By Matt Valenti
Thursday night, in a Montgomery Field airplane hanger, San Diego city councilman Chris Cate will deliver his “State of the District” speech.
No doubt he will talk about some of the big issues facing the residents of District 6, like affordable housing, the homeless crisis, potholes, and high water bills.
What he surely won’t talk about, however, is the most pressing issue facing District 6—the one which needs resolution before any other issues can be honestly tackled.
That issue is, of course, the legal hot water that Cate currently finds himself in.
The state Attorney General is investigating Cate’s use of his personal email account to leak a highly confidential memo from the City Attorney Mara Elliott regarding SoccerCity to his lobbyist friends at the developer. Weeks after his leak he received a contribution from the very same lobbyists.
Not only is the Attorney General investigating, but the city Ethics Commission has already slapped Cate with its maximum fine for the leak. And Elliott has called Cate’s leak “an egregious betrayal of the public trust.”
I would add that most of all it’s also an egregious betrayal of every resident of District 6.
As a candidate running to replace Cate, it might serve my campaign best if Cate stubbornly hangs on to his seat until the election. I can roundly criticize him while explaining how my background as an attorney and a reformer uniquely qualifies me to replace an incumbent who is up to his neck in legal trouble.
As I’ve gone door to door, listening to residents about their concerns in the district, I’ve yet to find a single voter who thinks that what Cate did is no big deal. In fact, they are plain disgusted. Many are frankly mad as hell.
The voters of District 6 are smart enough to send Cate packing in November, or better yet in the June primary. Many voters—Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike—have already told me they intend to do just that.
But I believe District 6 can’t afford to wait. We can’t afford to take the risk that Cate will betray us again in the months leading up to his inevitable election defeat. Perhaps he has already betrayed us again. After all, a leopard can’t change his spots.
That’s why I’m calling for Cate to resign immediately.
He should apologize to the residents of District 6, and indeed to all the residents of San Diego, then clear out his office and hightail it back to his home turf in Carlsbad.
I’ll be demanding Cate’s resignation at every campaign stop I make, and telling everyone I speak to that they should be demanding the same. His refusal to take responsibility for his actions, refusal to apologize, and refusal to promise not to do it again paints a picture of someone who feels he is above the law and unaccountable to his constituents.
For the sake of our democracy, not to mention our tax dollars, we cannot allow Cate to skate by and ride this out, as so many downtown politicians seem content to do.
If we downplay the seriousness of the allegations against him, if we leave it to law enforcement and the slow wheels of justice, we will regret it. We will be sending a message to all other politicians, lobbyists, and land speculators. A message that “pay to play” is “A-OK.” That corruption is tolerated in San Diego. That betraying the public trust comes with no serious consequences.
We can’t afford to send that message, and we can’t afford to risk leaving Cate in office until the election. He needs to resign now.
The state of District 6—and every other district in San Diego—depends upon it.
Matt Valenti is a lawyer, business executive and candidate for San Diego city council in District 6. His campaign website is mattvalentiforsandiego.com.