Skeptics who predicted that the takeover of the Union-Tribune by Chicago's Tribune Publishing wouldn't really change San Diego's big-money media and political culture may turn out to be right, judging from the latest proclamation by the GOP Lincoln Club.
"Communities United for Tomorrow’s Economy, a new political action committee supporting the re-election of Mayor Kevin Faulconer, raised $600,000 in the first month since its formation," says a July 1 news release posted on SDRostra.com.
"The committee is a coalition of local business associations, sponsored by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Lincoln Club of San Diego County."
According to the post, "During the month of June, the committee received contributions from the Chamber, Lincoln Club, California Restaurant Association, Building Industry Association, Associated General Contractors, Lodging Industry Association, and California Apartment Association."
For the moment at least, no serious mayoral opponent to Faulconer has surfaced, but, noted commenter Barry Jantz, "'no declared opposition' also means trying to keep it that way."
Faulconer's PR operation has also done well, getting its candidate out of town and about the country, where he has variously pitched himself on national cable channels, in GOP conclaves, and at pre-packaged environmental events.
Some local scribes have boosted the Faulconer chorus, including one for the Voice of San Diego, a nonprofit news and opinion online operation that has been heavily backed by Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs.
The wealthy La Jollan is a longtime friend and ally of Faulconer's political mentor and ex-GOP mayor Jerry Sanders, who now runs the local chamber of commerce.
Jacobs’s favored candidate in the last mayoral derby, Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher, has ruled himself out of next year’s race.
According to a Voice item on Monday (July 6), Faulconer has "embraced a bold climate action plan that would have the city reach for a 100 percent clean-energy portfolio and dramatically increase participation in public transit."
The term "bold" may or may not be in the eye of the beholder, but the characterization has also been employed without quotes by another member of local media, a reporter for the pre-Tribune U-T San Diego, as in, "proposing a bold climate action plan."
Faulconer himself carried a similar message to Sacramento in March, where he did a well-publicized stand-up at a big-business-backed think tank chaired by
Donna Lucas, a onetime executive of his former employer, the giant public relations firm of Porter Novelli.
Another success has been the mayor’s One San Diego nonprofit, bankrolled by many of the same special interests that do business with city hall.
“He has worked hard to communicate his concern for neighborhoods struggling with poverty and neglect,” notes the Voice item.
For its part, the new if not yet improved Union-Tribune has remained silent about certain goings-on at the mayor's well-financed developer-supported nonprofit, while at the same time highlighting a string of staff allegations against labor-union-backed Democratic county supervisor Dave Roberts.
When it comes to the Chargers stadium wars, the paper's new ownership has been especially hands-off, leading some to believe that the Los Angeles–based management, in the form of publisher Austin Beutner, wouldn't be displeased if the team departed for a venue to the north.
In his earlier incarnation as an L.A. politico, the wealthy Beutner labored mightily to get an NFL team for the city.
"Los Angeles is not going to get a Super Bowl simply by whining or by tugging on the NFL's heartstrings," he said on the Huffington Post in February 2012, arguing for construction of a downtown L.A. stadium.
In the case of San Diego, on the other hand, the paper under his control has adopted a more passive stance.
A June 27, 2014, U-T editorial told readers to "wait till next year," regarding their hopes for keeping the Chargers from moving to Los Angeles, where Tribune owns the L.A. Times.
"This year is all but lost."
The paper subsequently ran a July 4 feature, headlined "San Diego may do better without the NFL,” containing just three glancing references to the mayor.
Omitting mention of efforts to force the team to stay in town by means of anti-trust laws, the story points out that an NFL stadium subsidy would be "a bad business idea for the public."
Noting that the Chargers have "left the negotiating table to pursue a stadium in the Los Angeles market," the piece concludes, "Those who value economic growth in San Diego may be rooting for them to succeed."
Such a relatively painless separation from the Chargers albatross, city insiders believe, could also be a boon for Faulconer's political future, especially if the U-T spins the team's departure in his favor.
Councilman Scott Sherman offered this plan for the existing Qualcomm Stadium site
The mayor, who has yet to appoint a new planning director, might then be well positioned to greenlight with little public discussion the kind of congested Mission Valley mega-building described by the U-T’s Fourth of July story:
"The best private idea is probably that promoted by commercial broker Gary London, who wants to somehow draw the next Google or Facebook into town, tempted by the chance to build a big, unified corporate campus."