Trying to be everything to everyone is a pretty common approach to politics.

Just look how far it’s gotten Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

But often when you make pleasing everyone your goal, you end up just saying nothing at all – and pleasing no one.

That was certainly the case with a statement released this week by Councilwoman Barbara Bry in response to the mass shooting in her district. You can see Bry trying to bend backward in both directions – hoping not to offend the victims, who are upset over the police quickly dismissing race as a motive in the shooting, and the police department, an agency with which Bry works on the Council.

The fact that almost all of the victims are people of color cannot be ignored. The survivors of this attack have spoken out and believe that people of color were targeted by the shooter.

The SDPD is conducting a thorough investigation, and I applaud their diligence in handling this case. I am hopeful that the investigation will shed light on the motives behind this devastating attack.

Reading that is kind of like eating a cotton ball. You know your eyes just processed words, and yet they carry no meaning. The victims’ belief they were targeted must not be ignored. But also … the police are working thoroughly and diligently. Faulconer, the master of saying nothing and offending no one, would be proud.

Contrast that with a statement released by Councilman David Alvarez this week dealing with the mayor’s proposed budget and the San Diego Police Department’s officer retention problem. He takes direct aim at Chief Shelley Zimmerman’s insistence that the problem is out of her control – it’s the national media’s fault! – and says the city needs to use data to get to work crafting a solution.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

I am worried that we have begun treating this problem as something natural, as something that we are powerless to solve. From my perspective, that approach is a dereliction of duty. The leadership of the City and SDPD must confront this problem head on, crunch the data to find out how we can solve it, and then solve it. We need solutions, not excuses. At minimum, we owe it to our police officers and our residents to develop a plan of action to increase police retention and recruitment.

Bry and Alvarez were of course speaking about different things. The shooting that was the impetus for Bry’s statement is a much more tragic and sensitive issue than what is ultimately a budget dispute. Still, whether you agree with the substance of Alvarez’s statement or not, this town sure could use more statements that carry real meaning and politicians who are willing to take on powerful entities.

What VOSD Learned This Week

I talked with DA hopeful Summer Stephan about a host of criminal justice issues, including rape kits, that explosive guilt-by-association gang prosecution and police body cameras. She signaled a willingness to do things differently than District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis but never outright said any of Dumanis’ decisions were wrong.

Scott Lewis and Andy Keatts grilled Stephan about the peculiar politics of it all. Many critics have emerged this week saying the interim DA should pledge not to run in 2018. Stephan said those concerns are a red herring.


The peso has been on the decline since 2014 but recently its plunges can be traced to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and proposals. Business leaders in San Diego worry the region’s manufacturing and tourism industries may feel the impact.

It’s not just San Diego’s economy that’s tethered to Mexico. Leaders in Sacramento this week got an earful about how the state could be harmed if Trump blows up NAFTA.


When San Diego Unified created a whole webpage just to push back against Mario Koran’s stellar graduation rate reporting, it included a pretty rich claim: That Mario’s reporting on students leaving for charter schools didn’t have enough data. The district neglected to mention that was because they literally refused to provide us with data.

Until now. New numbers provided under several public records request offer the clearest view yet of how many students are leaving the district for charter schools. Many of them are leaving from some of the district’s poorest schools.


The state’s major power monopolies, including SDG&E, have a new plan that, if OK’d, would let them keep charging people for power for decades even if those people leave for government-run utilities, called CCAs.

No other political decision on the city’s horizon would more dramatically alter public affairs than whether the city should start a CCA.


The new homeless census numbers showed homelessness in Chula Vista was down, even though it was up around the county. Great news, right? Not necessarily. Lisa Halverstadt notes that the drop was likely because of a new measure banning large vehicles from parking on the street. Advocates think the homeless are simply being pushed elsewhere.

What I’m Reading

• A company with incredibly dangerous working conditions routinely hired immigrants. Then, when those workers got injured or try to secure workplace protections, the company used U.S. immigration laws against them. (ProPublica)

• A sports reporter surveys the scene as her industry crumbles around her. (Medium)

• A wild tale of an FBI translator who went way off script and married an ISIS pitchman. (CNN)

• This story and its haunting images will linger in your head. Venezuela is starving. (Wall Street Journal)

• A lot of media coverage is focused on President Donald Trump’s failures. But he’s quietly succeeded in one big way: terrorizing immigrant communities. (Vox)

• This is a fascinating and well-written column by Amanda Knox on the role of loyalty in politics. (Los Angeles Times)

Line of the Week

“What are they doing? They can go inside and yet they do not. It’s very insane.” – From a hilarious indictment of people who love camping.

    This article relates to: News, What We Learned This Week

    Written by Sara Libby

    Sara Libby is VOSD’s managing editor. She oversees VOSD’s newsroom and its content. You can reach her at or 619.325.0526.

    Bob Nelson
    Bob Nelson subscribermember

    I'm taken aback by Sara Libby's criticism of Councilmember Barbara Bry for Bry's response to the tragic mass shooting in her district. I urge this valued journalist and editor to give the statement a second look as I had precisely the opposite reaction. 

    The rightfully admired Ms.Libby writes that reading Bry is "like eating a cotton ball. You know your eyes just processed words, and yet they carry no meaning." 

    When I read Bry's comments I saw intelligence, empathy for the victims and others in their community who often feel isolated and attacked, and Bry's appropriately measured support for fact-gathering and analysis before we make final judgements about what caused the shooting and what that may imply for all of us. 

    Consider a contrary take on Bry's statement from the perspective of British writer Ian Leslie's 2013 writing in Slate on the disclosure of the NSA's massive accumulation of data on American citizens: "Ambivalence is not the same as indifference, with which it is often confused. Someone in an ambivalent state of mind is experiencing an excess of opinion, not an absence of it...  F. Scott Fitzgerald believed that a capacity for ambivalence indicated intellectual ability: 'The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.' Freud saw emotional ambivalence as an intrinsic part of the human condition."

    There is a big difference between Bry's intelligent ambivalence and the overly masticated bafflegab that emanates from some politicians, truly mealy-mouthed "cotton balls" (if I may mix my botanical metaphors.)

    I have protested various U.S warlike initiatives since I was 14; I also support a muscular military, capable of defending Americans at home and abroad. Must I choose between these opinions, or can they both be valuable? Similarly, I believe nuclear energy may be the least polluting, most efficient way to meet the world's growing power needs. At the same time, the possibility of a nuclear accident scares the bejesus out of me and nuke waste disposal is problematic. Is it intelligence or dissemblance to believe both simultaneously?

    As Editor of Voice of San Diego, Sara Libby must read dozens of doughy press releases and politician statements daily, so I understand where she is coming from. Still, I hope she can simultaneously process a genuinely thoughtful -- and perhaps intelligently ambivalent -- comment from someone rare like Ms. Bry. :)