San Diego City Councilman Ed Harris: Sarah Boot’s Dog Whistler

Brian Brady Brian Brady 17 Comments


Let’s start here; Councilman Ed Harris is an unelected Councilman with 8 months left on his term.  He can’t run for re-election so, in essence, he is immune from voter input.  One of his first acts, after being appointed to the office vacated by Mayor Faulconer, was to reaffirm his endorsement of  fellow Democrat Sarah Boot for his seat.

Unelected short-timers can be useful props in campaigns.  They can say things the candidate can’t.  To wit:

Councilman Ed Harris said density belonged in blighted neighborhoods in District 4, instead of Clairemont’s “family oriented community.”

This is what the Voice of San Diego reported Harris saying at a Clairemont Town Hall.  The citizens of Clairemont are up in arms about a variance for developers to build up rather than out.  From this Voice of San Diego report on the meeting:

Besides those two voices, the crowd’s position was clear: Don’t change our community. Don’t hurt our bay views. Don’t increase traffic. Don’t decrease parking. You’ll hurt our property values. You’ll increase crime. You’ll hurt our businesses.

“Leave us in peace,” one resident said, underlining the neighborhood’s basic request. The setting was anything but peaceful.

I get the gist of Harris’ idea.  Clairemont is fully built out and, for the most part, happy to be a suburban neighborhood of single-family homes–some neighborhoods may be more receptive to new development….but that’s not what Harris said.

Councilman Ed Harris said density belonged in blighted neighborhoods in District 4, instead of Clairemont’s “family oriented community.”

Pay close attention to two phrases “blighted neighborhoods” and “family-oriented communities.” Chris Matthews would, if  a Republican uttered that phrase, probably call that a “dog whistle”— a message which is designed to suggest to white voters that people of color are not welcome.  “Blighted neighborhoods”  is the “code word” which got Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) into trouble with the political speech police crowd.  I suppose that comparing District Four to the “family-oriented community” of Clairemont suggests that the citizens of District Four are not…”family-oriented.”

You’re wrong Ed, and if you or Sarah Boot ever spent a day there you’d understand.  I volunteered for Sandy Spackman’s council run and Kevin Faulconer’s mayoral campaign in District Four — there are PLENTY of families in District Four that consider their neighborhood to be just as family-oriented as Clairemont.

District Two is mostly populated by white people while District Four has the highest population of non-whites.  So what’s Harris REALLY trying to say here?

Well, maybe it’s a dog-whistle to the white Clairemont voters that non-white Republican Chris Cate is running in District Six (which includes parts of Clairemont).  Or maybe it’s just some old-fashioned, Bull Connor-type segregation promises.  In other words, Harris’ endorsed candidate can be counted on to practice segregationist policies of keeping density away from white people with nice bay views.

Someone in the San Diego media ought to follow up with Harris and also ask Sarah Boot if she approves of his segregationist comments.


Comments 17

  1. I love it when leftists are hung by the tongue. Myrtle Cole…no outrage?!

  2. Sarah Boot is running in District 2, not against Chris Cate in District 6. I agree that Ed Harris’ comments were despicable, but what do they have to do with Sarah Boot or for that matter, Chris Cate?

  3. Sarah Boot has been criticizing Lori Zapf over building heights, sending out a press release saying she wouldn’t support increased heights. At about the same time, Harris was making these comments.

  4. T.A.,

    And what does any of that have to do with “non-white Republican Chris Cate…” He isn’t even running against Sarah Boot. I believe the Democratic Party endorsed candidate who is running against Chris Cate is also a “non-white.”

    Bottom line, Brian pointed out an egregious comment made by a non-electric Democratic City Councilman and then really messed up when he tried to tie the reason for that statement to his endorsement of another candidate.

  5. Post
  6. Brian,

    Let me put it all into one comment:

    As I have already said twice, what Council Member Harris said is reprehensible. I will add that if this had been said by a Republican, there would have been significantly more outrage.

    Had you left it at that, pointing out the hypocrisy in the media and the Democratic leadership in not strongly condemning Harris’ words, I would have wholeheartedly agreed. However, you tried to claim that Mr. Harris was using “dog-whistle” politics to help Sarah Boot’s campaign and hurt Chris Cate’s campaign (I will give you the benefit of the doubt that these were separate thoughts and you knew that they aren’t running against each other).

    If you still think that was Harris’ objective, please tell me:

    1. How his comments could possibly help Sarah Boot take votes away from her main competitor since that competitor is also Caucasian?

    2. How his comments could possibly take votes away from Chris Cate since both of his main competitors are, like him, Asian and the seat he is competing for had its lines redrawn in 2010 with the intent of creating an Asian council seat?

  7. “Messed up.” Everyone at city hall knows full well that Harris was being used as a mouthpiece by Boot against Zapf, only to stick his foot in it. Deny all you want.

  8. Post

    I think we agree that what Harris said was reprehensible, that the Democratic leadership’s silence is hypocritical, and that the media’s silence is evidence of anti-Republican bias.

    Does Sarah Boot agree with us?

  9. Hypocrisy-

    Zapf is Latina. Her mother was Mexican. Which makes Zapf the first woman of color elected to the San Diego City Council.

  10. The left doesn’t consider Zapf a woman of color. She’s not a Democrat. Speaking of hypocrisy.

  11. Usually only elected officials are not bound by the Federal Hatch Act prohibiting political activity on the job, not necessarily locally appointed officials into an elected office. Anyone can make an inquiry if an appointed official to an elected office is allowed to make political statement and endorsements using the non-elected City Council Member title.

    “Can I be appointed to public office?
    Answer: Yes. The Hatch Act does not prohibit a covered employee from being appointed to a partisan political office. However, if the employee is covered by the Hatch Act, the employee would be prohibited from seeking election to that office.”

  12. Low income blighted communities are identified by US Census Tracks. The map where New Market Tax Credit can be spent and Federal CDBG funding comes from shows most or all of Districts 3, 4, 8, and 9 as low income. In District 6 the only neighborhood considered blighted and in need of infrastructure is Mission Valley. Clairemont is not considered blighted or targeted by the Federal government for public infrastructure investments.

    District 4 Council member Myrtle Cole and previous Council Member Tony Young have stated that their communities would like the public infrastructure that comes with officially increasing density and height limits. The City of San Diego and Successor Agency own large empty lots available immediately for increased density and heights, with neighborhood approval. See Page 24 for property in the former Southeastern Merged project area for Valencia Park, Gateway Center West, and Market Street.

    However to make money, developers only want to densify and build outside of low income communities. All residential neighborhoods are family oriented communities.

  13. The Hatch Act allows covered local employees to be appointed. Not sure if appointed officials to elected office can endorse others politically. It is a question for the Office of Special Counsel.

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