Big Opponent of Minimum Wage Hike Flips Sides

East County UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

Big Opponent of Minimum Wage Hike Flips Sides

• Mark Arabo was a vocal opponent of raising the minimum wage in San Diego.

• Now his political ambitions seem to have pushed him to change his tune to keep in line with Democrats.

There’s an important revelation tucked within in our three-part series on Mark Arabo: The once-vocal naysayer in the local fight to raise the minimum wage has flipped sides.

The head of the Neighborhood Market Association has been a growing influence in East County and beyond, declaring himself a national spokesman for the Iraqi Christian community. Around these parts, he’s inserted himself into a number of local debates that have begun to shape life in San Diego, largely those that might impact members of his corner-store club.

He was a clear opponent in the fight to raise the minimum wage, citing concerns of the small business owners he represents. That’s not the case anymore, and Arabo’s political ambition is most likely the primary motivation for that change of heart.

In Part III of his profile of the head of the Neighborhood Market Association, Liam Dillon pressed Arabo to clarify his stances on some key issues in local politics.

Dillon highlighted this 10News clip from March last year. In it, Arabo pushed back against then-Council President Todd Gloria’s campaign to raise the minimum wage. Arabo warned of the ripple effects: Higher wages for businesses would translate to higher prices for consumers, he said.

When Scott Lewis and I talked with him on the VOSD Radio podcast in August, he focused on the difference between big businesses and small. The little guys wouldn’t be able to swing it with a drastically higher minimum wage, he said.

Arabo has since changed his tune. From Dillon’s profile:

Now, though, with Gloria’s plan headed for the ballot, Arabo said he’s changing. He now backs the minimum wage hike and is pushing the association’s board to do the same.

“I’ve told them, I’m personally going to support it even if they don’t,” he said.

That’s not the only local battle you might remember Arabo from.

Recall the great beach booze ban of 2008, the law of the land in San Diego ever since.

Plenty of people associate the ban with then-Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who announced a sudden shift in stance on a potential ban after a booze-fueled riot on Pacific Beach one Labor Day. “Under no circumstances is it ever OK to have that environment happening,” Faulconer said at the time. “We have an obligation to protect people at the beach, and what happened on the beach was not safe.”

That was a bit of a shock for Arabo, who was already head of the Neighborhood Market Association by that point. His group had backed Faulconer in a Council race against Lorena Gonzalez after he told them he would never support a booze ban.

READ MORE: Fact Check: Businesses and the Booze Ban

Dillon talked with Arabo while working on this 2013 profile of Faulconer ahead of the special mayoral election. Note the air of shock and “not mad, just disappointed” in Arabo’s response to Faulconer’s flip-flop.

“He promised one thing and then when stuff happened and he was under the gun, he delivered something else,” Arabo said.

Arabo said he didn’t fault Faulconer for switching his position, but said he wished Faulconer would have talked about it with the group first.

“People can have change of hearts, but when they do, reach out to the people who helped get you elected and tell them why,” he said.

On top of our profile, Arabo’s name has been swirling this week as a potential candidate to replace City Councilwoman Marti Emerald in District 9.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the Council district in which Arabo is considering running.

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