Opinion: Chris Cate Failed District 6 by Releasing SoccerCity Memo

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Chris Cate is interviewed on KFMB. Courtesy of his office

By Matt Valenti

It has been over two weeks since city council member Chris Cate’s mega mea culpa, and I can’t believe he still has the nerve to show his face at City Hall.

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Cate fessed up to betraying the city of San Diego by giving away the city’s confidential legal analysis and bargaining position to Nick Stone, a developer who stands to make a fortune off the land grab otherwise known as SoccerCity.

After apparently crying crocodile tears to the city attorney, Cate is now insisting he’s hanging on to his District 6 seat, as his spinmeister Tony Manolatos tries to smooth the scandal over by claiming Cate was just “doing his job.”

Manolatos is right. Cate was just doing his job. Unfortunately, though, it’s not the job the voters of District 6 elected him to do.

And that’s the real scandal. Yes, Cate broke the law, betrayed the trust of his constituents, revealed himself to be a rank amateur, and is now adding insult to injury by claiming he did nothing wrong. But this scandal reveals something even worse: it tells us loud and clear that Cate is in the pocket of developers. He works for them, not the residents and small businesses of the sixth district.

None of this is surprising, though. Cate’s political career has been dependent on the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, a group that is a front for major developers. Need proof? Look at the latest op-ed written by the backers of SoccerCity. The two lead authors are Nick Stone and April Boling.

Boling recently left SDCTA to help Stone promote this Mission Valley land grab. Does that sound like taxpayer advocacy to you?

In the days when Boling and Cate worked together at SDCTA, Boling was Cate’s boss. It seems she still is, now that she works for Stone.

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Haven’t we had enough of politicians who lie through their teeth? Who publicly claim they want to protect the taxpayers, while privately doing everything in their power to funnel tax dollars and city-owned property to their powerful cronies?

I’m a lawyer, but you don’t need a legal degree to know that a city council member shouldn’t break the law, reveal confidential legal information to the city’s adversaries, and then blatantly lie about it to his constituents. Cate’s action was illegal, and his refusal to accept responsibility for it is extremely disturbing.

But as someone who has lived, worked, and raised a family in the sixth district for almost a decade, it’s even more disturbing to see how poorly Cate has represented our district downtown.

While Cate “did his job” for developers like Nick Stone, the needs of the residents, families, and small business owners in our district were given short shrift.

In the last few years I’ve seen housing costs in this middle-class district skyrocket, at the same time the homeless population exploded—all while Cate and Mayor Kevin Faulconer were laser-focused on helping their downtown developer buddies convert thousands of units of affordable housing into luxury condos and boutique hotels.

Having worked as an executive at a biotech that’s been in Kearny Mesa for three decades, I’ve also seen firsthand how the business needs of this district are ignored year after year by downtown politicians like Cate. Prime example—the Convoy Street business district.

An amazingly diverse and vital part of the community, loaded with popular Asian businesses, Convoy is rich with potential. With the right help from City Hall it could become another success story like Little Italy. Local businesses and community boosters have repeatedly asked for such help, but it’s never arrived. The area’s potential remains stifled by poor infrastructure, blight, traffic problems, and a crisis-level population of homeless living in vehicles.

Maybe if Convoy Street was home to an empty football stadium or an over-hyped convention center, politicians like Cate or Mayor Faulconer would actually care.

Cate’s scandal is a reminder that it’s long past time for our district to have an honest leader, someone whose loyalty to the community will never be trumped by secret alliances with scheming developers.

We need someone who cares about—and works for—the people of District 6.

Matt Valenti is a lawyer, community advocate, and longtime District 6 resident.

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