‘‘I have seen what’s going on, and I don’t know how people make it on $7.25. With that being said, I would like to see an increase of some magnitude, but I’d rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide.”
And that is just what’s happening in California. The “Fair Wage Act of 2016” aims to raise the Golden State’s minimum wage to $15 in increments by 2021.
There is little doubt in California that a minimum wage increase will pass in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the political establishment has fully supported the measure. But San Diego is a much different story.
The Republican leadership in the state’s second-largest city is staunchly opposed to a minimum wage hike. Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer vetoed a measure passed by the City Council in August 2014 which would increase the minimum wage in San Diego. The Council overrode his veto by a vote of 6 to 2, with Councilmember Ed Harris – who is now running for mayor – voting for the override. However, implementation of the measure was delayed by a successful signature drive led by business groups, forcing a public referendum on the issue in June 2016.
Faulconer believes that raising the minimum wage will force small businesses to increase prices, layoff workers, search for greater automation, and possibly shut down operations or leave San Diego.
Despite the opposition from the local GOP, the popular measure is still likely to receive a majority of votes from San Diegans and pass. The issue is also likely to influence turnout as many non-typical voters go to the polls to support the measure.
There are two major initiatives expected to share the ballot in November with minimum wage, one backed by the NFL and Chargers to build a new downtown stadium; the other, a Citizens’ Plan that contemplates tourism reform. Mayor Faulconer and the Republican establishment have come out against both.
The conflict on the future of the city is energizing non-typical voters (some of whom are only interested in the NFL), which is likely to result in a skewed turnout.
This phenomenon has city council and city attorney candidates rushing to align themselves with the initiatives in order to benefit from this unexpected bloc of voters.
The most recent example of this were the jabs traded between city council candidates Barbara Bry and Ray Ellis, covered by local TV station KPBS:
The campaigns of Barbara Bry and Ray Ellis, candidates for City Council District 1, exchanged harsh words this week over mailers sent by an independent group attacking Bry for her support of a citizens initiative relating to the city management of tourism assets. “The flier's headline reads: ‘Barbara Bry & Chargers Agree: DOWNTOWN STADIUM!’ But Bry opposes a downtown stadium for the Chargers. She also opposes public funding for a Chargers stadium.” ~ KPBS
The initiatives were also in the crosshairs of San Diego City Attorney and outspoken Ted Cruz supporter Jan Goldsmith. Goldsmith, whose term ends in November, publicly panned the Citizens’ Plan and questioned the initiative’s legality, even suggesting that it shouldn’t be on the ballot.
There are 5 city attorney candidates running to replace Goldsmith, and just like the city council races, the initiatives have become a flashpoint for that race's debate, furthering the belief that turnout for the June primary will reach historic highs. One of the candidates, Gil Cabrera, has publicly endorsed the Citizens’ Plan.
Goldsmith’s actions would be unprecedented. Never before has an initiative qualified for the ballot and not been allowed to go before voters. But San Diego has long been a zero-sum political arena, where if one doesn’t align with the city’s power structure, one is quickly left out in the cold.
Image: Donald Trump (left) and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (right) / Credit: NBC San Diego