San Diego Business Journal

Resignations. Corruption charges and convictions. Fiscal chaos and federal investigations. The city attorney and City Hall butting heads daily, and a national spotlight that has turned the image of America's Finest City on its ear.

As the problems continue to mount, two mayoral candidates have been trying to convince San Diego voters that they have what it takes to fix the mess. On Nov. 8, voters will get to decide for themselves who will be the successor to the embattled Dick Murphy, who stepped down on July 15 amid all the turmoil.

San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye has been promoting her Triple A financial plan as a remedy, and her opponent, former San Diego police Chief Jerry Sanders, is touting his Action Plan for Recovery. While they take different approaches to the problems, both have said they hope that their blueprints will stave off Chapter 9 bankruptcy. But, here too, they part company.

Frye has proposed asking voters to give the mayor the exclusive right to negotiate an overall financial plan that also would give the mayor the exclusive right to file a Chapter 9 proceeding.

Sanders, who said that he was the first candidate to urge using the threat of bankruptcy as leverage to bring public employee unions back to the negotiating table, has called Frye's ballot proposal "a sham," guaranteeing "years more of uncertainty and disorder."

Meanwhile, conflict between the two has continued to build as Election Day draws near. Sanders showed up on Oct. 14 outside the State Building in Downtown San Diego with Arthur Laffer, who was economic adviser to President Reagan and creator of the Laffer Curve, a cautionary treatise on government taxes.

While they both chided Frye for suggesting a possible increase in the sales tax by half a cent, she countered by saying that such a tax would be a last resort, and that "selling off public land or issuing more bonded indebtedness doesn't make sense."

The Business Of Politics

On Oct. 26, the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce, for the first time in its 83-year history, endorsed a political candidate , Sanders.

That was preceded Sept. 29 by another Sanders endorsement by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce , a move so rare that no one can remember when it last happened.

Jessie J. Knight Jr., the chamber's president, said that Sanders was "the right person, with the skills and personality, to lead this city during this very challenging period."

Frye countered that, "I have great support among the business community, particularly the small businesses." And, to prove it, she lists dozens of them on her Web site.

Then on Oct. 21, the Performance Institute, a San Diego-based government reform think tank , noting that both candidates' game plans have merit , endorsed Sanders' proposals as offering San Diego "the best chance to put its fiscal house back in order."

Whoever grabs the brass ring will be the one to test a strong mayor form of government, which will begin a five-year trial period on Jan. 1.

Approved by voters in November 2004, the new system would make the mayor the chief executive officer, with hiring and firing power, and greater authority over city officers and employees. Among other things, it would remove the mayor from City Council, which would provide checks and balances.

What do San Diego's businesspeople think of all this? Here's a sampling of what they believe to be the big issues facing their businesses and districts.

Steven G. Rowles, District 1

Cory Miller, District 2

Jennifer Whitelaw, District 3

Brenda Pierce, District 4

Bernard Mougel, District 5

Jeff Quinn, District 6

Frank Pettit, District 7

Rick Otis, District 8