Walter Mencken 11:31 a.m., Feb. 1
Nathan Fletcher files for mayor of San Diego
As Filner heads for departure with reported settlement deal, declaration of city's number one recently minted Democrat raises revival possibilities for Jacobs Balboa Park teardown deal
The body isn't quite yet dead, but apparently anticipating the imminent political demise of Democratic mayor Bob Filner in today's vote on a reported departure deal, ex-Republican Nathan Fletcher has been the first to jump into the race to replace him, according to a declaration dated August 20 and posted online by the San Diego city clerk's office.
Expected by insiders to enjoy the backing of La Jolla billionaire and Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, who recently gave big money to Hillary Clinton's putative presidential bid, Fletcher has changed from Republican to Independent to Democrat in the space of about a year.
The filing allows Fletcher to begin fundraising for the race immediately, and may also mean that Jacobs will be able to revive his controversial plans to revamp Balboa Park's traffic, parking, and road plans, as reported in here February:
To promote the traffic and parking makeover plan, the combative cell phone magnate and mega-million dollar political campaign donor pulled out all the stops with city hall politicos and the San Diego non-profit media outlets he has funded. U-T San Diego, the daily news operation run by GOP mogul Douglas Manchester, also served as a willing stage for the plan, with critics the recipients of editorial dressing downs and negative cartoons.
As previously reported here, a non-profit organization he funded used a Denver design firm to hire MJE, a San Diego lobbying outfit to grease the wheels at the city.
MJE Marketing, the lobbying outfit that’s been helping to push the controversial Irwin Jacobs Balboa Park makeover through city hall, picked up another $31,000 for its services in the second quarter of the year, recent City lobbyist filings show. That makes MJE’s gross income from the project a total of $105,000 so far.
La Jolla billionaire and Qualcomm founder Jacobs set up and funded a nonprofit foundation to mount his pet project. That group, in turn, retained Civitas, Inc., a Colorado-based architecture and planning consultant that subsequently hired MJE to represent the project’s interests at the City.
MJE’s most recent disclosure shows that the firm’s Kristen Byrne and Lauren Bogart lobbied mayoral staffers Gerry Braun and Darren Pudgil for approval of the Jacobs park deal. In addition, Byrne gave $250 to the failed mayoral campaign of ex-GOP–turned–independent assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who backs the Jacobs project.
Jacobs political money has been the key, insiders say, to special favors granted Qualcomm by the city.
Jacobs also was a key fundraiser for past campaigns of GOP mayor Jerry Sanders, who pushed the Balboa Park plan using his new strong mayor powers. Jacobs had backed Prop D, the strong mayor campaign.
Sanders did similar bidding for Qualcomm's so-called Snapdragon Stadium gambit, in which Sanders allowed the cell phone giant to rebrand the city-owned stadium for several weeks during the football bowl season. Sanders took the action knowing that the city attorney had called the deal illegal.
Though afraid to go on the record, more than one city staffer claims that Sanders and his people pay little attention to the city council’s prerogatives under the law, as exemplified by the Snapdragon tangle.
The measure that ultimately tilted the City’s balance of power in favor of the mayor, June 2010’s Proposition D, was backed by a host of major business interests, including Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife Joan.
They gave a total of $10,000 to the campaign committee, which ironically called itself San Diegans for Accountability at City Hall. The couple had given maximum contributions to Sanders’s 2008 reelection bid.
But the key to the city council’s quiescence about the Snapdragon deal, some observers say, is the fact that Jacobs, his family members, and Qualcomm colleagues have backed many other city politicos.
Even those whom Jacobs and the company haven’t supported in the past are looking for future money from the La Jolla billionaire and his friends, the sources say. Jacobs has been an Obama backer.
Other big California politicos have also benefited the largesse of Jacobs and his wife Joan.
And then there was the story of California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who last year wrote a letter to State Historic Preservation Officer M. Wayne Donaldson, warning him not to oppose the plan.
Said Newsom's February 15 letter:
"This is a project with broad local political, philanthropic and community support so it may be more productive to work in collaboration with the project development team to achieve your goal of preserving this historical open-space.
"As the State Historic Preservation Officer I hope that you will consider these arguments, withdraw your comments, and begin to work in collaboration with the leaders of the Plaza de Panama project."
"Should you need help making contact with the project team I stand ready to assist."
A month after he wrote the letter for the Jacobs project, the La Jolla billionaire and his wife Joan gave the Democrat's re-election campaign $12,000.
Donaldson subsequently lost his job.
We have a call into Jacobs-founded Qualcomm, where Fletcher is currently employed.
More like this:
- Irwin Jacobs Balboa Park tram operation proceeding full speed ahead — Aug. 29, 2013
- Jacobs says he is bowing out of Balboa Park makeover — Feb. 5, 2013
- Sanders requests bids for Irwin Jacobs Balboa Park project under legal challenge — Sept. 28, 2012
- Full-Service Lobbyists — Aug. 29, 2012
- Jacobs Balboa Park Consultant Paid Lobbyist $40,000 — Feb. 9, 2012