg’s well-financed presidential campaign is squeezing local campaigns as he hires up professionals at higher-than-normal rates and gobbles up TV air time. 

The former New York mayor is serious about California based on the theory that he can miss all the debates, skip several primaries and concentrate on the Super Tuesday states with massive resources and parlay that success into the Democratic nomination. If he loses, Bloomberg has pledged to continue spending money to defeat President Donald Trump. 

One local political consultant who works with the Democratic Party told us that she sees a bright spot once all the presidential campaigns leave town. 

“There’s going to be more trained political talent in San Diego than ever before,” she said. “And some of those newly trained staffers will stay in the industry.”

Official Involved in 101 Ash St. Mess Resigns

Ron Villa, the city of San Diego’s assistant chief operating officer and a figure closely involved with the city’s botched acquisition and renovation of the former Sempra Energy headquarters building downtown, has resigned.

Kris Michell, the city’s chief operating officer, announced the move in a memo to the City Council last week. She referred to it as a resignation/retirement. Villa will work on special projects until June 30, when he will officially retire.

Villa’s resignation is the first personnel change following the city’s series of problems with the Ash Street building. The mayor’s office pushed, and the Council approved, a lease-to-own deal of the property in late 2016. In Summer of 2018, with the building still empty, the Council approved an additional $30 million in renovations to the building. City staff then acknowledged the building needed far more work than it had assumed at the time it was acquired.

In December, city staff finally moved into the building. Weeks later, the city “voluntarily evacuated” employees a few weeks later when the county’s Air Pollution Control District said the building should not be occupied due to ongoing asbestos violations. 

Bonus Podcasts: The Dems Vying to Take on Kristin Gaspar in D3

The District 3 Board of Supervisors’ race is arguably the most important local race in 2020 because it’ll determine which political party controls the county government — and its $6.2 billion budget. 

We’ve released podcast interviews with the two Democrats vying to get through the March primary. There’s a lotta overlap between them on policy matters. Their differences largely come down to approach and background. When talking about housing, transit and homelessness, they tend to emphasize different things. 

The Democratic side of the race largely revolves around the question of whose experience is more relevant for county government. 

We had also hoped to interview incumbent Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, a Republican, but she declined our invitation.

Mo’ Politics

Three recent court rulings dealt major blows to gig companies that don’t want to hire independent contractors as employees in accordance with a California Supreme Court ruling and the state law AB 5, written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. One of the judge’s orders was truly scathing. 

We took a deeper dive into one of those AB 5-related lawsuits on the podcast. San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott is suing grocery delivery app Instacart. We also took a closer look at a recent poll suggesting that a hotel tax increase on the March ballot to fund the Convention Center expansion and more is falling short of the two-third majority it needs. 

A proposed East Village apartment building would have separated low-income renters from market-rate ones, meaning those who entered through the “poor door” would have been denied access to the pool and rooftop deck. Gonzalez told the Union-Tribune she plans to introduce state legislation to stop that from happening in the future. 

Smart Streetlights Are More Expensive Than Planned

Community activists aren’t the only San Diegans raising concerns about the thousands of smart streetlights. A memo obtained by our media partners at NBC San Diego suggests that the city’s top officials have a few questions of their own

Last week, deputy chief operating officer Erik Caldwell wrote that the program was costing more than initially planned. That’s significant because the smart streetlights were sold to the City Council, in part, as a way to reduce energy costs more than three years ago. 

Caldwell also acknowledged that the program had experienced “a lack of oversight and proper due diligence coupled with limited technological expertise.” That led to “significant problems with record-keeping, risk management and proper ‘communication protocols,’” he said. 

The city’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee is now working on a larger surveillance policy that will govern the use of the smart streetlights and other devices capable of collecting visual and audio data in public. The U-T reports that UC San Diego’s student government has asked to be part of those conversations as well, calling on the city to create an independent commission made up of diverse residents who could review parts of the program. 

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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