Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

Lightner, Ellis Tussle For City Council Control During KPBS Debate

City Council District 1 Debate
Lightner, Ellis In Quiet Tussle For City Council Control
GUESTSSherri Lightner, Councilmember and candidate, District One Ray Ellis, Businessman and candidate, District One

The two candidates for City Council District 1 traded barbs and shared their stances on traffic issues, pensions and water policy during discussions on KPBS Midday and Evening Edition Wednesday.


Sherri Lightner, the Democratic incumbent, is being challenged by businessman Ray Ellis, a Republican.

There are currently four Democrats and four Republicans on the nominally non-partisan City Council. With the addition of District 9 in January, there will be a shift in the balance of power to one party or the other.

The key to the shift is District 1, an affluent area that includes Del Mar Heights, Carmel Valley, La Jolla and University City.


Ellis is viewed as part of a slate of candidates supported by Republican mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio. But on Wednesday's shows, Ellis repeated he was not making an endorsement in the mayoral race. He added, however, that he was more aligned with DeMaio over financial issues.

Lightner has endorsed Democratic Congressman Bob Filner, and pointed out that on KPBS Midday before the June primary, Ellis said he supported "anyone but Filner." At that time, there were four candidates for mayor.

Ellis also said he was confused by the attention his meeting with DeMaio and hotelier and U-T San Diego owner Doug Manchester has received. DeMaio said he had taken “a meeting” with U-T San Diego’s editorial board, but his personal calendar showed he met with Manchester in December and May.

Manchester met with Ellis to introduce him to the chairman of local biotech Gen-Probe, Ellis said.

Lightner said her special interest is the community she serves. Although she is a Democrat, she no longer has the support of some unions.

Both candidates said they do not see the council office as highly political, and indeed, they are of one mind on several issues impacting District 1. Both are against One Paseo, the massive development project proposed for Carmel Valley at the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real. Both are lukewarm about building a connector from state Route 56 to Interstate 5. Neither is enamored of a project to build a bridge across Rose Canyon.

Ellis highlighted the difference between himself and Lightner over pension reform during the KPBS debate. He said he's been a fervent supporter of Prop B, the pension reform initiative, from the start.

"I did it and led it while I was on the pension board," he said.

But Lightner disagreed.

"Do we get rebuttal?" Lightner said. "I'm actually the only one here who's done pension reform, and we started that when I first took office. And I have supported Proposition B and look forward to full implementation going forward."

Ellis pointed to a moment during a forum last week when Lightner refused to answer a question about whether Prop B is fair to city employees.

"A forum you chose not to attend," Lightner interjected.

"Easy now, easy now," Ellis replied.

Lightner challenged Ellis on meetings he missed while serving on the city's pension board and his voting record.

NBC San Diego reported Ellis did not vote in 10 of 16 elections for which he was eligible between 1995 and 2006.

But Ellis said he attended 90 percent of the more than 100 meetings held during the three years he was on the pension board. He also said he has a perfect voting record "over the last eight elections spanning over seven years."

The candidates also differ on Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama project to build a road around the Museum of Man leading to a new underground parking lot. Ellis has been a supporter from the first announcement. Lightner was the lone "no" vote on the City Council because of the included fee for parking.

Corrected: May 27, 2023 at 5:17 PM PDT
Pat Finn and Claire Trageser contributed to this report.