By this time next year, we will have elected the millennium’s first president. We also will greet a new Congress, as well as welcome new members to the state Assembly and Senate.
We’ll get our usual plate full of statewide and local ballot measures , it’s hard to believe we’re already seeing and hearing ads for them , and voters also will choose their local representatives for everything from supervisor to school board to dog catcher.
Arguably the most interesting local races will be for San Diego’s mayor and City Council. Four seats are up for election , Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7. And because of term limitations, Susan Golding must step down as mayor.
While San Diego city politics has produced some memorable moments , remember the roll-in-the-mud affair between Golding and Peter Navarro in ’92? , 2000 could set off more fireworks than the New Year’s celebrations.
This election year already is shaping up to be a referendum on the San Diego Padres’ proposed ballpark. Voters overwhelmingly approved what was an extremely hot topic in November 1998: a $411 million Downtown ballpark district, with the Padres’ new home as the crown jewel. The city was on a crusade to renovate the East Village district, and voters agreed the ballpark was just the right tonic.
Now, however, it seems the electorate may be having second thoughts. Controversy continues to swirl around the proposal like a dust devil on the corner of 10th and Imperial. A new ballpark initiative is being floated, several lawsuits are pending and land acquisitions are still a thorny issue. Though the original Opening Day of April 2002 hasn’t been completely abandoned, even the staunchest proponents are admitting the date may need to be delayed.
Some mayoral hopefuls are pointing to the ballpark, which escalated in price by some $70 million in early December, as the latest example of corporate welfare and government waste. Current City Council members running for the mayor’s seat are straddling the fence with this one, agreeing with their earlier commitment to the massive project but swallowing hard over the spiraling costs.
The trio of council members , George Stevens, Barbara Warden and Byron Wear , also are busy with damage control over their seat guarantee deal at Qualcomm Stadium with the San Diego Chargers. Each admits it was a bad deal, made after the Chargers’ run to the Super Bowl.
Perhaps not so ironically, the Padres got their stadium a couple weeks after playing in just their second World Series in franchise history. Timing, they say, is everything, and the candidates are exploiting both issues to the max.
Though we see it shaping up this way, our hope is this doesn’t become merely a one-issue race. The ballpark district is key, no doubt, but there are plenty of other issues to contend with. Redevelopment of the Embarcadero, traffic, policing crime-infested neighborhoods, enhancing business opportunities both at home and abroad are big concerns.
But, they’re not hot-button issues. At least, not this election year. Perhaps once the logjam of contenders are whittled to the two top vote-getters in the March primary, we will see a more serious discussion of a variety of issues. The ballpark will be , and should be , among them. But at this point, it shouldn’t be the sole reason someone wins or loses.