Kevin Faulconer and Cindy Marten / Photos by Jamie Scott Lytle and Adriana Heldiz

Two San Diegans from opposite sides of the aisle have been getting national attention, and as a journalist who’s covered them both for years, it’s been gratifying in a very specific way.

That is, watching statewide and national reporters, and even U.S. senators, left scratching their heads at the linguistic acrobatics – the many, many, many, many words that together, mean nothing – has been weirdly reassuring. It wasn’t just us who couldn’t get answers or specifics out of them. No one can.

Politically, Kevin Faulconer and Cindy Marten don’t seem to have much in common. One is campaigning to recall a Democratic governor; the other is a Democratic president’s nominee for a federal post.

Certainly plenty of politicians have a knack for smooth talking, or for evading details on occasion. Marten and Faulconer have made it art.

Consider how Faulconer answered this impossibly easy softball from the conservative caricature of a news network that is OANN.

“What sort of policies did you enact in San Diego that would be beneficial at a state level?” a host recently asked Faulconer.

“We really came out with common sense, because we’re all in this together,” he responded. “We have to save lives and livelihoods.”

Here’s how Politico reported Faulconer’s first appearance in Sacramento, after weeks of trumpeting his desire to see schools reopen: “But Faulconer did not have more concrete details on how to get schools open or break the logjam among districts and unions across the state. Faulconer did not have details on how much the proposed checks would be, nor to what extent funding would be withheld from schools.”

My favorite is this excerpt from an interview with KQED, in which Faulconer when asked directly, “So, how would you get the schools open? What would you do?” responded: “As mayor of San Diego during the pandemic, I worked with our firefighters union, our police officers union, our librarians, our refuse collectors. We wanted to get people back to work safely, have that conversations to make it happen. And we did.”

I think I felt some sympathy steam exiting my ears, on behalf of these reporters.

Some of the senators on the panel questioning Marten this week got a taste of that same frustration. After Marten repeatedly declined to share any thoughts about whether student loan debt should be forgiven, Sen. Bill Cassidy responded: “That sounds a little bit like a rehearsed answer. In fact, it sounds entirely like you were prepped for that. I guess what I want is the unprepped answer.”

Sen. Mitt Romney tried just repeating the same question, verbatim, when he couldn’t get a straight answer the first time.

Faulconer and Marten are similar in another way, too. In addition to being able to talk without saying anything, sometimes they simply don’t say anything. For example, when we sought to interview Faulconer on the consequential public safety issues that came up throughout his mayoral tenure, his office refused. It followed a pattern of clamming up on those life-or-death issues for years, even as they dominated the news.

Meanwhile, our education reporter has been on the job for three years. He’s never once been granted an interview with Marten.

What VOSD Learned This Week

These were the most interesting moments from Cindy Marten’s confirmation hearing before a U.S. Senate committee. We talked about Marten’s big day on this week’s podcast. One senator pressed her on the district’s troubling anti-transparency history – on that front, here’s an update on where our public records lawsuit against the district stands.

In the higher education realm, UCSD graduate students and faculty are pushing back against the university’s plan to impose steep rent hikes.

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Contributor Anissa Durham wrote a detailed examination of the failures that fueled the spread of COVID-19 within the Richard J. Donovan state prison.

Plus, a win for police transparency: a secretive local group of law enforcement personnel will open its meetings and documents to the public.

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One year into the pandemic, tens of thousands of households across the county still lack internet access. Despite that troubling tech gap, San Diego’s tech industry is thriving – is there a way to tie it to the city’s fortunes?

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It turns out a recently passed state law has disrupted the process to redevelop the Sports Arena. And I wrote a rundown of the three state laws under consideration in the Legislature that CalChamber has put on its yearly “Job Killer” list.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“We practice self-care and shun ‘toxic’ acquaintances. We project and decathect; we are triggered, we say wryly, adding that we dislike the word; we catastrophize, ruminate, press on the wound, process. We feel seen and we feel heard, or we feel unseen and we feel unheard, or we feel heard but not listened to, not actively. We diagnose and receive diagnoses: O.C.D., A.D.H.D., generalized anxiety disorder, depression. We’re enmeshed, fragile. Our emotional labor is grinding us down. We’re doing the work. We need to do the work.” – I loved this essay on how therapy speak has taken over our everyday language.

Sara Libby

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

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