/Politics Report: Holy Endorsement — Chamber Chooses Todd

Politics Report: Holy Endorsement — Chamber Chooses Todd

Assemblyman Todd Gloria at Politifest / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry lists nothing on her resume as proudly as she does her history as an entrepreneur. She was in early on what ended up becoming huge startup successes before she shifted to assisting other startups and women entrepreneurs.

But that elite business resume was not enough to sway the board of directors of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce to endorse her, or even delay endorsing her rival, Assemblyman Todd Gloria, in the race for mayor.

Thursday, the Chamber endorsed Gloria, three sources who were in the meeting confirmed for the Politics Report. It marks the first time anyone we talked to can remember the Chamber, the Democratic Party and the Labor Council all being on the same page in the choice for mayor.

Both Gloria and Bry are Democrats and both wanted the Chamber endorsement. While it was just one more bit of evidence of Gloria’s dominance in these early contests for support, it was nonetheless shocking.

The 2012 version of your Politics Report writers would be utterly stunned to learn that the Chamber, labor and the Democratic Party were all in agreement on Gloria being the best candidate for mayor in a contested election. But San Diego has been marching left, and the decision is yet another sign of how things are changing.

The Chamber has endorsed Democrats in several Democrat vs. Democrat races. But usually, there’s a Democrat perceived as more friendly to business and another perceived as more friendly to labor unions and progressive groups. In this race, it seemed like Gloria may become the latter and Bry the former, particularly with her unique business background. Gloria has also gotten the city’s white-collar workers union, the Municipal Employees’ Association, and the city’s police officers union.

But Bry has not united business groups at all. Several times she’s declined to take a right-of-center path that may have solidified a more favorable dynamic.

Inside the room: There were several Chamber board members who were reluctant to endorse Gloria or who wondered why it needed to be done now.

But Gloria’s supporters made the case that the Chamber had the opportunity to lead and that waiting until after the primary would maybe cost it the chance to show it had made a bold choice.

“Our members expect confidentiality in these deliberations, but I can tell you our Board supported Assembly member Gloria because we felt he was the better candidate for the business community and has demonstrated that through leadership in his years in elected office,” said Jaymie Bradford, the Chamber’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, in a statement.

What’s next? The Republican Party? Sources told us there were arguments that maybe the Chamber should wait to see if now independent City Councilman Mark Kersey got in the race. But they concluded it didn’t look like that would happen.

Gloria’s pleased: Spokesman Nick Serrano sent us this statement: “Assemblymember Gloria and the Chamber have not seen eye-to-eye on everything, but their endorsement underscores the fact that Assemblymember Gloria is the candidate to break the status quo in San Diego, bring people together to get things done, and be a Mayor for all San Diegans. This kind of consolidation of support behind one candidate is unheard-of. We look forward to making history in 2020.”

On that confidentiality thing: If there’s a room where big decisions are being made, the Politics Report is basically there, sitting in participants’ brains right next to the delicious meal they’re going to eat that night and in front of the thing they need to remind their kids to do before Monday.

This Week’s SANDAG Squabble

Not long ago, the San Diego Association of Governments was a boring place.

It still is, if you live anything close to a normal life.

But for us, SANDAG meetings have become must-see displays of tension, where the fundamental political changes taking place in San Diego play out in real time.

OK, maybe that’s overwrought. But board members disagree now, which is new. And the changes to voting procedure brought by AB 805 have created the drama around parliamentary procedure we crave.

This week’s fight: Who’s ready for an old-fashioned slobberknocker over the methodological approach to complying with the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment law?

You’re in the right place.

SANDAG’s board approved the agency’s approach to complying with a complicated – and failed – state housing law. Every eight years, the state tells every region in California how many new homes it needs to accommodate in order to keep up with population growth.

Last year, SANDAG’s board took the unusual step of accepting the state’s initial offer, rather than lobbying for a lower one. Now the agency needs to divvy up all those new homes among all the jurisdictions in the county. Then each city is expected to draw up its own plan demonstrating that its planning documents would theoretically let developers build all the units for which they’re responsible.

And if developers don’t build all those units? Nothing happens. And they almost certainly won’t. The law is a failure.

SANDAG decided to do so by emphasizing cities near transit and job opportunities, pissing off leaders of small cities in the process.

Solana Beach Mayor David Zito proposed a replacement measure that would carve out the coastal area, pushing some of the homes eyed for those jurisdictions to be built farther east instead.

“We have absolutely no more room,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina. “I’m really unimpressed and concerned when progressives are talking about GHG reductions … this plan will absolutely increase GHG.”

SANDAG Director Hasan Ikhrata, noting that the agency’s plan had already been praised by the state, emphasized that whatever new proposal they come up with would still need state approval.

“Let’s try it,” said Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey. “Let’s send it back.”

Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara was even more eager to square up the state.

“I’d rather fight the state, than just knuckle under,” he said. “We can overbuild. And we shouldn’t have someone outside the region telling us to overbuild.”

The new rules: But in what’s quickly becoming a common occurrence, opposition on the board lost out thanks to AB 805. That law allowed board members to call for a weighted vote, where each city’s vote had value proportional to its population. It puts the city of San Diego in the driver’s seat for any decision.

Zito’s proposal passed on the standard tally vote, where every board member gets one vote.

San Diego Council President Georgette Gómez then called for a weighted vote. The 10 cities voting with Zito only represented 28 percent of county residents, so they lost.

Bailey then offered his own substitute motion. That too passed on the tally vote and failed on the weighted vote.

San Diego Councilman Chris Cate then called for a vote on the agency’s initial proposal. It failed on the tally vote, and passed on the weighted vote.

Done deal.

A Bike Skirmish

Earlier in the SANDAG meeting, there was a brief disagreement over spending money on bike infrastructure.

If nothing else, it served as a reminder that the disagreements at SANDAG over the best ways to spend finite transportation dollars that have been playing out in the media ever since Ikhrata came to town are far from settled.

SANDAG staff asked the board to award a $12 million construction contract for protected bike lanes on 4th Avenue and 5th Avenue from downtown through Hillcrest. The agency’s been working for years to build the protected bikeways, with opposition typically coming from Hillcrest residents who don’t want to give up parking spaces or a lane for car travel.

This time, the opposition came from North County.

Supervisor Jim Desmond pulled the item from consent, where it would have been approved without discussion. He questioned the wisdom of spending the money on bikes when most people drive. San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones said staff hadn’t provided enough detail on where the money was going.

Carlsbad Councilwoman Cori Schumacher joined Gómez and Dedina in defending the expenditure. Ikhrata emphasized that TransNet reserved 2 percent of its revenue for bike projects.

The board approved the contract despite the opposition. Desmond and Jones were joined by representatives from Poway, Santee and Oceanside in opposing the expenditure.

The upshot: The contract went through, but the debate is a reminder that the unanimity that used to dictate what happened at SANDAG is a thing of the past.

If you were in a big meeting where big decisions were being made about big political races and you have been meaning to contact the Politics Report about it you should email scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org.