/Politics Report: No Longer a Theory

Politics Report: No Longer a Theory

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Assemblyman Todd gloria and Councilman Scott Sherman hold a press conference in support of Measure C in March 2020. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Few laws have constrained San Diego and shaped its future more than the statewide requirement that, to raise taxes for special purposes, local governments must secure two-thirds of the vote of the people.

It’s the reason so many tax increases locally have failed, even though they often got large majorities to support them. There were tax increases on the ballot to improve transit and local highways, to protect the region from fires, to raise hotel taxes to pay for tourism marketing and arts and police and fire.

They all got solid majorities, and they all failed.

And if I were asked to explain why the Chargers left San Diego in one sentence I would say it’s because, unlike so many other places where they build stadiums, here tax increases require a two-thirds vote and that was just never going to happen. Like most other middling NFL towns, San Diego could have raised a small tax on hotel rooms or rental cars or even sales to build a stadium here. But they could never get two-thirds.

Five years ago, almost exactly, an appellate court offered an opinion in the now legendary Upland case. Attorney Cory Briggs and others, like lawyers for the Chargers football team, quickly understood it to have vast consequences on local public policy.

The court had ruled that the part of the California Constitution that includes the requirement of a two-thirds vote of the people to raise special taxes did not apply to citizens’ initiatives. In other words, if that logic was sound, and the government wants to raise taxes it needs two-thirds of the vote. But a citizens’ initiative could pass with just a simple majority.

I wrote about the implications of that very credulously and a lot of people were very much on the “cool your jets, pal. That’s a cute theory, but it won’t fly” side of the discussion.

But then it flew. It kept flying. Voters in San Francisco and Fresno both passed tax increases for special purposes and didn’t get two-thirds. They were citizens’ initiatives, though. The courts ruled voters approved them, and the Supreme Court let it be. (Friday, I wrote about how differently they described their ballot measures from how our city described Measure C.)

Why it matters: The city has now taken, or accepted, the official position that citizens’ initiatives cannot be required to get two-thirds of the vote to pass. Measures to pay for a bevy of infrastructure projects or affordable housing or Balboa Park or a new sports arena could come forward.

The theory this could happen has always been very difficult to explain to people. But now, it’s no longer a theory.

Immunologist Thinks Newsom and Fletcher’s Plans Are Misguided

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

I wrote this week about how, ready or now, the reopening has begun. Schools open in many neighborhoods Monday. We’re in the orange tier, which means movie theaters and restaurants with bars can have 50 percent capacity indoors. The Padres have fans. The governor announced that he would open everything, “business as usual,” on June 15 assuming hospitalizations stay steady.

We got into the orange tier and were able to open more, even though there was actually an increase in the rate of spread of COVID-19. We went up to 5.8 cases per 100,000.

The reason we still got to open up more was because the governor and state health department decided that we could handle higher case rates if the vaccine was truly protecting the people most vulnerable to needing to go to the hospital to survive infection.

“Unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as low rate of vaccine take-up, a county will only move to a more restrictive tier if hospitalizations are increasing significantly among vulnerable individuals, especially among vaccinated individuals, and both test positivity and adjusted case rates show a concerning increase in transmission,” the governor said.

It’s a transfer to a focus on hospitalizations above all. But Kristian G. Anderson, an immunologist from Scripps Research Institute and leader of the Anderson Lab, said he “strongly disagrees” in a message on Twitter.

“The plan always should have been to drive community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 down close to zero. With variants, we can’t manage the pandemic at the level of hospitalizations,” he wrote.

Notes

If you want something to watch: The HBO documentary series “Q: Into the Storm” is a mesmerizing piece of journalism. It not only goes as far as you can hope to unmask the personalities behind the figure that mobilized a cultish political movement but it also is a comprehensive history of the development of the message boards 4Chan and 8Chan.

Their founders established themselves through online pornography and preached extreme free speech dogma and it is relevant beyond just that movement and the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The series has a segment on the terrorist who shot up the Poway synagogue and that person’s connection to 8Chan, including a cameo by Sheriff Bill Gore.

June Cutter on the 79th: We chatted briefly with the now fundraising professional and former Assembly candidate June Cutter. She had helped recruit Republican Marco Contreras to run for the 79th Assembly seat vacated by Shirley Weber. Weber’s daughter, Akilah Weber, who is a renowned OB-GYN, dominated the race, winning more than 50 percent of the vote and dispensing of the need for a runoff.

Contreras, a bilingual border businessman, got 37 percent of the vote,.

Cutter’s unfazed: She says it was a good experience and it made her more determined to find candidates who have backgrounds in the community and reflect the community. “We have a large Latino population and I’m proud we were able to put forth a candidate who crosses the border every day, who pulls from the immigrant experience.”

I asked her if Trump was still an issue: “It was still a shadow hanging over Republicans for us in this race,” she said.

Andrew Keatts is working on other important journalism apparently. But you can send ideas and feedback for the Politics Report to scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org and andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org.