Candidates for San Diego County Assessor's office Barbara Bry and Jordan Marks speak at Politifest during a debate for County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk Race on October 8, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

One of the fiercest debates at Politifest this year featured the two candidates for the obscure office of county assessor/recorder/clerk. Jordan Marks, a Republican, who works in the office now as taxpayer advocate and former City Councilwoman Barbara Bry, a Democrat, who ran for mayor in 2020, had some intense criticisms for each other, their backgrounds and ability to manage the office going forward.

Bry alleged the office wasn’t assessing properties quickly and efficiently, especially after they had seen new improvements and that was costing taxpayers money. Marks denied that.

Marks alleged that Bry had a conflict of interest because her and her husband had invested in a company that had developed programs that could help office’s like the assessor’s determine whether contractors and homeowners had performed unauthorized improvements on their properties and thus needed to pay more taxes. She denied she had ever had an ownership stake – she said she simply had overlooked checking a box on her economic disclosure form to indicate it was her husband’s interest, not hers. And he has since gotten out of the investment.

But one of the most interesting exchanges came when I asked them about some important ballot measures and how they would cast their votes.

Bry supports height limit exemption, trash fee: When she ran for mayor, Bry had championed neighborhood concerns about new housing and development and she was an outspoken opponent, in 2020, of Measure E, which would have allowed developers to construct buildings higher than 30 feet in the Midway neighborhood. Measure E passed but a judge threw it out after opponents successfully made their case that the city had not studied the impact of the change adequately in its environmental review.

Bry said that’s now been addressed in the new initiative, Measure C.

“I’m comfortable. What I really think the city is going to need to do though to get it passed, is to deal with the appropriate infrastructure for the community,” she said.

Bry said she would support Measure B, which would allow the city to study and implement a special fee for trash collection. She likewise will support Measure U, San Diego Unified School District’s new tax for construction.

Marks was unwilling to take a stand on any of these measures. He said the assessor should remain neutral. But he was willing to talk about his support for one statewide proposition …

Marks supports Proposition 1: The Legislature put Proposition 1 on the ballot. It would enshrine in the state Constitution the right to access abortion and reproductive health services.

Bry’s campaign has hammered him for past appearances at anti-abortion rallies and his association with the Republican Party. He said he felt like it was a legitimate question for two reasons: One, the assessor does decide on exemptions for taxes for clinics like abortion service providers.

And, he has been dealing with remaining fallout from several years ago when his boss, Ernie Dronenberg, tried to resist providing same-sex couples marriage licenses.

“I actually got a text message from Barbara’s team saying, there’s never been an issue on it. There never has and, under my leadership, there never will be. We do our job independent of any of that, but also, I’m voting for Prop. 1,” he said. 

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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