“I would rather the man who presents something for my consideration subject me to a zephyr of truth and a gentle breeze of responsibility rather than blow me down with a curtain of hot wind.”—Grover ClevelandIt's the hot, dry weeks of October just before a mucho-major election, perhaps the most important time to vote ever in your entire life. (Really, no kidding. Vote and prod your neighbors to vote. Get 'em away from their big screens just long enough to do their duty. Do it. Do it!)
To quote Bill Shakespeare, “Words are easy, like the wind. Faithful friends are hard to find.” And, arguably, there's no place like San Diego where words that old still ring so true.
It will surprise few that relationships drive this city's agenda. And ever since the most treacherous financial tsunami of our lifetime began shredding our self-image as a country and what we stand for (socialism for fat cats?), it seems to have given the Powerful Yet Uncomfortable in our midst the impetus to work behind the scenes to lock in that agenda.Mayor Jerry Sanders gives a State of the City address, only it's three months early and—save for coverage on little-viewed CityTV Channel 24—is essentially a pay-per-view exercise, before a friendly crowd, that surreally co-mingled dire warnings of bloody financial belt-tightening with fervid boosterism for such big-ticket city projects as expansion of the convention center, a new City Hall and, heck, even “leading” the Chargers to New Stadium Heaven, wherever that may be.
You might call it his Dream Big But Carry a Small Wallet speech. With a projected $43 million mid-year—mid-year!—budget deficit looming, Sanders presaged deep public-service cuts to come, just not saying from where or by how much. That, he said, was for another time.
Sometimes this mayor can be such a tease!
Meanwhile, City Council President Scott Peters issues a statement that oozed Churchillian stoicism.
“Looking ahead,” he intoned, “we are all going to be called to do what we can. It's not going to be easy, and we're not going to like the cuts that will be necessary. However, we will make sacrifices as we need to, and will include our own offices and our own budgets while we explore the options.”
Such chivalry! Such self-inclusion! Such—oh wait, doesn't Peters leave office in about six weeks? Guess we'll see how much of it gets done between now and December, when four new council members will be forced to hit the ground cutting.
Which brings us back to the mayor. Despite all the gloom and doom, Sanders did devote a good chunk of his speech to talking up a whoppin' laundry list of To Do's in his second term. Spin Cycle almost senses that the mayor has grown tired of his self-anointed “Caretaker” label and now wants to dabble in a little legacy building under the “Risk Taker” brand.
Right now, that ticket to Legacyville seems to be riding on the expansion of the bayfront San Diego Convention Center, the mayor's own self-pronounced Layer of the Golden Eggs.
Why does this project appear front-burnered? Judging by the backroom chatter, there's extra-special attention being paid to two terms set to expire in January on the seven-member, five-city Board of Port Commissioners. The seats are now occupied by Laurie Black and Sylvia Rios.
Rios this month submitted a letter to the mayor asking that she not be reappointed. A commissioner for six years, Rios is considered a close ally to incoming Port Commission Chairman Steve Cushman, who is serving an unusual third term as commissioner and was described by City Councilmember-elect Carl DeMaio two weeks ago in Spin Cycle as having “iron-fisted control of the port.”
The fun part is that it will be the City Council—and not the mayor—who will decide who gets the two port seats, which come with four-year terms but no salary.
Port spokesperson Irene McCormack said Rios planned to devote more time to her mortgage-brokerage business, and certainly these are challenging times for that line of work.
But what will be interesting to watch is whether Cushman will gain allies or nemeses in the two approaching appointments. It's interesting to note that when the Port Commission recently voted Cushman as chairman, one commissioner—Black—asked if they could vote separately on that position rather than the usual all-or-nothing slate of candidates for chairman, vice chairman and secretary. Her request was denied. Cushman once again holds the reins.
Cushman was also likely quite pleased recently when Sanders appointed Cushman's longtime friend Nikki Clay to the San Diego Convention Center Corp. Board of Directors.
Sanders spokesman Darren Pudgil said the mayor had no concerns “at all” that Clay is a partner in a San Diego lobbying firm, Carpi & Clay, that for decades has been paid by the port to lobby on its behalf in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
The port's current contracts with Carpi & Clay total more than $242,000.
The port's McCormack was quick to note that Clay herself does not lobby for the port. It is true that her husband, Ben Clay, is the firm's visible face at many port meetings. But still, she is a partner.
City Attorney Mike Aguirre told Spin Cycle that Clay will be on rocky footing if she even participates in meetings that could lead to contracts between the convention center board and its landlord, the port—a presumable certainty in any planned expansion of the convention center.
“If there's any port business—in other words, any kind of contract that the port could make money from that the convention center [board] would have to consider—then she would have to resign,” Aguirre said. Her other option, he noted, would be to cancel the port contracts.
Aguirre has issued similar legal opinions on suspicious dealings at SEDC and CCDC. He points to State Government Code 1090, which mandates that public officials “not be financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity, or by any body or board of which they are members.”
Spin Cycle has tried for weeks to get in touch with Clay, but so far, no response.
Maybe when the hot winds die down. Got a tip? Blow it this way: firstname.lastname@example.org.