COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | RON CARRICO

Time for another mayoral campaign

After trying Bob Filner as mayor and finding him a bad choice, we voters are now considering two more candidates. Both want a very demanding job with overwhelming problems.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone who seeks political office should automatically be disqualified for their questionable sanity, but here we are again with two council members, David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer campaigning for mayor.

I must mention Nathan Fletcher, who lost the runoff election. He possessed the kind intelligence, looks and charisma that would make him an important addition to the Democratic Party lineup of candidates in years to come. However, the incessant attacks by our local daily newspaper probably ended any future public office for Fletcher.

The days of enormous political power in the written press may be waning, but when San Diego has only U-T San Diego, its influence may be the deciding factor in any campaign.

The U-T is supporting the Republican Faulconer who, in the “Sample Ballot & Voter Information Pamphlet.” is listed as a “Nonpartisan Leader with Integrity — Experience.” Alvarez is identified as a “City Council Member.” Both of the statements in the pamphlet were apparently submitted by the campaign committees.

The candidates’ statements are so vague they could easily be transferred to the opponent. Generally, each involves improving neighborhoods and leadership, bringing people together and other feel-good nonspecifics. The statements also promise eliminating government waste and creating accountability at City Hall. Alvarez includes his endorsements by teachers, nurses and firefighters. Faulconer does not include a list of endorsements.

If you think about it, the most telling thing about what a politician might do is who offers financial support to their campaign. For a long time I have believed it would be nice if politicians dressed like NASCAR drivers, with their sponsors’ logos plastered all over their suits. Nothing would ruin a campaign quicker than having the public know who wants them in office bad enough to spend millions of dollars.

Fortunately, the mayoral campaign breaks down to the usual San Diego dynamics of the wealthy downtown business establishment and the rest of the city. It is interesting that the attacks upon Alvarez are the typical “He is for the unions!” Unions, of course, are painted as somehow the enemy of the people.

However, unions are working people who happen to have the financial ability to speak for the middle class and low-income individuals. Certainly middle-income working people, union or nonunion, do not have millions to invest in a political candidate. And we all know that candidates seem to gravitate to the highest bidder. I guess I should say, “campaign contributor.”

The attacks on Faulconer will, in essence, claim he is a tool of the establishment. Countering that are clever ads featuring Father Joe Carroll essentially saying that Faulconer will work to help the less fortunate. Faulconer’s statement in the ad is less promising if you listen closely. Father Joe’s ad also has me wondering about separation of church and state.

The campaign against Alvarez will feature pension overhaul plans that give too much money to retired city union members. The idea is to blame the greedy unions and their leadership who support Alvarez.

But wait, who gave these ridiculous benefits in 1996 and 2002 to the unions in the first place? The benefits were offered and given by Republican Mayor Susan Golding and her largely Republican City Council.

The city was asking the unions to lower the yearly pension contribution, which I think was 90 percent funding of pension obligation. The reason was this: City leaders wanted to allow more money to be spent for the improvements to San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, now Qualcomm, and the 1996 Republican Convention.

The 2002 agreements also increased benefits and decreased payments to the fund to finance Petco Park. The city, under Republican Mayor Dick Murphy, did not disclose this shortfall before the ballpark bonds were issued in 2002. When the truth of the pension arrearages became known, it caused a meltdown in San Diego’s credit rating and reputation.

Certainly all of this is too deep and detailed for most voters. So the media blitzkrieg of facts, innuendos and lies that is under way will feature many other issues. But placing pension problems on the unions is vastly misleading.

Hopefully the wealthy downtown interests will not get their candidate elected. If they do, we can all look forward to more taxpayer money being spent building a new Chargers stadium downtown.

Carrico is a San Diego attorney and can be emailed at roncarrico@hotmail.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.

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