Photo illustration by John R. Lamb
Will Mayor Kevin Faulconer heed the wooing of Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos?
Wolves have howled at the moon for centuries, yet it is still there.
Welcome to the 1,114th installment of “How Immobilized Is This Mayor?” In this episode, politically close friends of Kevin Faulconer make a play for his heart with love letters, flowers and a big box of chocolates.
OK, Spin Cycle just threw in the flowers and candy for effect, but the sentiment remains true: Everybody thinks it’s way past time for this mayor to get off the crapper and finally weigh in on The Monumental Measures of the Millienium that, if approved by voters in November, will cure San Diego of all its ills, finance a giant Zika-virus-fighting dome over the county and bring all residents together for a massive group hug.
OK, again, Measures C and D will do none of that, but Spin is guessing Mayor Faulconer would have zipped right out to the nearest mobile lectern to declare his wholehearted backing of such a plan.
Instead, Faulconer—as we go to press—remains on the outside looking in on the mosh-pit collisions among the his re-election campaign allies. His fondest organizational pal, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, has cut a TV commercial featuring Faulconer’s alleged mayoral mentor, Jerry Sanders, overusing the word “excited” to express support for Measure C, the Chargers hotel-tax-hike initiative to build an East Village “convadium.”
Meanwhile, a former Faulconer spokesperson and his campaign treasurer have mounted a spirited “No Downtown Stadium” campaign in opposition to Measure C, including most recently a letter signed by a Who’s Who of Faulconer Friendlies urging the mayor to join them.
While the letter hits on the usual arguments against—plan lacks specifics, financing is risky, this will screw up East Village’s tech-boom future, etc.—the paragraph that likely sent Faulconer under the couch cushions is the following: “Along with hurting San Diego, your support of Measure C would hurt you politically. Taxpayers across the country are growing increasingly resistant to raising taxes to pay for a stadium and polls have shown there’s strong opposition to Measure C. If you support this tax measure you would be handing future opponents on both sides of the political aisle a gift.”
Presumably, that gift would include campaign contributions from the 27 signatories—including heavyweights Irwin Jacobs of Qualcomm fame and hotelempire matriarch Anne Evans— heading to the coffers of someone other than Faulconer, not a pleasant notion for a man mentioned in some quarters as California’s rare Republican hopeful for future political ascension at the state or federal level.
Talk to typically smart political handicappers, and some predict that Faulconer eventually will side with his chamber pals and back Measure C. His campaign war chest, undoubtedly, would swell as a result, but what about his credibility—or even Jacobs’ vow to lead fundraising for a reprise of his makeover plan for Balboa Park?
Faulconer’s record on tax hikes in general is a GOP campaign strategist’s wet dream, save for a brief moment of haziness when he thought a hoteltax hike approved by hoteliers for an expanded San Diego Convention Center along the waterfront would be awesome—until a court ruling found the financing scheme illegal.
Ever since, Faulconer has been as “excited” about raising taxes as one would be about a root canal/ proctology exam combo.
When Spin asked one local political hound how Faulconer would explain this about face on tax hikes, a valid point was made. “What ‘about face’?” the observer noted. “He hasn’t taken a position.”
If Measure C and the competing Measure D—the Citizens’ Plan initiative that would also raise the hotel tax but, its proponents argue, protect taxpayers first— were polling in the high 60s, then Faulconer likely would be a most amenable frontman. That both, however, are reportedly registering support in the 20s and 30s is not an atmosphere in which Faulconer generally has performed well or willingly.
So, what if the mayor decides to side with the letter writers and oppose Measure C? As Councilmember Chris Cate discovered when he voiced his opposition, the Chargers campaign brain trust—power level set to “scorched earth”—will have no problem aiming its political guns at the mayor with the same emotionally driven rhetoric.
But instead of a social-media blitz, Spin can envision similar blasts during Chargers broadcasts, asking already-stoked fans, “Why does Kevin Faulconer want the Chargers to leave San Diego?” with the mayor’s office number emblazoned on the screen, encouraging the choir to “Call the mayor and ask him.”
Would that encourage the folks at the chamber to call? It’s anyone’s guess, but that would be one awkward conversation. Who knows what expletive Sanders would come up with for that occasion? Not pretty.
Faulconer, naturally, could dust off the fence-sitting costume that suits him so well and declare that these types of decisions are best made by the voters themselves, a classic political cop-out that at first seems the most logical until your opponents call it “spineless,” a poison pill for any aspiring pol.
KUSI reported last week that Faulconer plans to take a position on Measure C “in the coming weeks, well before the election.” A Faulconer nod, and we’ll get to see just how much political capital this re-elected mayor is willing to expend for an underdog cause. A mayoral thumbs down, and a war between former allies awaits.
Sanders had his tearful marriage-equality epiphany. Perhaps Faulconer will approach the lectern—no doubt positioned perfectly at a location pinpointed by campaign gurus—in the same manner, surrounded by loved ones (of the campaign kind). With his trademark grin, he will either boldly go or meekly stay. The Faulconer legacy will come into greater focus.
It’s understandable that a mayor with a public relations background might have fretted this day, when words spoken from prepared scripts now must be direct, backed by genuine commitment and leadership. There will be political blood spilled.
But here we are. The eyes of residents, voters, and fans are on you, mayor. Step up to the mic.