Republican San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who has publicly supported the voter-approved pension reform measure Proposition B championed by Republican Councilman Carl DeMaio, endorsed DeMaio’s mayoral campaign Thursday.
The endorsement won’t surprise many election watchers, given the two politicians' ideological proximity, but strengthens DeMaio’s case that he is the only candidate who can be trusted to fully and quickly implement Prop. B.
Goldsmith and DeMaio have worked together since June to begin the implementation process, during which time Democratic Rep. Bob Filner -- DeMaio's opponent in the mayoral race -- stopped calling the initiative a fraud and instead said if elected, and if courts approve the measure, he’d do his job to follow voter will.
“Having worked with Carl during the past four years, I see him as an energetic leader who has been willing to fight for thoughtful and innovative change, but he is also willing to roll up his sleeves and work with others to ensure the city is properly managed on a day to day basis,” Goldsmith said.
Filner’s campaign quickly followed the endorsement with a dismissive press release: “Surprise: Republican Endorses Republican!”
Both DeMaio and Filner continue to be seen as representatives of the ideological extremes of their political parties, a perception they’ve spent the summer attempting to overturn.
The city’s moderate political leaders have thus far withheld the endorsements that might strengthen those attempts at centrism.
Mayor Jerry Sanders is the most notable holdout. Fitting the traditional mold of a San Diego mayor — that is, a moderate Republican — he supported District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ like-minded primary bid, and on Election Day signaled his second choice was Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who dropped his Republican affiliation to run as an independent and finished in third place in June.
Neither Dumanis nor Fletcher has extended an endorsement, and both campaigns have actively courted their support.
Council President Tony Young, often referred to as a “business-friendly Democrat,” also has opted against choosing a side. He has, however, appeared alongside both DeMaio and Filner at education-related events.
Candidates debate arts and innovation
Wednesday in Balboa Park, during one of the week’s five debates, DeMaio and Filner contrasted their visions for the future of arts and innovation in San Diego.
While the event was geared to a single topic that forced the candidates to discuss specific plans, both DeMaio and Filner dissected the issue through the prism of their preexisting campaign narratives. Filner offered big ideas and a plea to imagine what could be in the city; DeMaio focused on improving city finances so new initiatives could once again be part of the conversation.
The debate was held at Balboa Park's Museum of Photographic Arts and was sponsored by the San Diego Innovation Alliance and KPBS.
Repeatedly referencing his “Pathway to Prosperity” policy outline, DeMaio referred to stereotypical politicians who make big promises but can’t deliver them due to financial constraints. His cost-saving measures — such as pension reform, managed competition, flattening the city’s hierarchy, and performance-based pay — would let the city double its arts and culture funding and expand its hire-a-youth program by 5,000 new participants.
He also said his plans to reduce the number of regulations facing new and expanding businesses, and his attempts to expedite the approval process in City Hall, would make San Diego a more attractive destination for venture capital funding.
Filner has throughout the campaign touted a plan to force San Diego to make all of its buildings solar powered. During the debate, he added that the program should be incorporated into city students’ science education by allowing them to be part of the installation process. He also shared his idea of an “aqua economy,” combining green industries with coast and water related industries in the city.
“Politicians come in and they talk about how I’m going to do this and this and this, but they don’t have a plan or experience of actually getting things done,” DeMaio said. “That’s why fiscal reform is so important.”
He also campaigned for the proposed I.D.E.A. District in the upper East Village portion of downtown, a development aimed at drawing young, educated workers to the city who can fill the jobs needed in a high-tech, innovation-based economy. DeMaio said he has the endorsement of Jerry Navarra, whose family owns the property in that area, and who has selected a group of architects and developers to pursue the project.
Filner said the endorsement proves DeMaio represents the entrenched interests that have controlled the city for years.
“The mayor needs to embody that innovative (sic) and creativity and energy and excitement that comes from such an economy,” Filner said. “The mayor has to embody it.”
After DeMaio said the return on investment of giving a strong education in science and the arts to a student was practically limitless, Filner said he rejected the notion of measuring the value of arts in dollars.
“These things are good for themselves and we ought to have a mayor who understands that, and can glorify and defend it. That is, kids need to be educated in the arts and culture… It’s part of who we are as people. It’s part of who we are as human beings.”
Filner also said Fletcher was the mayoral candidate to most convincingly make the case for an innovation district and again said he’d offered the assemblyman a role in his administration as the head of major projects.
La Jolla debate re-launches campaigns
Tuesday afternoon, the candidates met for a debate at the Valencia Hotel in downtown La Jolla sponsored by the La Jolla Rotary. Coming out of the Labor Day holiday, the unofficial start of the stretch run to Election Day, the debate allowed both candidates to re-introduce themselves to voters who might have tuned out during the summer months.
DeMaio made his newfound appeal to moderate sensibilities, referring to himself as a “gay, pro-choice, environmentalist who takes on the downtown establishment time and time again” when posed a question about the perception that he’s on the extreme edge of the Republican Party.
Filner, who himself has moved to the center by saying he’d follow voter and City Council will on Prop. B, the Convention Center expansion financing plan, and the Balboa Park renovation despite the harsh words he reserved for those plans during the primary, said DeMaio was trying to distance himself from four disastrous years on the City Council.
“You have a plan. You have rhetoric. But your votes have said otherwise,” Filner said.
Filner, with Young’s support, releases education plan
After discussing many of its details over the course of the campaign, Filner released Thursday a nine-point education plan that increases the city’s role in student lives outside of school hours but doesn’t seek to exert any more control over the San Diego Unified School District.
Council President Young embraced the plan, saying he was happy it didn’t deal with teacher salaries or engage in any finger pointing, but nonetheless said he wasn’t ready to endorse a candidate. In August, Young appeared with DeMaio for an education related announcement, and ahead of the primary said he endorsed Fletcher’s education plan.
“I am trying to push the issues too,” Young said. “I’m trying to insert certain things into this race. One of them is education, and I’m happy with what (Filner) has done, I’m happy with his proposal. Hopefully (DeMaio) comes out with something too. That’s my goal.”
Filner’s plan creates a youth development office to identify gaps in youth services in the city. It creates an internship program to increase youth involvement in city departments, would make good on a 2000 ordinance to set aside 6 percent of the city’s budget for library funding, and starts a San Diego Education Foundation to garner funding from private donations and grants to be spent on education related issues.
It also hopes to make public transportation free for students going to or coming home from school, which Filner says would need to be voted on by the Metropolitan Transit System’s board and would be subsidized by some combination of MTS, the school board, and the city.
“There is a clear need for mayoral leadership in this area,” he said. “Locally my governing mantra will be a city, not just a school system, but a city has to be responsible for its children.”