Photo illustration by John R. Lamb
After his contortions in 2016, what’s Mayor Kevin Faulconer planning for 2017?
Those who cannot work with their hearts achieve but a hollow, half-hearted success that breeds bitterness all around.
For all the words uttered in 2016 by San Diego's illustrious, self-centric, tippy-toeing political posse, there sure was little tangible action that was visible without the assistance of an electron microscope.
We, San Diego, can sure pick talkers when it comes to our civic authority figures.
Our very own Talker in Chief, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, kicked off 2016 with an eye-rolling, seizure-inducing State of the City address last January in which he not only promised a ballot measure for June that would check off that pesky Chargers stadium conundrum once and for all, but assured San Diegans that he'd tackle the convention center expansion impasse as well.
Whiff and major whiff.
Meanwhile, growing housing unaffordability dovetailed conveniently with a rising homeless population. And this year, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law noted in a report that while overall crime rates were dropping in San Diego, the murder rate here is up for the year.
Sidewalks in many parts of the city look as shitty as ever, if not worse. Construction cranes pierce the sky in some communities such as downtown and Bankers Hill, but it all feels like one big greed fest with little consideration how this growth will weave compatibly into the current landscape.
Again, there's a whole lotta talk emanating from our leaders—mostly with an "I've got this" kind of vibe that somehow never truly sounds authentic or believable. But hey, we San Diegans are a busy group with busy lives and busy yoga schedules! We don't have time to muddle through what our leaders say they're going to do and what they actually do!
Well, don't worry. Our leaders know this about us—that we're easily distracted by, well, practically anything. That we don't stay focused too long on a particular issue. That...ooooh, look at that sunset! #magnificent.
Wait, where were we? Oh yes, our over-promising, under-performing civic leaders. It should be noted that there were some positive signs in the pushback department as the year dwindled down. Voters in November gave a rousing raspberry to Measure C, the Chargers' ballot initiative that would have raised the city's hotel tax and sucked all of those millions into a downtown complex that apparently would have been great for boat shows when not featuring our last-place NFL franchise.
Duncan Hunter Jr. was exposed as a ranting, idea-void, vape-crazy Trump humper who thinks he can take down the media for reporting on his personal campaign-moolah spending sprees.
The county Board of Supervisors were called out by even the mainstream media (the same media that had endorsed these yahoos) for extreme pig-troughing by awarding themselves hefty salary increases that will also help pad their undeserved pensions. Chairman Ron Roberts, who terms out in 2018, called the $19,000 bump "fair and justified."
Roberts also serves as chairman of the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG as it is more commonly known. Some even call it SANDRAG for its molasses-like movement in resolving the region's transportation issues. This group of snails recently admitted that its calculations for sales tax receipts to pay for various improvements was, in a word, rosy. Small wonder its Measure A didn't pass the voter smell test in November.
Fortunately, Mayor Faulconer made a rare appearance at a SANDAG meeting—despite being a board member—to rail against Measure A, but as far as what proposal he would prefer, we'll add that to the ever-growing mayoral file titled, "Who The Hell Knows?" As Sara Libby adroitly noted last week for Voice of San Diego, "...time after time, Faulconer has tried to reap the benefits of taking a side on an issue while avoiding questions about his decision."
We know he's all in with the concrete-heavy makeover of Balboa Park, which presumably has put him back in good stead with the billionaires in town (looking at you, Irwin Jacobs!). Last week, the Save Our Heritage Organization filed suit to stop the project from moving forward, claiming city approval of the project last month violated the California Environmental Quality Act.
That should be a fun one to watch in 2017 with newly installed City Attorney Mara Elliot.
The good news is Mayor Faulconer has another opportunity to distract San Diego with glowing words in just a few short weeks, when he's scheduled to deliver his third State of the City speech.
Oh, he'll make it sound like San Diego is just humming along, brimming with biotech braggadocio, flying toward future fame and fortune, poised on the precipice of potential, on the way to his One (1) San Diego goals, yadda, yadda, yadda.
All well and good, but nothing less should be expected of a politician with ambition, particularly in a state like California where Republicans should appear on milk cartons to enhance their notoriety.
He set the plate in 2016—negotiating generous contracts with city employees who coincidentally endorsed him for re-election, honing his photo-op tree-planting skills one week while quietly releasing a much-anticipated study on racial profiling by police the next, and admitting to looming budget cuts as pension payouts swell. He even underestimated those, according to the city's independent budget analyst.
Perhaps 2017 will be the year that politicians treat us like adults. That we're OK with bad news as long as you have a game plan that is logical and understandable. Certainly that's unlikely to come from Washington, D.C., where a certain golden-haired orange guy will keep everyone guessing on just how nutzoid he is.
Nope, this is a time for local solutions to local problems. For hearts being in the right places, heads removed from dark confines, eyes lasered in on results. This will take true leadership. And if this mayor isn't up to the task—particularly in the economic realm for San Diegans who truly need help—it is incumbent on the new leaders of this city to forge new paths.
Frankly, it'll stink for everyone if we just repeat 2016. Good riddance, waning year of yakking.