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Politics Report: South Bay Beefs

The great skirmish between local unions makes its way to a complicated ballot measure battle in National City. Also in the South Bay: a sales tax splits conservatives. And a coastal City Council candidate tries to thread the needle of supporting housing without upsetting neighbors.

National City Mayor Ron Morrison / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Competing ballot measures in National City have developed into another skirmish in the long-running feud between factions within organized labor.

The June ballot measures would impose new term limits on National City elected officials. The mayor is currently limited to three four-year terms. But there are no limits on City Council members.

Measure B: makes all officials subject to two four-year terms.

Measure C: maintains existing limits on the mayor and extends the same restriction to Council members. It would also keep any official from serving more than six lifetime terms across offices.

What’s really going on: Ron Morrison has been National City’s mayor since 2006. He first joined the City Council in 1992. Under the current law, he’s termed out and can’t run for re-election in November. If Measure B passes, it would reset his clock and he’d be eligible to run again. He voted to put both measures on the ballot and told the Union-Tribune he supports Measure B.

If Measure C passes with more votes than Measure B, Morrison will be done.

One side of labor: The United Food and Commercial Workers union, led by Mickey Kasparian, opened a PAC this month to support Measure B, and put $25,000 into it. Laborers’ International Union of North America threw in another $25,000.

“Two terms for both the mayor and Council members is the fairest process moving forward,” Kasparian told us in a written statement. “It’s the same term limits the president of the United States has. Why should National City be any different?”

On the other side: Measure C has support from a different faction. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher donated $7,000 from her ballot measure committee; Unite Here Local 30, the hotel workers union, donated $5,000; the San Diego County Building Trades Council, a coalition of construction unions, has made two $25,000 donations; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has donated $7,391 to date.

That’s the basic coalition that has been battling Kasparian for more than a year now and led to him and his union leaving the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council.

♦♦♦

The context: Kasparian was accused in late 2016 of sexual misconduct and gender discrimination. He has denied the accusations and reached confidential settlements in all of the lawsuits against him.

Aside from the accusations, there had been a series of disagreements between Kasparian and leaders of the Building Trades, IBEW and Unite Here and it’s only grown worse. Kasparian left the Labor Council last year, creating his own group, the Working Families Council.

That group has endorsed Lori Saldaña in her 4th District county supervisor race and opened up a PAC to support her.

Meanwhile, IBEW, Building Trades and the Labor Council all support Nathan Fletcher in the 4th District race. Gonzalez Fletcher also supports Fletcher – her husband.

That means between now and June, the two factions will be spending money and campaigning against each other in two major contests.

Carol Kim, Building Trades’ political director, said Measure B is misleading because voters will think it’s about putting strict term limits in place, but it’s really intended to protect Morrison from being termed out.

“Sexual abusers like Mickey fit right in with power-hungry politicians and corrupt figures who are supporting the most deceptive ballot measure in National City history,” she said.

Morrison did not respond to a request for comment.

What’s at stake: National City is not one of the largest cities in San Diego, but it has become increasingly pivotal in local politics.

That’s because AB 805 last year – passed by Gonzalez Fletcher – revamped the board at both the Metropolitan Transit System and the San Diego Association of Governments.

At SANDAG now, any three cities that account for over 50 percent of the county’s population can overrule the rest of the board. Although San Diego’s mayor is currently a Republican, Gonzalez Fletcher and other supporters of the bill had their eyes on a not-too-distant future in which Democratic mayors of San Diego, Chula Vista and any third city could move the regional transportation agency to the left.

That makes National City’s mayor a potentially powerful figure. But if Morrison gets to run again, it could push the seat out of Democratic hands another eight years.

And, of course, National City is a city of more than 60,000 people. Its mayor matters to everyone there, regardless of what it means to the political balance on SANDAG.

In Other Labor Dispute News …

David Garcias, center, takes part in a Labor Day march with SEIU Local 221 members. / Photo courtesy of SEIU Local 221

When Kasparian formed the Working Families Council last year, he wasn’t alone.

SEIU Local 221, which represents thousands of county employees, left the Labor Council along with him.

Then things got even more complicated.

WFC endorsed Saldaña last month even though SEIU had long before gone all in for Fletcher’s campaign. Since SEIU represents so many county workers, that seat is a priority for the group.

Shortly after WFC’s endorsement decision, SEIU voted to leave the group.

Now, this week, SEIU has voted to re-join the Labor Council. It’s back where it started.

There are now two big questions.

  1. How much money does Kasparian intend to spend on Saldaña? If there’s enough money behind both Saldaña and Fletcher, it could be chaos.
  2. What’s Kasparian’s long-term plan at WFC now that he lost his largest ally?

Chula Vista Tax Beef

Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Another big South Bay ballot measure in June is Measure A, in Chula Vista.

It’s billed by Mayor Mary Salas as the only way the city can keep up with its public safety needs.

But it has conservatives fightin’ mad.

What is it specifically: The measure promises voters the city would provide “faster responses to 9-1-1 emergency calls, increase neighborhood police patrols, reduce gang and drug-related crimes, address homelessness, improve firefighter, paramedic and emergency medical response, and general city services, by enacting a half-cent sales tax, until the voters decide otherwise.”

GOP Beef: On Twitter, the chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County wrote that the police and fire fighters unions in the city were making unfair demands: “Apparently Chula Vista firefighters and police officer union bosses are now making it a condition of endorsement of Republican candidates that [the Republican Party] not oppose the upcoming CV sales tax increase ballot measure.”

The party, by default, opposes all new taxes. (San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is working hard to get them to change their mind or go neutral when his plan to raise hotel taxes for the Convention Center expansion, homeless services and roads gets on the ballot.)

We called the police union president in Chula Vista, David Oyos, to see if that was true. Was the union demanding its endorsements come with a prerequisite that they convince the party to flip?

“No,” he said. He pointed out the union had endorsed Republican Councilman John McCann’s re-election and had not asked for that. McCann did not return a call for comment.

But McCann does support the sales tax increase. He and another Council Republican, Mike Diaz, even wrote an official ballot guide statement in favor of it.

“We are proud fiscal conservatives who will always stand up for what’s right in our community, and we are supporting Measure A,” they wrote, along with retired Police Chief David Bejarano.

That led to a new beef. Carl DeMaio, the talk show host, went after McCann.

“I have withdrawn my support for John McCann. Spread the word! Vote him out!” DeMaio tweeted.

Dumanis to County: Stay Out of Trump vs. California Beef

Nathan Fletcher, standing, Bonnie Dumanis and Omar Passons attend the Opportunity Summit / Photo by Scott Lewis

This week, all five candidates to replace Ron Roberts on the County Board of Supervisors were on stage at the Opportunity Summit, put on by the Workforce Partnership.

There were not many fireworks. But there was one interesting moment. At the end, we asked all the candidates whether, if they were on the Board of Supervisors, they would support the county joining with the Trump administration in its suit against California laws that restrict local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The Board of Supervisors will consider on Tuesday whether to do just that. Orange County did.

It was no surprise the four Democrats running for the post opposed the county getting involved.

But former D.A. Bonnie Dumanis, a Republican, also doesn’t think the county should get involved.

“No, absolutely not,” she said.

Omar Passons, a lawyer, said he had reviewed the language of Trump’s suit and couldn’t find any exposure the county had on the issue.

This is often our view of the candidates. Here’s Lori Saldaña. / Photo by Scott Lewis

Get to Know the D2 Candidates

We have now completed our podcast interviews with the candidates for San Diego’s City Council District 2. We talked to the incumbent, Lorie Zapf. Also, Bryan Pease and Jordan Beane.

This week, we spoke with Jen Campbell.

Jen Campbell

Jen Campbell is running for San Diego City Council District 2. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

On new housing: We’ve asked each of the candidates about housing. Specifically in this district, there are two major areas of consideration: The new trolley line going up from Old Town to UTC will have several stations where the kind of development everyone says they support should happen.

Campbell agrees. Put housing there. She said residents concerned about development around the Clairemont, Balboa and Linda Vista stations — the group that use a balloon to show how high the housing could be — get a “bad rap.”

“They all agree that the Morena (Boulevard) corridor is not a beauty spot needs to be upgraded and they would love to see it used as a community center. A place where there’s shops and restaurants, apartments or condos, places where people can live and walk to the trolley, get on, go to work, come home, maybe grab a meal at a restaurant right underneath where they live,” she said.

Everyone agrees with this sort of statement — until it comes to the details. That kind of development is difficult with two- or three-story buildings, like what is allowed now. We pressed her: Does this mean that she would support buildings higher than 30 feet? Maybe four or five stories? More?

Campbell’s not really on board with that.

“I think that if developers wish to have the height limit raised, they are going to have to convince the people … that their views are not going to be blocked. I think they have to realize that these people bought these homes expecting to have water views and uh, they’re going to fight to keep their views,” she said.

On the other hand: Campbell said she thinks developing the Sports Arena land the city owns into mixed-use housing and commercial is an “excellent idea.” She seemed open to piercing the 30-foot height limit there, as the existing Valley View Casino Center is already more than twice that tall.

“I think it’s already been done and it hasn’t gotten in the way and I think it’s a totally different situation than Bay Park,” she said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Morrison is a Republican. He is not a registered member of any political party.

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

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