Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference for a pop-up vaccine site in City Heights. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

It’s recall summer.

The recall election that could oust Gov. Gavin Newsom was made official this week, and got a date: Sept. 14.

But that’s far from the only effort to recall an elected official in San Diego, and most of them, like the push to remove Newsom, can’t articulate a single transgression or offense driving their efforts.

A recall is a serious, and extreme measure – it’s a bit like calling 911 on the will of the voters. Elections and term limits mean that there’s plenty of opportunity to get rid of politicians they don’t like. A recall is a last-ditch measure, an escape hatch to be pulled only when something terrible has happened.

And from the bid to recall Newsom all the way on down to efforts to kick city council and school board members out of office early, the pitch isn’t so much that any of the pols being targeted committed an unforgivable act so much as: We don’t like them!

Take the failed effort to recall San Diego Council President Jen Campbell. The petition itself notes that “recall of an elected official is very serious,” then goes on to undermine how serious it takes the process by providing a generic list of gripes, like that she “has advocated for laws and policies that detrimentally impact the quality of life for all San Diegans.” Like her decisions or not, advocating for laws and policies is, uh, precisely the job of lawmaker.

Then there’s the push to recall Carlsbad Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, largely being led by talk radio host Carl DeMaio. As the Coast News reported, the petitioners in that case and DeMaio have listed Schumacher’s positions on business regulations during the pandemic and reopening schools as reasons she should be urgently removed from office. In other words, they simply disagree on matters of policy.

Those seeking to remove Newsom, meanwhile, began their push before the pandemic began – driven by a general dislike of Dems in general and Newsom in particular. Even the contention that Newsom has mishandled the pandemic doesn’t fit with what should be a high bar for pursuing a recall. If you don’t like how he’s handled this crisis, fine – vote him out in 2022 when his term is up.

One exception to the trend appears to be the effort to recall newly appointed Oceanside Councilwoman Kori Jensen, who some residents believe lied about her residency. I don’t know whether that’s true, but it’s the type of offense – coupled with the fact that the Council, and not voters, put her in the position – that makes a recall effort more understandable.

There’s one more recall effort that’s noteworthy here, and it’s one that’s not actually happening. In 2019, four men accused San Diego Unified Trustee Kevin Beiser of sexual assault and harassment. (Beiser denies any wrongdoing.) That is precisely the type of disqualifying behavior from a public official that should trigger a recall election. In Beiser’s case, that wasn’t immediately possible, because at the time Beiser’s colleagues had no ability to initiate a recall election of a colleague. That changed when San Diego voters approved such a process in 2020.

Yet there remains no effort afoot to oust Beiser from office. He’s set to ride out his term comfortably.

What VOSD Learned This Week

I am gonna go out on a limb here and suggest the city of San Diego has done some less-than-perfect real estate deals. This week, there were some major developments in the 101 Ash St. saga, and now the big question is whether former Mayor Kevin Faulconer knew “volunteer” real estate consultant Jason Hughes was actually being paid millions. His failure to officially disclose those payments is now the heart of the city’s case that it should be allowed to back out of the deals.

One weird twist to all of this: We’d never have known about it if construction workers hadn’t disturbed some asbestos. We did another breakdown of the scandal on this week’s podcast.

Meanwhile, the San Diego Housing Commission has defended some of its real estate deals – the purchase of hotels to house the homeless. But the agency’s own appraisals for the hotels undermine its defense of the purchase price.

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San Diego County is in a good position to weather the latest drought – but it’s come at a high cost.

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The only open seat on the City Council up for grabs next year is in District 6, where there are still a bunch of big unanswered questions hanging over the race.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“His fatal judgment was equaled only by his absolute self-assurance. He lacked the courage to doubt himself. He lacked the wisdom to change his mind.” – This unsparing look at Donald Rumsfeld’s legacy is a must-read.

Sara Libby

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

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