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Meet the Newest City Council Member

Members of City Council picked lifeguard union chief Ed Harris to take over District 2, a seat left vacant by new Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Here’s what we know about Harris so far.

Ed Harris is the newest San Diego City Council member.

He was appointed Tuesday to fill the District 2 seat that Kevin Faulconer left vacant when he took over the mayor’s office last month.

The remaining Council members narrowed a candidate pool 17-deep. Harris will represent Ocean Beach and a handful of surrounding communities until Faulconer’s term ends in December.

This is Harris.

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Photo by Sam Hodgson

We’ve collected some other noteworthy nuggets to give you a glimpse of the newest addition to the City Council.

Lorie Zapf is an unexpected supporter.

One of the Council members who supported Harris was Councilwoman Lorie Zapf. Moments after news broke of the decision Monday, Zapf tweeted this nod to Harris:

That was interesting, considering Harris and the Republican councilwoman at one point were shaping up to run against each other, along with Sarah Boot and others, for the new District 2 seat (Zapf currently represents District 6, but will seek re-election in District 2, thanks to newly drawn Council district boundaries). Boot and Zapf will face off again later this year. Zapf’s support could be an attempt to get ahead of the June primary, where parsing any favor from Harris supporters could give her an edge over Boot.

Zapf’s communications director Alex Bell also reminded us of this past link:

He had a dust-up with the local Dem chair.

Back when he was considering running for the seat in this year’s election, Harris was the subject of a bizarre email sent by Francine Busby, chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party. Busby linked Harris to “sexual harassment issues” in an email. But the story she cited didn’t involve Harris — or sexual harassment:

In her email to Peinado, Busby alleges that Harris could face some of the same kinds of problems that are now embroiling the mayor. Busby wrote that supporting Harris could be problematic because “as a leader of the lifeguards, he will be associated with a culture that has a long history of discrimination against women.”

Busby also refers to “sexual harassment issues” in her email.

Busby included a link to a story about a woman lifeguard who sued the city over gender discrimination. Harris was not named in the suit, or deposed as part of it. His only connection to the suit seems to be working for the department where the discrimination took place. The lawsuit had nothing to do with sexual harassment. …

Harris said he was angry when he saw Busby’s email to Peinado, because it mentioned a case he wasn’t involved in and that they never discussed in their meeting.

“Using that case was odd to say the least, but that was part of the strategy to raise questions about me,” he said.

He’s got other detractors, too.

Activist Bryan Pease (who was also in the D2 candidate pool) wanted to knock Harris out of the running last summer because of his “anti-environmental” stances, most notably those having to do with the La Jolla Children’s Pool. From the La Jolla Light:

Harris, who has witnessed the evolution of the seal issue during his more than two decades as a lifeguard at Children’s Pool, said a better compromise favoring shared beach use by humans and seals is needed to ease the polarization and tension that has developed in recent years.

“We are opposed to the year-round rope because it’s not going to solve the problem,” Harris said. “It’s going to perpetuate the problem — but we believe in a compromise. … We respect the seals and think they should have a place to pup and do everything else.”

As head of the lifeguards union, Harris has been a vocal proponent for getting more resources from the city.

Budget cuts forced the City Council to get rid of 12 full-time lifeguards back in 2011, edging into the amount of time the rest of the fleet had for training. In a fact check, Harris told Voice of San Diego that was having a detrimental impact over time.

He’s not one to get pushed around.

In 2009, Harris led a move by the lifeguards union to separate from the Municipal Employees Association and join forces with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to have more say in their affairs. He was also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against former MEA head Judie Italiano, who he said misused union funds.

Harris weathered a lawsuit against himself, too.

James Murphy, a former seasonal lifeguard Harris was supervising, filed against him in 2011, alleging “discrimination and harassment, retaliation, and defamation,” according to the San Diego Reader. A jury ruled against Murphy, and his crusade for a new trial was shot down again in 2012.

He’s comfortable with the temporary City Council gig.

From CityBeat:

“I want to be what’s been missing in District 2 — an advocate for the coastline,” Harris, a Loma Portal resident, told Spin. “I’m concerned about public safety, obviously, but also about overdevelopment. I also want to make for a smooth transition for Sarah.”

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