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

Brian Brady Brian Brady


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.