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Politics Report: Convention Center Politics

The mayor wants a special election for his Convention Center measure but where do the candidates from District 8 fall on that question? Plus, Lorena Gonzalez has quite the social media week and the fall of David Alvarez among Dems.

Vivian Moreno (left) and Antonio Martinez (right) are running to represent District 8 on the San Diego City Council. / Photos by Adriana Heldiz

Word around City Hall is that Mayor Kevin Faulconer has tapped former Port Commissioner Steve Cushman to help lobby for a special election for a measure that would increase hotel-room taxes to expand the Convention Center and fund homeless services. The measure got enough signatures to get on ballot, but not this November’s ballot. Faulconer wants an election by April.

Cushman had once been the mayor’s point man on the Convention Center issue but then he was out. Was he now back? We asked the mayor’s office.

“A lot of people are advocating for a special election,” wrote Matt Awbrey, the mayor’s chief of external affairs, in a text message.

Cushman supports Antonio Martinez in the race to replace City Councilman David Alvarez. Alvarez’s aide, Vivian Moreno, won the primary for the seat. (Andy wrote a profile of the race and the old South Bay rivalries that haunt it.)

We suspected Martinez may be supportive of a special election for the measure, and he certainly is.

“We can’t wait any longer to reduce homelessness, fix our roads and create 7,000 good jobs for working people. It’s unbelievable to me that my opponent worked to block this measure from going to the voters. I’ll fight to tackle the homeless crisis and get this measure passed because its time for City Hall to start delivering on the priorities of working families,” Martinez’s team said in a statement.

Moreno has been much less committal on — if not outright opposed to — the special election and Convention Center measure.

“It’s very clear that the city is responsible to upkeep  the convention center. Does it need to be expanded? I don’t know. I don’t know if it does,” she said in a recent interview.

Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher‘s Adventures in Social Media

From left: San Diego County Supervisor candidate Nathan Fletcher, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber attend Politifest. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

On Friday, we woke up to several text messages wondering if something was up. Apparently everyone who was following Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s official Facebook page got a notification that it had changed its name from Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher to Lorena Gonzalez.

No, there wasn’t news. “Absolutely nothing is wrong (as I’ve been asked this morning!) we just know a lot of constituents were confused and we want them to be able to find this page! I am still happily married and madly in love with Nathan Fletcher,” she wrote.

Recently, Gonzalez had announced that she was going to go back to being referred to professionally with the surname “Gonzalez” only.

No endorsement? We also were struck by Gonzalez’s voter guide. Much of it was to be expected. But two points caught our eye.

The first was her mild endorsement of Proposition 5 — the initiative that would allow seniors to take their low property tax rates to new homes. She said she thinks she’s voting no, but that she thinks “it may actually help with seniors downsizing,” she wrote.

And about District 4: She endorsed in every City Council race in the city of San Diego. That is, except for one. In District 4, she wrote, she had no recommendation. That’s the race between Council President Myrtle Cole and ACLU organizer (and former Cole staffer) Monica Montgomery.

When we pointed that out on Twitter, she responded:

“I have a long relationship with Myrtle, I don’t oppose her. We have worked on a few things together. I just really love Monica and our community is very split. There are (a few) times when you just don’t get involved & let the voters decide,” she wrote.

It can’t have been welcome news to the Cole camp. The U-T endorsed Montgomery last week — making Cole the only incumbent on the City Council not to get the paper’s nod.

It’s very hard to picture a City Council incumbent losing but it’s even harder to picture the City Council president losing.

district 4 race

Monica Montgomery and Councilwoman Myrtle Cole are in a tight race to represent District 4. / Photos by Adriana Heldiz and Sam Hodgson

Another blow: It seems some right-of-center folks also see an opportunity. Community Voices SD, a group associated with the Lincoln Club, has begun promoting news stories on Facebook seen as favorable to Montgomery. Another one, highlighting Cole’s endorsement by the Democratic Party, is being promoted to Republicans on Facebook.

There remains a fair bit of animus between Cole and some Republicans. She had aligned with Faulconer and more conservative City Council members to win her first term as Council president. But when things got tight last year, she booted Republican Councilman Scott Sherman from his beloved post on the city’s Land Use and Housing Committee and installed Democrat Georgette Gomez instead.

Labor leaders have now pledged to support for her and she’s relying on them to help her win. But we’ve been wondering if the right would try to score a blow against her. Seems like they may be seeing a chance.

You can check all the political ads running on Facebook with this handy link.

Alvarez’s Waning Influence Within His Party

City Councilman David Alvarez speaks at the San Diego County Democratic election party on June 5. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

One thing that’s become clear in the 2018 cycle is just how much sway Councilman David Alvarez has lost within the local Democratic Party.

Five years after running for mayor, Alvarez doesn’t have his party’s support for a seat on the San Diego Community College District.

Alvarez is running against Sean Elo, a longtime local activist and first-time candidate. At the onset of his campaign, Alvarez said he’d step down from the seat in 2020 if his bid for the County Board of Supervisors is successful.

Elo doesn’t just have the county Democratic Party’s support. He’s also got endorsements from Alvarez’s Council colleague Councilwoman Barbary Bry and Rep. Scott Peters – both speculated 2020 mayoral contenders – and state Sens. Ben Hueso and Kevin De Leon. Alvarez isn’t on an island; the San Diego Building Trades Council, among others, supports his bid.

But Alvarez also couldn’t deliver the party’s endorsement to his staffer, Vivian Moreno, who’s running to replace him in District 8. That race has become a proxy fight for old South Bay political rivalries.

Alvarez’s declining influence – from party standard-bearer as a mayoral nominee, to unendorsed Community College District candidate – is even more surprising given a move he made in 2016.

Then, Alvarez ran a slate of allies for seats on the county Democratic Party’s central committee. Many won. The whole point was to gain influence for precisely these sorts of situations. It didn’t work out that way for Alvarez’s current run, or his staffer’s.

Gomez Making Her Mark at MTS

Georgette Gomez

San Diego City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The Metropolitan Transit System this week revamped its policy on making property it owns near transit stations available for private development, potentially boosting efforts to cluster more housing near transit to combat  the region’s housing shortage and scale back its carbon footprint.

That move had been pushed by transit and housing policy advocacy group Circulate San Diego, but was championed within MTS by San Diego Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, who became the agency’s board chair at the beginning of the year.

MTS already had a policy outlining how and when it would partner with developers to build housing on its property, but the policy was fundamentally reactive. The agency only developed its properties when developers approached it with proposals. The new policy requires MTS to prioritize which of its properties are ripe for development, and then issue calls for bids to develop those properties, the thinking being that this will make it more likely that some of the surface parking lots that rim transit stations are turned into housing complexes where residents could consider taking transit to work instead of driving.

The change not only brings MTS in line with the other large transit agencies in the state, which already had policies like this. It’s also another sign of the ways in which regional agencies are becoming increasingly progressive — and assertive — under new leadership.

Do you have any ideas or feedback for the Politics Report? Email scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org.

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