Jan. 13 2016 01:03 PM

“Not my fault” won’t suffice in annual address to the city

Booze-gifter Mayor Faulconer eyes Dean Spanos for big speech. Will he mention new pal Marco Rubio, too?
Photo by John R. Lamb

Democracy is only a dream. It should be put in the same category as Arcadia, Santa Claus and Heaven.

—H.L. Mencken

Some members of the media received complimentary bottles of local craft beer from Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office last week. On the bottle, as displayed on social media, the mayor’s PR minions had affixed a sticker with drinking-game instructions for Faulconer’s sophomore State of the City address this Thursday.

Take a swig, the sticker suggested, if the mayor utters the words “building,” “better,” “opportunity,” “neighborhoods,” “people” or ‘The Force.” Chug, it added, while Faulconer speaks Spanish. Finish off the bottle, it concluded, if “CityTV cuts to an audience reaction shot in the middle of the speech.”

Spin Cycle isn’t sure what these chosen media folks will do for alcohol after the first five minutes, but they better plan now (these gifts are going down fast!). And if the mayor’s introductory video— now, unfortunately, a SOTC tradition—is a Star Wars riff, well then Spin pities all cocktail napkins within a two-block radius of the Balboa Theatre.

The question is whether the rest of San Diego will catch a buzz from Faulconer’s second swing at The Big Mayoral Speech after last year’s less-than-inspirational bunt of an address?

You might remember that inaugural effort, described in varying shades of vanilla and noted for what wasn’t said. Even the motherly-to-Republicans Union-Tribune editorialists described the speech as “strong” but simultaneously bereft of critical details.

Faulconer “said little to answer the many questions surrounding two of the most high-profile issues of the day—a new stadium for the Chargers and expansion of the waterfront Convention Center,” the U-T opined last January.

On the stadium, the mayor pricked the pre-speech anticipation balloon by invoking the taskforce approach rather than facet-o-face team negotiations—failing even to “outline his preferences or even hint at a preferred financing plan,” the editorial lamented, adding the mayor provided “even less of substance about the convention center expansion.”

A year later, and San Diego has witnessed no noticeable movement on the convention center but significant movement to the north with those hapless Chargers, whose half-century-plus existence here rests in the hands of a bunch of billionaires meeting in Houston. Social media seems certain the team is outta here, as the vitriol toward the team front office reaches dengue-fever pitch.

Much of last week’s angst on the Chargers front focused on stadium proposals past—the “Hateful Nine,” as it were—that date back more than 14 years. In a summary it released of its relocation application to the NFL, the team argued it had “done everything any reasonable team could ever do to find a permanent stadium solution in San Diego.”

In a video posted on the Chargers website, team owner Dean Spanos fingered City Hall for the blame, specifically “the inability of the city at the political level to get any kind of public funding or any kind of vote to help subsidize a stadium.”

Mayor Faulconer, just days before his Big Speech in a reelection year, was in no mood to accept the role of villain. His office fired back, “Dean Spanos can’t rewrite history as he tries to walk out the door. As has been widely reported, the Chargers have never produced a viable stadium plan, let alone nine. The only real plan produced in the last 14 years is the one proposed by the city, and the Chargers refused to negotiate on it.”

Viability is certainly in the eye of the beholder, and a blank-filled proposal as proffered by the city might seem less than viable. But rest assured Faulconer will lay this epic failure squarely on the toes of Spanos.

Some political observers once believed such a visible loss would leave Faulconer doomed to lose re-election. But with no opposition yet coming from the Democratic Party, such conventional wisdom now seems moot.

One caveat, however. “The loss of the Chargers, though, will dog him in any run for higher office,” local political sage Carl Luna predicted. “George W. [Bush] launched his gubernatorial campaign on having gotten the [Texas] Rangers a new stadium. That put him in the White House.”

Which leads us to a topic not likely to be mentioned during the mayor’s Big Speech—his recent decision to jump on the Marco Rubio presidential bandwagon. Faulconer will no doubt tout the recent passage of a toughly worded Climate Action Plan for the city. But Rubio’s reported doubts about human responsibility for climate change, coupled with the subsequent endorsement from chief climate-change-denier, Sen. Jim “Snowball” Inhofe of Oklahoma, might cause some political heartburn.

“He has the vision and the record to lead and strengthen the American Dream for everyone,” Faulconer was quoted as saying in a Rubio release announcing the Florida senator’s California campaign leadership team. “I look forward to helping Marco Rubio win California and unite our country as we enter a New American Century.”

Whatever political weight Faulconer carries beyond city borders is open to speculation, but that didn’t stop the political underworld to quiver: Maybe Faulconer realizes his chances of success in a 2018 race for governor are slim and now has hooked into the coattails of a rising presidential candidate with an eye toward a vice-presidential nod?

“Faulconer has no major starmaking victories to date to launch a statewide bid from,” Luna said. “No Californian is on the GOP short list for VP, as California is lost for a generation to the GOP nationally. There’s no geographic, demographic or other advantage to a VP Faulconer.”

His tapping of Rubio could also backfire, should say a Ted Cruz or—gasp!—Donald Trump sew up the nomination before the June primary, causing conservative/Tea Party Republicans to stay home in protest of his supporting the more middling Rubio.

But with no serious competition, Faulconer can dominate the narrative. Thursday’s speech will tell us how convincingly. Drink up!


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