Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced a series of budget cuts Friday aimed at the districts represented by Council members who earlier this week stymied his wishes to hold a special election in November.

It’s the type of rough-and-tumble – or vindictive – move we rarely see in San Diego politics.

Let’s recap.

On Monday, the City Council passed a budget without funding for a special election. Faulconer wanted voters to approve two measures this November, one to increase hotel taxes to expand the San Diego Convention Center, fund some homelessness programs and repair streets, the other to greenlight the SoccerCity redevelopment plan for Qualcomm Stadium.

Faulconer quickly announced he would veto specific pieces of the Council’s budget, and restore funding for a special election. Few in City Hall realized he had the authority to do so. It appears he has the votes to survive a Council attempt to override his changes.

Late Friday, Faulconer announced what he was cutting from the city’s budget to restore the $5 million for a special election.


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

He cut more than $300,000 in funding for District 1 (the La Jolla, Carmel Valley area), and more than $350,000 from District 3 (the downtown, Uptown, North Park area) as part of the cuts. The representatives for those areas, Councilwoman Barbary Bry and Councilman Chris Ward, respectively, oppose holding a special election. Faulconer also cut $66,000 for a staffer dedicated to a special committee on homelessness; Ward is the committee’s chairman.

He also cut $413,000 for a new roof for the Bay Bridge Community Center in Barrio Logan. The councilman for that area, David Alvarez, also opposes a special election.

He eliminated funding toward a community choice energy program, a Democratic priority intended to get the city to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. Funding for it was specifically proposed by Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, the representative for District 9 who also opposes holding a special election.

Faulconer’s cuts sent a clear message.

But it’s still not at all clear that he’ll prevail in holding his special election, which is up for a vote on Monday. Here are a few things to watch as that unfolds.

The mayor found the money to hold a special election, but he still needs five Council members to vote to schedule it. Based on the public statements the Council made last week, he appears to have just four votes.

Faulconer needs to flip one of the five Democrats who oppose the idea. Council President Myrtle Cole, notably, was spared of any budget cuts targeted at her district, unlike the other four Democratic Council members. Cole tweeted late Friday that she would stand with her colleagues whose budgets were cut. “When they go low, I will go high,” she wrote. Still, Cole did not seem to say definitively Friday that she would oppose the special election, although she said earlier in the week that she would “not change” her vote.

This all means that the mayor may have wielded an authority no one knew he had, in order to slash the budgets of his political opponents in a way few in San Diego have ever seen and end up with nothing at all to show for it in the end.

The City Council will vote on two items Monday. One would call a special election for Nov. 7. The other would place the mayor’s hotel tax and convention center expansion measure on the ballot of that special election.

By rule, the Council will first need to vote on whether to schedule a special election, in order to vote on whether to put the Convention Center expansion on said ballot.

If the votes fall as expected and the Council shoots down the special election, the Convention Center expansion’s fate would be academic. The Council wouldn’t have the option of sending the plan to the 2018 ballot, though it could send it back to staff and they could decide to do so at a later date.

Notice what’s missing? The city won’t vote on what to do with SoccerCity until a week later.

By then, the city will already know if there’s a special election. If there isn’t, the City Council will have just two options, since SoccerCity qualified for the ballot through citizen initiative: It could approve the project outright, or schedule it for the next city election, which would be in either June or November 2018.

The investment group behind SoccerCity has said it needs an answer on the project by the end of the year, when MLS will determine which two cities will receive expansion teams.

That means SoccerCity’s fate – if that timeline is accurate – will likely be decided Monday, at a meeting in which its name doesn’t even appear on the Council agenda.

The City Council could potentially hold another vote for a special election just for SoccerCity, but it’s possible that could be interpreted as a re-vote on the same issue, which would need to be approved by a supermajority of Council members instead of a simple majority.

    This article relates to: Convention Center, Government, Kevin Faulconer, Politics, SoccerCity

    Written by Andrew Keatts

    I'm Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529.

    12 comments
    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    By using his veto to cut funds to council members who oppose a special election, the mayor has given those council members an even stronger reason to vote against a special election, since if there is no election, that money will never be spent, and can move back into their control.  Dumb political move on the mayor's part. He's getting bad advice from his puppet masters.

    David Merz
    David Merz

    The mayor needed to cut $5M from the original version of the budget to cover the special election, since the original budgeted $5M was redirected to police and other areas, and the mayor agreed to leave in the redirected funds.  The article points out a little over $1.1M in "vindictive" cuts.  Anyone know from which districts the other $3.9M was cut?

    John Porter
    John Porter subscriber

    Our "little Donald Trump" likes playing hardball, eh?  I am savoring the moment I can vote against him and his projects.  FIX MY STREET FIRST !!! 

    Sean Bishop
    Sean Bishop

    I'm concerned by the Mayor's use of vindictive politics to blatantly target the budgets of council members that opposed a special election; it directly punishes the members of those communities. 


    I'm also concerned about the issue of a special election itself. Less people vote during a special election. If the SoccerCity idea holds merit, it should be able to do so in a more democratic arena; an arena in which more voices can be heard on such a large issue for us San DIegans. 

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    I'm looking forward to the specifics of the convention center plan.  What percentage goes for homeless programs, what goes to infrastructure and what to the expansion.  Huh?  You say that won't be spelled out in the proposition?  Good luck. 

    Bob Gardner
    Bob Gardner subscriber

    So Richard Nixon is alive and well and is now Mayor of Enron by the Sea.

    craig Nelson
    craig Nelson

    According to FS (Fraudulent Scammers) if they don't get their special election for Sucker City it will be too late in 2018?  Promise ? - So if you don't get the special you will pull it from the ballot right?  Kinda like when you said if the City Council didn't award you mission valley without an election it would be too late?  

    It's too late to trust these New York CIty Hedge Fund boys ...nothing but Spanos-lite. 

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @craig Nelson  --The FS/MLS so-called deadline is garbage.  I look forward to a 5-4 vote against a special election, if for no other reason just to see the reaction from Faulconer.  And Scott Sherman as well.  That should be very entertaining.

    Robert Cohen
    Robert Cohen subscriber

    "Hardball" comes to San Diego. Vindictiveness by Mayor Faulconer could not be more transparent. And for what? A convention center expansion on land controlled by private parties in an industry that is overbuilt plus a "hurry up" vote on a massive real estate project in a heavily congested area of the city. Seems like our Mayor has a perverse set of priorities. He desperately wants a legacy project that overall will not affect our city's economy but rather may look cool.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    The Mayor's ability to cut funding from individual city council districts helps to show how San Diego is a "city of villages" in name only. The borders of each village are poorly defined, the villages and even the districts don't have the authority to set their own budgets or raise their own taxes or even determine their own land-use patterns without permission from the other districts in the city.

    Jeff Velten
    Jeff Velten

    It appears that by the Mayor's logic those who are most opposed to the special election are the one's who should pay for it - where have I heard that argument previously (you get two guesses, and one has to be the Mexico border wall).

    Joan Lockwood
    Joan Lockwood

    Hes a brutal man ... Seems he's learning at Trumps knee- if you retaliate you get your way by crushing others.