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General Manager’s Report, Fourth Quarter of 2011

Are you having fun watching the latest partisan wrangling in the United States Congress? Do you have your DVR set for the next Presidential primary debate? Can’t wait to see what that nutty Rick Perry says next? Hopefully you have better things to focus on than the seemingly ever-present political campaign spectacles of our day.

With that being said, if you haven’t already, you should begin to focus a bit of attention on the ballot measure and candidate campaigns shaping up in the City of San Diego for the June 2012 election. The results of these elections will have a direct—and possibly profound—impact on the City and City employees.

Many of us are properly focused on the Sanders/DeMaio ballot initiative (see President’s Message on page 3). There are, however, a number of important candidate elections on tap for 2012 that deserve our attention. Most notably, Mayor Jerry Sanders will be term-limited out of office next year and a list of hopefuls to replace him seems to already be set. There are also five City Council Districts up for election and the results of those races may have just as significant an effect on the direction of this City as the Mayor’s race.

When San Diego voters passed the “Strong Mayor” form of government, they also created a ninth City Council district. The redistricting process to reconfigure each Council district (and add a new one) was just completed and we now have five odd-numbered districts that are up for grabs next year. Incumbents Sherri Lightner, Todd Gloria and Marti Emerald are all up for re-election and were recently endorsed by MEA’s Political Action Committee and Board of Directors.

These are three very important races. We may not always agree with every position each of them take, but they are clearly three very thoughtful, accessible and reasonable members of the current Council. (On September 26, Emerald and Gloria—along with Councilmember David Alvarez—voted to oppose the outsourcing of the Miramar Landfill, while Lightner profoundly disappointed us with her vote to move forward.) Each will be facing varying degrees of opposition for election, but MEA will be engaged in each race. If any of them receive more than 50% of the vote in the June primary election that alleviates the need for a November runoff. This would save everybody a lot of time, money and energy that could then be put to work in other races.

The other two districts up for election will be “open” seats, meaning that there is no incumbent running for re-election. Council District 5 (Carl DeMaio’s current district) has the most conservative (and anti-public employee) voter population in the City, and the District 5 voters will likely want to elect another DeMaio-like representative. We may or may not have much in the way of alternatives in that district.

District 7 is Councilmember Marti Emerald’s current district, but because the district boundaries were substantially changed in the redistricting process, Councilmember Emerald is running instead for “re-election” in the new District 9 (which encompasses many of the communities she currently represents). That leaves District 7 as an open “swing” seat, meaning it is wide open for candidates with various political views. MEA’s Political Action Committee is in the process of interviewing candidates and we believe there will be a candidate worthy of our support and efforts in District 7.

The Mayor’s race is wide open with about a dozen announced candidates so far, including four prominent current politicians, each of whom has a reasonable chance at advancing to the runoff election in November. Councilmember Carl DeMaio leads the pack with a solid—but relatively small—base of support among the angriest of San Diegans who are drawn to his message of anti-employee extremism. That enthusiastic “base” makes him very likely to advance out of the June primary election, but less likely to win the November runoff.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher are both running as moderate Republicans, and both present themselves as a “more reasonable” version of Carl DeMaio. They seem to adopt many of his policies (like supporting his ballot initiative), but argue that they will be more moderate in the implementation of those policies. Normally that would not be enough of a reason for MEA to give either of them a serious look, but given the miserable political environment of our day, any alternative to Carl DeMaio is worth our attention. Both Dumanis and Fletcher are making serious efforts to communicate and work with MEA and—unlike DeMaio—both are more focused on San Diego’s future than rather than wallowing in the past, which are good things.

Then there’s Congressman Bob Filner, the only prominent Democrat in a race crowded with candidates fighting to become the Republican choice. Congressman Filner has a very long history of progressive action, not to mention a reasonable approach to problem-solving that is void of the anti-employee political winds blowing through our city and country. He is certainly a breath of fresh air in a crowded field of candidates who seem to be focused on seeing who can scapegoat City employees the most.

City races in San Diego are “non-partisan,” which means that the top two vote-getters in the June primary election advance to the November runoff, regardless of their party affiliation. Other than that procedural detail, the Mayor’s race—like most other City races—is in reality quite partisan. That means that with multiple Republicans and one Democrat vying for support on one ballot, Bob Filner is a likely candidate to make it out of the runoff. If that happened, and Carl DeMaio held onto his base of support, that could set the stage for the possibility of an epic, all-or-nothing Filner-DeMaio battle in the mayoral runoff election in November. Then again, if one of the more moderate Republicans make the runoff, either one would have an excellent chance to prevail in November.

Of course, a few months in politics can be an eternity. Who knows what the future holds or what political winds will be blowing next year. The only thing you can be certain of is that MEA’s Political Action Committee is already engaged, monitoring the situation and communicating with the candidates. Ultimately, they will make a solid recommendation for action to the Board of Directors and MEA will work hard to help ensure that San Diegans elect leaders who are capable of moving our City forward.