San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, an ex–public relations man, has hit the road again, this time to Sacramento to garner publicity for himself and his water proposals in a high-profile meeting with Democratic governor Jerry Brown.
As previously reported here, Faulconer has been making the most of his incumbency with a full agenda of out-of-town travel, paid for by San Diego taxpayers and the GOP, touting himself in national and state media.
The mayor has also been advertising for someone to provide $1.6 million in "drought messaging" public relations services for the city’s water operation; he is already featured prominently in the water department's current PR efforts. Before his departure for the state capital, Faulconer staged a TV news conference at the city’s toilet-to-tap recycling project.
The high-profile appearance of Democrat Brown with the politically ambitious Republican mayor, unaccompanied by city-council Democrats, is yet another indication to political veterans that San Diego's GOP will easily retain the mayor's office and further consolidate its hold on city hall.
Behind the scenes, Faulconer's big-money reelection machine has already glided quietly into motion with last week's formation of Faulconer for Mayor 2016, a campaign committee virtually sure to amass a formidable cash war chest from the city's real estate development and related commercial interests.
The April 24 filing with the city clerk's office was accompanied by Faulconer's official statement of intention to seek a full term as mayor next year.
The creation of the committee more than a year ahead of the city's June 2016 primary is expected by political insiders to mark the beginning of a hectic round of splashy, high-dollar fundraising events and discrete in-office meetings with would-be donors seeking to get an edge at city hall.
Thanks to the city's so-called strong mayor city charter drafted by business lobbyists during the days of GOP mayor Jerry Sanders, the mayoral post wields a wide array of largely unchecked powers.
One talked-of opponent, Democratic city councilman Todd Gloria, who himself has close ties to the city's all-powerful hotel lobby, has already announced he won't take on the mayor, instead seeking to succeed termed-out Assembly speaker Toni Atkins.
The returns for one prominent Faulconer major money backer have been considerable. Mega-developer and U-T San Diego publisher Douglas Manchester has seen the architect of his proposed Mission Valley residential and commercial complex appointed to the planning commission.
In addition, environmental violations at Manchester's Grand del Mar luxury resort were resolved last fall by friendly negotiations with city development officials.
After that deal was done, the GOP kingpin unloaded the property to a company controlled by Richard Blum, husband of Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein.
Another winner has been Faulconer's political consultant, Jason Roe, known in some circles as the mayor's brain.
Following last year's mayoral victory, Roe and associate Dwayne Dichiara, along with Janelle Riella, formed Presidio Public Affairs Group, a registered lobbyist whose clients soon included tobacco giant Lorillard, Inc., and billboard behemoth CBS Outdoor.
Then, as first reported here January 20, Roe snagged a deal to lobby for Delaware North, a national food-vending giant seeking to obtain the food-and-booze concession for Qualcomm Stadium.
Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the Chargers, subsequently questioned Roe's behind-the-scenes dealings with Faulconer's so-called citizens stadium task force, a group set up by the mayor to keep the football team from leaving town by building a new tax-subsidized venue.
"Putting the legal and ethical issues aside for a moment," wrote Fabaini in a February 17 letter to the mayor, "what sense does it make to have someone who is your chief advisor on political matters, and who advises a potential stadium vendor on business matters, play any sort of role with the 'independent' Task Force?”
Then former stadium concessionaire Centerplate waded into the fray, charging in a letter from executive Keith B.W. King that "during the 90 minutes allotted to Centerplate for its presentation, not one member of the selection committee asked a single question regarding any one of the five different financial proposals put forth by Centerplate in its [request for proposal] response.”
The missive continued, "Further troubling are the recent allegations raised about [Delaware North's] lobbyist and his apparent connection to the Mayor's office.”
The U-T remained mum about the Centerplate controversy, effectively keeping the story from play on national wire services and TV news, which local media observers view as having done Faulconer a distinct political favor.
The paper ultimately broke its silence on April 27 to report the city council's vote in favor of Delaware North, with Gloria dissenting.
"Other council members called the deal a 'no-brainer' that would yield more revenue for the city and dramatically improve the concessions at Qualcomm," the U-T reported, without mentioning Roe, Fabiani’s criticism, or Centerplate’s charges.