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San Diego City Hall / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

These are unprecedented times, and this November will be an election unlike any other. At a time when government competence – or lack thereof – has never had a greater impact on our lives, it is critical that up and down the ballot we elect people with integrity and sound judgment.

In the race for San Diego City Council, District 9, the perceived front-runner, Kelvin Barrios, has repeatedly demonstrated extremely poor judgment. He has made racial slurs on his personal social media accounts, was fined last year by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission for illegally using campaign funds and is now the subject of two separate investigations into further misuse of campaign funds and ethics violations.

It’s time for Barrios to drop out of the race for District 9.

Public service is an honor and a privilege. To represent your neighbors at City Hall and set priorities for spending taxpayer dollars, the most basic requirement is to have your own house in order. Yet Barrios continues to show that his is not — either because he believes he is above the law, because of his own ineptitude, or both.

The Fair Political Practices Commission concluded that he had illegally spent more than $8,000 while working on a local school board campaign and serving as a treasurer for the California Young Democrats Latino Caucus. The investigation found that Barrios had improperly spent campaign money by writing checks to himself, buying clothing at Men’s Wearhouse, and purchasing food at restaurants. After the fine was levied, Barrios issued an apology, taking responsibility and pledging to move forward “with honesty and integrity.”

Just this past weekend, however, the Union-Tribune reported that Barrios is the subject of yet another investigation, this time by the San Diego District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit. The paper also reported that Barrios is under investigation for a separate complaint made to the San Diego County Democratic Party’s Ethics Commission.

To be clear, that is three different investigations, by three different entities, into financial mismanagement or other ethically dubious behavior by Barrios.

Following the recent reporting, Barrios released a statement dismissing both investigations, which was then refuted by both the district attorney’s office and the chairman of the San Diego Democratic Party.

Barrios later tweeted that his poor behavior and excuse-making “stops now.”

Why should San Diegans trust him?

Regardless of the investigations’ outcome, Barrios’ prior misuse of funds and failure to communicate honestly about the current allegations demonstrate a disregard for the law that should concern all San Diegans.

With COVID-19 ravaging our nation, municipal governments face extraordinarily tough choices about how to reorient budgets to fight the spread of the virus, help struggling businesses stay afloat and keep people from losing their homes. Along with the pandemic, our next City Council will inherit a host of complicated issues that demand attention, including racial injustice and inequity, the 101 Ash St. debacle and the gas and electric franchise agreement.

We need competent and trustworthy leaders in office who care deeply about how every dollar is spent and will not cut ethical or legal corners — because they know that lives are on the line.

San Diegans are unfortunately all too familiar with the consequences of electing leaders who think the rules do not apply to them or show little interest in financial details. It is imperative that we elect people to City Council who will take the job seriously, starting now.

If Barrios were to drop out, his name would still appear on the ballot, but he could let those who have pledged their support know he is no longer campaigning or seeking election.

Whether he drops out or not, voters do have another choice on the ballot: Sean Elo-Rivera is also running to represent District 9.

In this moment of ongoing, open-ended crisis, there is no room for ineptitude or financial mismanagement at City Hall. Mr. Barrios: For the good of District 9 and all San Diegans, set aside your ego and drop out of this race.

Janessa Goldbeck is a District 9 resident and co-founder of the San Diego chapter of the Truman National Security Project.

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