VOSD Podcast: The Rise of Mara Elliott and a Change at the Port
Past attempts to expand the San Diego Convention Center have failed over the years – so what’s stopping the mayor’s newest expansion endeavor from flopping?
Bob Nelson, a longtime public relations maven and former Port of San Diego commissioner, joined hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts on the podcast this week to offer his insights on the storied Convention Center expansion saga.
As a Port commissioner for six years, he has an insider’s view of waterfront development deals since the Port is essentially the landlord and custodian of the region’s tidelands.
Nelson said Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s proposal to hike the hotel tax to fund the expansion will be a hard sell, but he thinks it has a solid chance, even with early opposition and other hurdles in its way.
“I think it has a reasonable prospect of winning,” he said.
Nelson said there are a couple ways the mayor can get around one of the biggest obstacles – the fact that the land needed for the expansion is currently leased by someone else.
“I think it’s going to get down to whether or not they can make a deal with the mayor to somehow either join their interests … or find a way to buy their lease out,” he said.
Nelson also talked about the relationship between the Port and city leaders, why he took on the Port commissioner role and why he’s leaving now.
Mara Elliott’s Powerful Opinions
When a new city attorney is elected, the political tides can change dramatically.
Lewis and Keatts pointed out how City Attorney Mara Elliott has swiftly demonstrated the incredible power of her office to flip and form debates about local public affairs.
In March, for example, Elliott wrote a memo declaring short-term vacation rentals illegal under city code. She recently told Lewis that she thought the memo would shake things up and spur enforcement.
But it didn’t.
“It landed on deaf ears,” she told Lewis.
This week, Elliott issued another memo, this one throwing shade on SoccerCity, the private proposal to redevelop the Qualcomm Stadium site into an urban development with a professional soccer stadium.
The memo pointed out there’s no guarantee the developers would be required to build a public river park, something that’s been one of the initiative’s big selling points.
Hero of the Week
A group of parents at Gage Elementary who are pushing the district to be more transparent and responsive get the accolades this week.
Goat of the Week
Rep. Duncan Hunter gets a big fat goat this week for his response to a question about the assault of a reporter by a congressional candidate in Montana. When asked if it was appropriate to assault a reporter, Hunter told the Associated Press, “It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.”