I haven’t always had a deep-seated disrespect for Republican platforms or political strategies. I first registered as a Republican in college, because many in my family are conservative Christians. In my naivete I distrusted Democrats. I now know there are bad actors in both major parties and power can corrupt, but my faith is much more in line with the left than with what the right has become.
I fundamentally believe that people – made in the image of God – are good and helpful, regardless of political leanings or professed faith. Some politically active conservatives and progressives are the most loving, generous people I know. I carry an assumption that many from whom I deeply diverge in political opinion are doing a great deal for their local and global communities.
Although I strive to give individuals the benefit of the doubt regarding possible motivation and logic behind opinions with which I disagree, recent issues in San Diego have arisen that have diminished my willingness to assume nobility of the other side. Some recent and continuing actions are pure, unadulterated evil, and are indicative of an utter lack of integrity beyond positions on the issues themselves.
First and foremost, the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update (BLCPU), approved by the City Council in September 2013, is near and dear to my heart.
San Diego’s Planning Division web profile on Barrio Logan opens with:
“Barrio Logan is one of the oldest and most culturally-rich urban neighborhoods in San Diego. From historic beginnings in the latter part of the 19th century to the vibrant mix of uses and people who reside and work in Barrio Logan, the neighborhood has played a vital role in the City’s development.”
Unfortunately, this “vibrant mix of uses” has toxic unintended consequences. In thirty years without a community plan update, Barrio Logan has become a neighborhood with many homes and industrial businesses side-by-side, poverty, and three times the asthma hospitalization rate as the rest of San Diego. Its air quality is among the 5% worst in California.
City staff, Barrio Logan residents, and area businesses worked for more than five years to develop a new plan and gradually move toxic industries away from homes, daycares, and healthcare facilities. The plan they developed was unanimously supported by the San Diego Planning Commission and recommended for approval by city staff who knew the plan intimately.
The City Council approval was led by Councilmember David Alvarez, who helped negotiate the final compromise plan by agreeing to a key term of Shipyards executives: that no new housing would be allowed in the buffer zone. Shipyards lobbyist Chris Wahl told the Planning Commission they could agree to the Plan with this condition at a hearing last summer.
Neither residents nor Shipyards executives got everything they preferred, but the end product is a compromise plan which will allow industry to continue to grow while improving the health of residents over time, with no changes to existing homes nor businesses. It includes flexibility to work with existing businesses and help them thrive. Minor changes can be made over time without scrapping the years-long effort, if needed. The Plan itself projects an increase in jobs from about 10,000 to nearly 15,000.
However, a victory for the Barrio Logan community and David Alvarez is seen as an affront to the power of the local Republican party.
High profile San Diego Republicans have picked up the “we didn’t get everything we wanted” ’cause’ of the Shipyards executives, who continue to wring their hands and claim that any impediment to their future growth will destroy their industry and force the Navy to leave San Diego, though these claims are speculative at best and contradict the Secretary of the Navy’s own reassuring statements that they will stay.
The messaging and actions in opposition to the BLCPU are the definition of depraved deceit. They are laced with misinformation designed to turn the rest of San Diego against the largely non-Caucasian San Diego neighborhood and those residents’ hard-fought preference for the future of their community. It seeks to doom them instead to a future of sickness from unrestricted growth into their residential neighborhoods of one of the most polluting industries in the city, and is intended to turn public opinion against mayoral candidate David Alvarez.
Council Member Kevin Faulconer, who is running against David Alvarez, voted against the Plan but said he was 90% in agreement with it. That’s better than the approval rating of most politicians.
During NBC 7’s special election debate last week, Kevin Faulconer said David Alvarez exhibited a “failure of leadership” on Barrio Logan.
A failure because Faulconer and his Shipyards executives friends, significant campaign contributors, were only ninety percent in agreement with the Plan?
More like: a failure because Alvarez stood strong and did not capitulate to the ever-moving target of their demands, which essentially boil down to zero change to the way they do business. They want to maintain the status quo, continuing to make people sick, with zero accountability for the environmental and human health impacts they cause.
During that same NBC debate last week, Faulconer also said Shipyards workers feared for their jobs, supposedly as additional ‘proof’ of Alvarez’s ‘failure.’ Apparently he missed the news in December when those same workers said they felt betrayed by Shipyards executives and came out full-force in support of the Barrio Logan Community Plan.
Kevin Faulconer either is ignorant of this position taken by the same workers he claims to know and protect, ignored it because it doesn’t fit his narrative, or he’s lying to malign David Alvarez and bolster himself. I assume the second and third points are true.
Faulconer pays lip service to “working families” and their “middle class jobs,” but those families were betrayed by Shipyards executives, who lied to them to fabricate fear for their jobs. Now that they know the truth and publicly support the Barrio Logan Community Plan, they’re angry that they were used.
Faulconer keeps unrelentingly using them every time the issue is raised.
Shipyards workers don’t need Faulconer as their champion. The Barrio Logan Community Plan Update already protects their jobs, and the workers know it. Faulconer is proudly anti-union, so as soon as the fabricated story that these workers are in jeopardy no longer suits his political goals, he’ll either forget them or say they’re the enemy of industry for demanding middle class wages and benefits.
So: Shipyards executives negotiated in bad faith and/or lied to the City regarding terms that were agreeable and that they would not oppose in the Barrio Logan Community Plan.
They lied in their fear mongering about lost jobs and speculation about the Navy leaving San Diego, ignoring Navy statements indicating concern over human health and the Navy representatives’ unassailable comments that they will not be leaving San Diego. Nevertheless, Faulconer has decided taxpayers should spend up to $1 million to have this on the ballot.
Shipyards executives and their Republican allies’ deception on the Barrio Logan Plan is even more far-reaching and pervasive, however.
They obtained the legally required number of signatures to place a repeal of the plan on the ballot by paying signature gatherers, many of them brought from outside San Diego, and instructing them to spread coordinated lies about the Plan to the public. In the absence of truth telling, who wouldn’t sign a petition that claimed to protect jobs?
The Environmental Health Coalition (EHC), a Diego environmental justice organization, has focused efforts on improving the health of Barrio Logan residents through improved environmental conditions for many years. When it became clear that signature gatherers were lying to obtain signatures, EHC was left with no option but to either give up on Barrio Logan or file a lawsuit to challenge the validity of those signatures. I work for EHC’s attorneys at Coast Law Group, so have not only been involved as a passionate activist, but have read how extensively laws were broken in the course of the Referendum effort.
“When the City did not accede to the Association’s demands and approved the Plan, the Association launched a well-financed and extensive campaign to overturn the approval by using its vast financial resources to buy what it could not obtain though the democratic process. The Association circulated a referendum to the Plan and opened its war chest to pay 50 signature gatherers to spread throughout the City for days straight. Using scare tactics to obtain signatures, these circulators uniformly told voters the Plan would shut down the shipyards and put condominiums or low income housing in their place. They stated the Navy was leaving San Diego and 46,000 jobs would be lost as a direct result of the Plan. They lied to the voters en masse as the Association paid them by the signature.”
When Shipyards representatives were confronted with these lies, their responses were varied. They suggested volunteers supportive of the Plan position themselves next to each of the 50 locations around the City where signature gatherers were posted in front of shopping centers, at farmers markets, and the like, and tell their own ‘side of the issue’ to potential signatories. They suggested the lies were limited to a few individuals, and that the public could bring misdemeanor charges against those contract employees to gather signatures for violating state law and city code. They denied any responsibility for the baseless claims their hired signature gatherers were making.
Shortly before the signature gathering process was complete, however, they issued corrected talking points to their signature gatherers. They tried to hide this document, because the fact that they circulated it means false statements prior to that were pervasive, and the signatures could be invalidated.
Republican City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has repeatedly said the problems with dishonest signature gatherers should have been reported to him (they were, immediately, by community members and public interest attorneys). Shortly after that time, however, Shipyards representatives met privately with him. He later refused to defend the City Council’s approval of the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update in the EHC litigation.
Not only have the Shipyards executives abused the referendary process, pulling political strings along the way, but they’re currently trying to subvert justice in the courts.
After Republicans on City Council and Shipyards executives tried to bully the Council to repeal the Barrio Logan Plan and failed, attorneys for the Shipyards executives filed an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion in EHC’s lawsuit. They claim the lawsuit was only filed to stifle their political speech – aka their right to lie to the public.
The anti-SLAPP motion purposefully halted the litigation. It blocks EHC from rightfully obtaining documents and testimony proving the pervasiveness of the mistruths told to San Diego voters to obtain signatures for the Referendum. Their attorney strategically picked a hearing date eleven days prior to the June election.
EHC’s and Coast Law Group’s only recourse was to get an earlier hearing date in order to ask the Judge to allow the discovery phase of the lawsuit to proceed. The motion itself outlines an excellent recent history, and the follow-up reply further illustrates how outlandish the Shipyards executives’ claims have become in delaying the public interest and obfuscating the truth. I highly recommend reading both documents.
Separate from the legal process, many have weighed in on the maneuvering of the Shipyards executives, impacts to the mayoral election, and the future of how democracy will be done in San Diego.
I have no doubt some of the Shipyards executives involved are genuinely concerned about their ability to grow greater annual profits indefinitely. The facts as presented in the Community Plan and Navy commitments indicate they will be able to maintain and responsibly grow their profitability. But unbridled capitalism is overriding basic ethics. They’re willing to sacrifice human health on the altar of unencumbered corporate profit, and they’re willing to lie to do it.
They’re willing to waste up to $1 million in taxpayer money in order to do it.
They’re willing to steamroll local communities in order to do it.
If they can buy and lie their way into vetoing the fundamental wishes and basic health of the Barrio Logan community, there’s no reason they won’t do the same in other San Diego communities. This echoes Interim Mayor Todd Gloria’s strongly-worded statements on the matter: we must ensure democracy is not for sale.
I never previously had much strong feeling about Councilmember Faulconer one way or the other. I have been opposed to some of his anti-environment and anti-union votes over the years, but I never felt his personal statements were especially acerbic.
I now see Kevin Faulconer in an entirely different light, as well as those who stand up for the lies he perpetuates regarding Barrio Logan and the Shipyards.
By the time the web of lies is unwoven in litigation, the February special election will be over, and either David Alvarez or Kevin Faulconer will be mayor. It’s possible that the June election will have already determined the fate of Barrio Logan residents.
Faulconer is pursuing a path to mayoral victory on the backs of mostly Latino residents, and he lies about the community plan they fought hard to achieve. They already gave up much of their ideal vision to accommodate Kevin’s industry friends, but those Shipyards executives and local Republican operatives will not be appeased until they have broken democracy.
And yes, I am angry about it.
You should be, too.