Nov. 13 2013 09:39 AM

Round 1 will be over soon

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John R. Lamb

"All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why."

—James Thurber

When next we meet on the pages of this fine publication in a town fast losing its independent journalistic voices to the shopaholic black hole that is Doug Manchester & Co., San Diego voters will know who's made it into Round 2 of the mayor's race, otherwise known as the Bob Filner Replace-a-thon.

If it's Republican / shipyard darling Kevin Faulconer vs. friend-to-all-mirrors Nathan Fletcher, prepare for a cockfight between two eight-legged roosters. If it's Faulconer vs. City Councilmember David Alvarez—aka "Who You Callin' Baby Face?"—anticipate cordial public encounters but a wicked, sharp-knifed brawl behind the curtain for San Diego's political destiny.

If it's anybody against former City Attorney Mike Aguirre, hell hath indeed frozen over, so plan for a long winter's night of riffs, yucks and homework assignments.

Don't get Spin wrong. Aguirre is good copy for columnists who like a nimble turn of phrase—his evisceration of the Pete Wilson-bestowed "America's Finest City" slogan at a forum Monday was pure blissful theater. But the dude's barely polling a pulse, and his campaign of go-read-this-go-watch-this-video-check-out-my-2005-interim-reports hints at a once-powerful elected official simply seeking renewed relevance.

So, seeing that this is the last Spin before the Nov. 19 special election, it seems like an appropriate time to get a few things off the proverbial chest about this abbreviated race.

First, for those now numbed into unconsciousness by the seeming continuous loop that election season has become, just try to tell Spin that this shortened version hasn't given voters all the information they need to make an informed decision come Election Day. Why should these contests drone on for months and years? Who loses out except those professional electioneers whose bread is buttered by such time-wasting endeavors?

To hell with you campaign consultants and pollsters and even those of us in the media bubble. Give voters a four-month sprint anytime, and Spin is almost certain that all the news that's relevant about a candidate—if they live by their repeated claims of openness—will come to light.

Speaking of this openness kick, candidates should have an adequate handle on their own pasts to qualify for making claims of transparency.

As Aguirre noted in a recent forum, he didn't think it was a big deal when Fletcher first flinched when asked to produce his school transcripts from California Baptist University. While the other three top candidates released theirs amid some giggles about classes taken and, in some cases, failed, Fletcher stood firm in his recalcitrance, suggesting that the next request would be for his dental records.

Spin has seen Fletcher's teeth in person—they seem remarkably healthy, free of any embarrassing revelations. But Aguirre noted that on the ballot, Fletcher, the former state Assembly member, chose to list "educator / businessman" as his occupation. Does that not open the door, Aguirre wondered in retrospect, to the public's right to see Fletcher's educational underpinnings, warts and all?

Camp Kevin's constant drumbeat on Fletcher's refusal to release his transcripts is clearly a political maneuver—no one believes Faulconer wants to compare academic chops from years ago with his most heated rival. But it does speak to one's own comfort level in one's own skin, and, in this case, it gives the appearance that Fletcher is thin-skinned, not a confidence-building trait for the leader of the eighth largest city in the nation.

Faulconer, meanwhile, seems to have trouble with memory, particularly when it involves his public-relations work prior to joining the San Diego City Council in 2006. Yes, he has spent the last seven years tending to a whole new constituency, but it's troubling that details of his previous job efforts seem so elusive.

Thanks to the marvelous document hunters in the City Clerk's office, Spin this week unearthed an old résumé from 2000, when Faulconer applied and was appointed to the city's influential Park & Recreation Board.

In recent weeks, the Faulconer campaign has defended a PR client list it's released as "complete with major clients he recalls," as U-T San Diego's dogged former Filner chaser, Trent Seibert, reported Friday. That list mentions five clients and a project: Sharp HealthCare, Associated Students of San Diego State University, the Convention Center expansion (no client mentioned but believed to be a consortium of business interests led by the local Chamber of Commerce), Francis W. Parker School, SeaWorld and the Port of San Diego.

But the 2000 document submitted by Faulconer also mentions PR work to "develop and implement communications strategies" for a company known then as Nextlink, a broadband-network company that has since been absorbed by Virginia-based XO Communications.

The résumé also notes that while working at Nelson Communications Group (eventually sold to national firm Porter Novelli), Faulconer provided "strategic oversight and management for firm ballot measure campaigns." The document doesn't specify which campaigns.

Spin provided a copy of the 2000 résumé to the Faulconer campaign for comment Tuesday but did not receive a response by press time.

Faulconer insists on the campaign trail that transparency will be a cornerstone of his administration, but having a faulty memory of his previous clients and the work he performed for them raises concerns.

When his campaign originally released his client list, it noted that "any additional documentation would belong to and be in the possession of Porter Novelli and/ or the clients. Kevin would encourage the company to release any client-related information upon request."

The release included a local phone number for Porter Novelli. When Spin called, a return call came the following day—from corporate headquarters in New York. A spokesperson said she could only confirm that Faulconer had once been an employee but declined to provide any other details.

Faulconer said it best to KUSI: "If you can't pass some of these very simple tests, how are voters going to trust you to do the right thing?" 

Got a tip? Send it to johnl@sdcitybeat.com or follow John R. Lamb on Twitter @johnrlamb.

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