Another day, another PR road trip for San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, who showed up in the state capital Monday, March 23, to pitch himself at a global warming seminar put on by a nonprofit think tank chaired by a fellow big-money public relations veteran.
"It’s not too often a Republican mayor touts his city’s climate change efforts, let alone in Sacramento," gushed U-T San Diego in a March 24 dispatch about Faulconer's anti–global warming plan.
"Environmental groups and business leaders have both generally praised the plan as ambitious, but also realistic and doable."
The mayor's critics maintain the situation is considerably more nuanced than that; the U-T cited only the GOP mayor's own assessment.
His election victory over Democrat David Alvarez was backed by $356,000 from U-T owner Douglas Manchester.
In addition to the glowing hometown coverage, vintage Sacramento Bee scribe Dan Walters cranked out a "Who might be running for California governor in 2018?" column also weighted with Faulconer encomium.
"Most speculation settles on two relatively young, moderate mayors, Fresno’s Ashley Swearengin and San Diego’s Kevin Faulconer," Walters said.
"He ducked a question about the governorship, saying, 'I’m happy about what I’m doing,' but his message was uncannily similar to themes that a former San Diego mayor, Pete Wilson, struck on his own way to a U.S. Senate seat and the governorship."
The climate-change event was held by the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit think tank that is financially backed by some of the state's most influential establishment interests, including the foundation of the Irvine Company's Donald Bren; the shopping-center industry's California Business Properties Association; and the foundation of Republican ex–L.A. mayor Richard Riordan.
San Diego's mayor was introduced by the institute's chairperson, Donna Lucas, who along with Faulconer is a former executive of public relations giant Porter Novelli.
Lucas now runs the Lucas Public Affairs Group, which, according to its website, "manages communications and outreach for an array of corporations and interests, and its clients come from a myriad number of industries including energy, sports and entertainment, insurance, local government, transportation, natural resources, health care, business and finance, tourism and education."
A onetime San Diegan, Lucas was deputy chief of staff to GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and chief of staff to his wife Maria Shriver. Lucas is currently is a key player in the state's major-money politics, as noted by the Bee’s Walters in a February 8 piece.
Listing an array of lobbyist-employers — including "Internet poker, oil well fracking, rent control, tax breaks for the movie and aerospace industries or countless other high-dollar issues" — Walters observed, "Those interest groups spend many millions more on 'public relations,' either in-house or through dozens of firms that specialize in polishing the images of their clients or otherwise supporting the efforts of lobbyists."
"It’s been a growth industry as indicated by last week’s announcement that the public relations firm headed by veteran Capitol operative Donna Lucas is expanding its staff."
Faulconer's latest public relations foray comes on the heels of the mayor's February PR trip to New York and Washington, where he put in a mixed performance on national cable TV shows, while he and media aide Charles Chamberlayne ran up a combined $4488 travel and lodging tab.
Records obtained under the California Public Records Act show Faulconer and Chamberlayne were accompanied on the five-day trip by deputy chief operating officer David Graham and San Diego police detectives Ross Weaver and Ana Rodriguez, for whom the city has yet to furnish expense reports.