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Roundtable: Tactics, Turnout And Money In San Diego Mayor's Race


Roundtable: Tactics, Turnout And Money In San Diego Mayor's Race
HOST:Mark SauerGUESTS:David Rolland, San Diego CityBeat Sandhya Dirks, KPBS News Claire Trageser, KPBS News

MARK SAUER: Joining me today are Claire Trageser, Sandhya Dirks, and Dave Rolland. Flashback to February, who would've known Bob Filner would end up resigning a disgrace that we would end up with a new election. The election is coming up on Tuesday. Dave Rolland start us off, what is at stake in this election? A huge difference if either of these fellows win? DAVID ROLLAND: Is not quite the difference that we had last year. Between Carl DeMaio and Bob Filner, those were polar opposites but you do have two distinct competing visions of how best to run the city between Kevin Faulconer and David Alvarez. MARK SAUER: Let us do a quick overview. Give us quick high points of the primary and how we got here. SANDHYA DIRKS: A lot of people put their names in to run and the other kind of four competitors getting attention and the Republican's at first in front of this race fell behind and some people were very surprised when at the end Alvarez narrowly faulted over Fletcher And other people said look they got up the Latino south of the eight vote. MARK SAUER: What do the polls say? Want to talk a little bit about how they are done and what they mean, they only tell us exactly what we're saying. DAVID ROLLAND: The polls that come out have the two candidates fairly close, one had Faulkner up 49 to 6% and the Democratic point of them little closer, with little talk to today a professor up in Washington examined the polls it up and done and examined this race and the methods and he studies Latino politics and he thought that it is possible that these polls have been shortchanging the Latino voice and that they were not doing any polls in Spanish, so the might of basically discounted some Spanish speakers. CLAIRE TRAGESER: We had some indication of that in the primary. SANDHYA DIRKS: When you look at polls of what Latinos will do, is overwhelming support for Alvarez, it's not even a a race and it depends on turnout and that of these goals can predict but they're all trying to gauge will actually turn out and so if that Latino vote does turn out, the result may be very different. DAVID ROLLAND: If you look at this the city demographically than Faulconer should have the steepest hill to climb here. Because in the city in terms of voter registration, almost 40% of those who have registered to vote in the city. Republicans are about 26% and even falling behind those who decline to state, at about 20 to 29%, the city and it all depends on who these the kind of state voters are, if they are half-and-half I don't believe that they are, I think they probably skew a little more towards the left of center, Kevin Faulconer should have the highest hill to climb by David Alvarez ñ it all comes out to turnout. The people he needs to turn out I've been traditionally harder to get out to the polls. MARK SAUER: Is voter turnout going to be the big difference here? CLAIRE TRAGESER: Joshua Smith had an interesting story where he was going around talking to Latino voters in one person said that they voted for Filner last time and look what happened, so I'm not going to vote this time. It is hard to not copy I'm wondering if that is going to be a trend. DAVID ROLLAND: I might not vote for Faulconer but I may not vote for anybody. MARK SAUER: Your publication did endorse David Alvarez. I want to do a full disclosure on that. SANDHYA DIRKS: I said the day talking to a few people who said that they were experiencing a lot of excitement in the Latino community, said could be that there are some non-Latinos who voted for the amount of time, I will do it this time and some people are discussing the political process and turnoff, but is an indication that there is a groundswell of support, even though it is a special election and you do have historically low turnout numbers you also have eight other historic fact. That is the fact that San Diego has not had a nonwhite mayor since California became a state. DAVID ROLLAND: This can be exciting, election night because a success suspect that we'll see early voting will be basically counted first and the registrar will release a service first and I suspect we will see Faulconer with a certain lead early and it will get closer as time goes on. MARK SAUER: We have seen our share of negative campaigning, tell us about the claims of racism. SANDHYA DIRKS: There are several people claiming in the Latino community saying that this flyer is very subtly racist and is an example of a dog whistle racism, and that is being sort of a thing that only docs came here, speaking of code in the message the specific picture that people are twenty-two is an unflattering photo of David Alvarez's head Photoshopped in a certain way with his hands in the air that could be a gang sign and grabbing a wad of cash, and the Professor that I talked to said that there are these codewords are playing off of the subtle cues in which we may have hidden racism. Of course the Lincoln Club said that this is mudslinging but not like that. MARK SAUER: Who is the Lincoln Club? DAVID ROLLAND: They are political action committee they could very involve the elections they do spend a lot of money on mailers. That is what they do. They support conservative pro-business candidates every time, they have from my view, they have become increasingly negative. Increasingly mean-spirited and increasingly deceptive in their claims. CLAIRE TRAGESER: Would've the things I have been wondering, up until recently there did not seem to me that many mailers attacking Kevin Faulconer or supporting David Alvarez, and I am wondering if that was a strategy or if they just didn't get it together in time? DAVID ROLLAND: That is kind of a strategy that the pro-Alvarez groups were spending their money to get boots of the ground and around the neighborhood. SANDHYA DIRKS: That is a smart way to do things because I will make a difference, that is what I had heard as well, that they are focusing on these precinct walks and save a lot of people and election did itself, really trying to mobilize a socially south of eight. MARK SAUER: Let us talk briefly about results, the Council is going to appoint somebody to fill the seats. If Kevin Faulconer wins it will create a interesting scenario. CLAIRE TRAGESER: Yeah, there's a possibility because the Council appoint someone to put the seat and of he wins because it could appoint another Democrat and it would be a six to three split and they could veto anything that he does. MARK SAUER: That is an interesting dynamic. DAVID ROLLAND: At least they would be the four-four split until the Democrats would likely appoint another Democrat. MARK SAUER: A lot of good stories, let us shift to another topic on the election, how do their personal situations match the image making? Claire, you did a story referencing this. First let us start with the idea this story. CLAIRE TRAGESER: They both stress their own fiscal leadership saying that they are fixed budget gaps and things like that and like you said they rely on their own personal background stories as part of the campaign, for those reasons we kind of wanted to look into their own financial background and just make sure that everything was on the up and up. MARK SAUER: This is all public information I haven't to have added a story last night as a follow-up to your story saying that folks can do this to want a lot of things and a lot of records that are altogether. We're not spying on anybody. CLAIRE TRAGESER: Everything that we looked at his public record and a lot of it was down at the County assessor's office where you have to pay two dollars a page and so we did treat out any pages because we don't kind of have that kind of budget but I would spend time up there standing because they don't have seat at the computers and a standing there with my laptop taking notes. MARK SAUER: Only looking for and what did you find? CLAIRE TRAGESER: We wanted to make sure there were no financial interest of the candidates were not disclosing, obvious conflicts of interest, we charged court records for each candidate that became suddenly interesting for David Alvarez, there are quite of few quite a few records for that name and we figured out some of those were not for the mayor of candidate. MARK SAUER: One fellow has a bigger house and one doesn't, tell us the breakdown here. See four CLAIRE TRAGESER: One thing to point out is that Kevin Faulconer is older than David Alvarez. The counselor was making almost twice as much as what David Alvarez was making an Faulconer had more time. He bought a home for about $385,000 and it's worth just under a militant dollars now and Alvarez was also smart and he bought his home in foreclosure in 2008 and has increased the value of it bit over the past for five years, and I was less than what he bought it for. MARK SAUER: And family incomes? CLAIRE TRAGESER: Kevin Faulconer's wife owns a business called restaurant events making about $174,000 a year and David Alvarez his wife was recently promoted to vice principal of the school and makes about 55,000 all year. DAVID ROLLAND: That seemed to be a place of contention between the two of them. Between what you found and what either the candidates had reported and the story left a little bit up in the air, it had to relate to Kevin Faulconer's wife in the amount of money that they had reported that she had made versus what you found. CLAIRE TRAGESER: We are still trying to sort that out and we were not getting a lot of response from the campaign until the night before we publish a look at Kevin Faulconer had the disclosure form and on there he listed his wife's salary as under a hundred thousand dollars and told us that she made $174,000 in 2012, was some discrepancy and they are now saying that we only report 50% of what your wife or spouse on the form, that only have this information this morning. MARK SAUER: It gets very complicated, how interesting do people find this stuff because it's a little bit tablet edition in the sense that we're looking through someone's personal finances and those that they have that sort of thing, they want to come back to Claire. SANDHYA DIRKS: I think that a lot of this really is finite and intense reporting that you have been doing and that has been happening by all outlets in San Diego since beginning of this campaign even back when you look towards Fletcher, really probing the personal writing this basically shows you that we still have some scar tissue from it happened last summer and so there's a way in which we want to know everything about the guy who is going to be mayor because last time we got burned bad. DAVID ROLLAND: Not just because of Filner. It's a standard these days. MARK SAUER: Would you think about that? All of us took a hit here saying that you knew this about Filner and you must've none of these one that women that you protected him, and maybe we have sung over this to shine the light. DAVID ROLLAND: You can't get creepiness through public records. It was all rumor. CLAIRE TRAGESER: Seems in the selection that every news outlet is doing more due diligence and checking this out and this is in reaction someone to what happened with all her. SANDHYA DIRKS: Not just with Filner but talking to all of these people. MARK SAUER: City councils members are able to approve fee hikes and committee planes but there's a way around Council decisions if you have enough money and of determination. It's called a referendum in process and they're going to it often lacing lately, tell us about the noble ones playing into this mayor's campaign in terms of counsel decisions that some folks are trying to get on the ballot. SANDHYA DIRKS: The subtext of the mayor's race actually with Alvarez and Faulconer became Barrio Logan The neighborhood and city which has for a long time had a really bad pollution because it shares space with the ports, and the ports are very important to the city but many people have said that because the population is invoking come and Latino, this is an environmental racism racism and it has not had a new community plan and thirty years and so the city sent out to do a new community plan in a five-year process they went through, but the ports of the citizens can agree about 90% of the committee pine 10% having the balance and that was enough for the ports to basically try to get a referendum, and the other big issue that candidates are opposed to his linkage fees or developer fees and those of fees that would be attached to a development program projects going towards for affordable housing. Kevin Faulconer has said that would deleterious to business and David are David Alvarez says that we need more housing. MARK SAUER: This is a tax and not just a fee. SANDHYA DIRKS: They are calling it a job tax and Jan Goldsmith says that it's not a tax, that the legal finding of the city is that is not a tax. MARK SAUER: This is not new. SANDHYA DIRKS: This is not new at all, but the way that you just it's a little bit there, referendums in the past were all about the little guy getting the chance to circumvent and go around the big powerful parents of politics when business and politics for mesh together a basically saying that this direct democracy and part of the people they can recall somebody that you don't like and get an initiative instead of the robber barons or do something and this is the that they did. It has a history of being this incredibly progressive tool. MARK SAUER: And it can be made that they have co-opted a nap. SANDHYA DIRKS: Can be made that way or said that it is used by whoever is not empowered. You do have these initiatives and policies being passed by a Democratic city Council within acting Democratic interim mayor that is a change for the way that things have been in San Diego and deftly business interests and the Chamber of Commerce is amending that it is prohibitive to some people to do that. MARK SAUER: We just got a bunch of citizens that are like-minded and they are going out to pressure stores with petitions they going to sign to pull up now right? DAVID ROLLAND: Some people get all misty eyed about the feel of grassroots process especially Jan Goldsmith cracks me up and he gets teary-eyed when he talks about this And they are all lying to people. Even in an interview with city beat that he did. He recognize that there are some hyperbole's and puffery. He really likes the idea of direct democracy, but there is another lofty concepts here at play that is representative democracy and both of these issues were passed by representatives of the people. And people who did not like the outcome all grassroots, but it's perfectly legal. And both that the reason he cracks me up is he gets all misty about direct democracy but he does not care about representative democracy. SANDHYA DIRKS: And both Todd Gloria and Jan Goldsmith has said they think that there may be ways which the referendum process can itself be revised and changed and made more open to more people and maybe the number of signatures can be raised that is also easy to go out there and purchase them, one of the things that can go for said he does have a point and all of these processes are shady and there is a way of trying to go around new reforms, but in the end this will be returned to the people and so in the end this will be on the ballot and we hope that we can get the kind of turnout that actually represents the spirit MARK SAUER: This will both be on the ballot? CLAIRE TRAGESER: Yes it does. It seems like this is a relatively new thing. There been times when the City Council passed a law saying the Walmarts within city property and then they got a referendum and the city Council backed down. Todd Gloria is saying that we're not doing that anymore because that is going to encourage people to keep getting these six of the ballot and not even expected to go to a vote, hoping that the City Council will back down. Using the work of these things are going to ballot if they're going to do that. DAVID ROLLAND: Barrio Logan is already on the ballot. MARK SAUER: And I should mention that we have the June ballot and the November ballot coming up. Tuesday this year's not the end of it all. That wraps up another week of stories at the roundtable. Tuesday is the special election for mayor of San Diego and you can find all of the stories that we have done on the mayor's race on our website. Tune into KPBS TV and radio on Tuesday evening for full coverage of the election. Thank you for being with us today on the roundtable.

Iffy Polls, Dog Whistles and Neighborhoods

A recent UT/10News poll shows Kevin Faulconer leading the San Diego race for mayor by a comfortable margin. But zip on over to the Democratic Party poll, and David Alvarez is ever-so-slightly ahead. Say, what?

The difference depends on where the polling was done, how the questions were asked, and, some say, on who commissioned it.

Funding has not been a problem for either candidate, with PACS on both sides spending big and spending often, spreading around much more than $1 million.

Some Alvarez supporters have labeled an anti-Alvarez mailer sent by the conservative Lincoln Club of San Diego as “dog whistle racism” (subtle, aimed at those receptive to such tactics), which the club denies. The mailer either does or does not show Alvarez making gang signals with his hands.

Both candidates bill themselves as neighborhood-friendly, rather than downtown-centric, and both conscientiously reiterate that they want to be the mayor of "all of San Diego" whenever they get the chance.

Faulconer has a reputation and recent voting record as a moderate Republican, while Alvarez is a dyed-in-the (blue)-wool progressive. Some political observers say San Diego is in the process of becoming a blue city. Others say the transformation from Republican red is already completed. In theory, a blue or even purple tinge to the electorate should help put a Latino candidate like Alvarez in the mayor’s office. But that will depend on geography: whether voters south of I-8 turn out to vote in significant numbers.

Personal Finances Paint Personal Pictures Of Candidates

David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer are both paid $75,000 per year as San Diego City Council members, but their personal finances are quite different. The jobs they held before going into politics, their current family income, even the size of the mortgages on their homes reflect the background of each candidate. KPBS and iNewsource dug into their finances to find out how closely these differences tally with their public image.

in 2012, the Faulconer family income was $249,000, while the Alvarezes declared $95,000 in 2012 income. The difference came from Katherine Faulconer's relatively high-paying job. The Alvarez family lives in a Barrio Logan house they bought in 2008 for $249,000. The Faulconers bought their Point Loma home in 1999 for $385,000. The Faulconers' currently owe $546,250 on the house, which is said to be worth nearly $1 million.

Voice of Average Citizen Becoming Tool of the Powerful

At the turn of the last century when California was controlled by oligarchs, a progressive movement took shape and began to look for ways to give ordinary citizens a voice in Sacramento. Thus were born the referendum, initiative and recall.

These tools offered ordinary citizens the opportunity to overturn a law, initiate a law or throw out an elected politician if they could gather enough signatures to get the proposal on the ballot.

Fast forward to the 21st century and these processes have been turned on their heads. The powerful are now using the referendum to try to overturn laws and regulations not in their interests. Most recently in San Diego theBarrio Logan Community Plan Update, passed by the San Diego City Council, has been the subject of a referendum campaign. So has another council-approved law, a plan to finance affordable housing via a developers’ fee.