Nov. 23 2016 01:34 PM

Flashback to 2014 Lightner pick

    Is Mayor Faulconer hosting the game show “Who Wants to be Council President Other Than David Alvarez—You, Myrtle Cole?”
    Photo illustration John R. Lamb

    See what the boys in the backroom will have/And tell them I’m having the same.

    —Frank Loesser

    Ah Thanksgiving, when we stuff our bellies and then get right on to our holiday shopping!

    Christmas-tree lots began springing up in Spin’s neighborhood last week. Just another calling card to remind us that consumerism rules, because giving thanks is for fools. So in the spirit of the season, let’s just skip over the rest of November and get right to December.

    At City Hall, December is inauguration month, when all the bright newly elected faces converge with the grizzled re-electeds to make bold, inspiring oratory with a stocking full of promises that very few believe will be fulfilled. (Side note: Spin will be listening for the first local elected to invoke Trump.)

    After the swearing-in and subsequent grip-and-grin mingling on Dec. 12, the shiny new model of the San Diego City Council— three new Democrats maintaining a 5-4 council majority—will gather in chambers to appoint their leader, otherwise known as council president.

    Two years ago, termed-out Councilmember Sherri Lightner, a Democrat, shook the rafters by hitching her presidency pick to the council’s four Republican members in what was seen as an effort to cool the political jets of then-Council President Todd Gloria by newly minted Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

    Removing that platform under Gloria essentially neutralized Gloria as a 2016 mayoral threat, but the move left a bad taste, particularly Lightner’s abject silence on the matter leading up to her coronation.

    “It must have been embarrassing for her,” a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial observed later, “to sit through Wednesday’s hearing, at which no one from the public favored her for the president’s job and speaker after speaker heaped praise on Gloria for his fairness, his sense of ethics and his performance as interim mayor following the resignation of Bob Filner.

    “She will now have to win those people over, as well as her fellow Democrats on the council who all initially supported Gloria.”

    Spin will leave it up to historians to determine how successful Lightner was in her two years as council president. In private, Democrats likely ponder what could have been had they had a more aggressive agenda and pushed back against Faulconer’s chamber-fed pablum.

    So, lesson learned, right? Well, maybe not. While none of the alleged active participants answered Spin’s Thanksgiving wish of a simple call back, there is significant chatter that the mayor is attempting the very same ploy— let’s call it the Sherri Method—to keep Councilmember David Alvarez from assuming the presidency.

    As described in the chatter, this is basically The Battle of Personal Grudges. Alvarez, you may recall, ran against Faulconer for mayor in 2014. In the world of thin-skinned politics, this type of challenge is apparently akin to an under-the-sheets bloody horse head.

    To add to the drama, the mayor has apparently joined forces with local Labor Council honcho Mickey Kasparian in an effort to convince Councilmember Myrtle Cole to take Republican backing à la the Sherri Method and thus ascending to the leadership post.

    Rumors ping-pong through City Hall that Alvarez, in a counterpunch move, has tried to peel away one Republican, Councilmember Scott Sherman, with an offer of the council president pro tem position, a largely symbolic and meaningless post but one that looks nice on a résumé.

    This has apparently caused some amount of grumbling from the mayor’s circle—Imagine a Dem appointing a Republican to pro tem!—which, if true, would seem peculiar considering that Faulconer, while a councilmember, served as pro tem under two Democratic council presidents, Ben Hueso and Tony Young.

    And the ironies don’t stop there. Alvarez was an early supporter of Cole’s council candidacy in 2013 when Young resigned to head up the local Red Cross, while Faulconer was busy backing challenger Dwayne Crenshaw.

    Democratic insiders believe Kasparian’s involvement is a result of his painful defeats in the party Central Committee races in June, when Kasparian and Alvarez fielded separate slates in what Voice of San Diego described as “a surprising battle for influence over the local Democratic Party.”

    “He ran a slate and got slaughtered in all of them,” one party observer told Spin privately. “He just hasn’t let that go. It’s fascinating to me that the head of the Labor Council is making it his number-one priority to divide the Democrats on the City Council.”

    As mentioned previously, these are sensitive times, and with sensitive times usually comes an eerie silence. Spin did catch wind of a meeting between Cole and Alvarez just before the Nov. 8 election at which Alvarez asked Cole about the council-presidency rumors.

    One interpretation of Cole’s reply concluded that Kasparian asked her to run, although she didn’t want to. Spin has been told that since this happened Cole has not returned calls to Alvarez.

    The council president wields significant influence as the setter of the council’s legislative agenda, the decider on what topics get discussed and the assigner of councilmembers to powerful committees.

    This would seem an odd time to think Mayor Faulconer’s coattails are much to grab on to, considering the bath he took on Election Day in the races for City Council, city attorney and particularly on Measure C, the Charger stadium ballot measure that took a hard nose dive at the ballot box….

    We interrupt Spin’s regularly scheduled speculation to report a player has indeed responded. Huzzah!

    “Thanks for inquiring,” Jimmie Slack, Cole’s chief of staff, said in an email just as Spin approached deadline. “I do not have much to say beyond the fact that the Council President is selected by the councilmembers themselves. If the councilmember’s fellow councilmembers request she serve as their Council President, or do not request her to serve, she is OK with it.”

    So there you have it, folks.

    Sounds like the Sherri Method will get another tryout next month. So, be careful how much you eat this Thanksgiving, council newbies—indigestion may be right around the corner.


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