By Colleen O’Connor
A recent spate of articles has focused on Barbara Bry’s wealth, implying it is somehow a disqualifying negative.
In fact, it is a tremendous positive. Think FDR, JFK, and other great leaders who defied the “entrenched powers that be” to get great things done.
Why is Bry’s wealth an asset? Because she earned it herself and is using it to defy the special interests that have too long dominated San Diego politics.
An MBA from Harvard, a high-tech entrepreneur, and a budgetary “wonk,” Bry earned her own money as a co-founder of ProFlowers. She possess a rare combination of strengths rare for political office holder.
Because of this, she is genuinely independent—beholden to no one.
She can also read a balance sheet; decipher a budget’s hidden flaws and giveaways (remember the Ash Street scandal); comprehend biotech and high-tech innovations; and make the tough decisions in the best interests of the city.
In short, she is exactly what San Diego needs in a post-pandemic, economic recession era.
However, two issues surrounding Bry’s financial investments have garnered scrutiny, including one involving San Diego Gas & Electric.
She is a proponent of the city’s new government-run utility called San Diego Community Power, which is slated to begin purchasing more renewable energy for the city starting next year. At the same time, SDG&E’s exclusive contract to distribute power is expiring after 50 years.
Bry’s financial holdings include Berkshire Hathaway, which has expressed an interest in competing against SDG&E. Some stories hint that this constitutes a conflict.
However, Bry has promised to recuse herself from that final vote, should Berkshire Hathaway finally decide to submit a bid. And that’s the right thing to do.
According to the Voice of San Diego, one government ethics expert summed up Bry’s recusal promise this way: “That’s just great…Clearly that individual [Bry] is thinking not only about the law, but also about what his or her constituents’ expectations are, and expectations of fairness in the process.”
The second financial tie involves Bry’s stock ownership in fossil fuel companies, even though she opposes offshore oil drilling. This is hardly, a city-centric conflict of interest.
So, let’s look at the real issues and questions separating Bry and Todd Gloria: housing development, vacation rentals, height limits and fairness in local government processes.
San Diego does not need more residential neighborhood infill projects mandated by Sacramento, more Airbnb rentals destroying once tranquil neighborhoods, more dockless scooters, or more cement projects paving over our neglected parks.
The city definitely does not need elimination of the 30-foot height limit anywhere near water, including the Midway District.
As environmentalist Donna Frye has written, “The San Diego City Council put this half-baked measure on the ballot with no environmental review and no requirement that any affordable housing be built.”
As for fairness in local government, how about that Sports Arena redevelopment that was rushed through with only four bidders. Imagine a billion-dollar plus project with so few bidders. It’s another “flawed process” that Gloria supports and Bry opposes.
For his part, Gloria constantly argues for more development. “It is time for us to quit acting like a small town and instead start acting like the eighth-largest city in the country that we are,” he says. “If we do that, we can dispense with the issues that have been on the table for so long but never seem to get addressed.”
What are those issues on the table? The 101 Ash Street scandal? Sacramento’s control over local land-use issues? Rushed mega-developments?
Gloria essentially wants an end to all that makes San Diego a desirable and human-scale city. He wants bigger, higher and denser projects that are fast-tracked to groundbreaking.
Bry is self-funding her campaign, in part, to fight these “done deals.”
Look at her broad support from diverse local activists and environmentalists, including Donna Frye, Richard Ybarra, Father Joe Carroll and Supervisor Dianne Jacob. Not to mention Save San Diego Neighborhoods and numerous local Democratic clubs.
All know that Barbara Bry is the right person at the right time for the right reasons.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.