Sandy Brillhart’s Eagle & Times letter expressed concern that Mayor Aguirre’s effort to be Imperial Beach’s representative on the San Diego Association of Government’s (SANDAG) Board was thwarted by two new council members, McKay and Seabury, and Councilmember Fisher.
It was obvious that the new mayor entered this special city council session with the intent of changing her previous printed decision to make Mayor Pro Tem Fisher the primary representative on SANDAG. As Councilmember Fisher stated, he did not seek the appointment. The mayor put forward the appointment list.
Aguirre supporters were out in force to demonstrate the so-called community’s “overwhelming desire” for Aguirre to represent the city on SANDAG and Fisher be the primary alternate. This was a well-orchestrated political operation and provided clear evidence of the mayor’s support by out-of-town interests. Among the over twenty speakers for Aguirre’s position were the National City’s representative for the Port District; a resident of Ocean Beach; community activists from San Diego; and the San Diego Branch of the IBEW 569 Union’s political director. All of them were saying Mayor Aguirre had overwhelming support as shown by her election.
Overwhelming support? She received 45 percent of the votes cast for mayor in a four-way race. This is after receiving massive contributions ($239,594) from out-of-town special interests. Over 95 percent of her contributions came from outside contributors which allowed her campaign to flood Imperial Beach with massive mailings soliciting votes, huge numbers of campaign signs and even televised ads. This outside money far exceeded the funding of the other candidates and was essential in helping her win the seat as mayor. Aguirre slipped into the mayor’s office, even though 55 percent of the voters in Imperial Beach refused to vote for her.
As far as experience is concerned, former Mayor Dedina had no City Council experience before his election. He had not been on SANDAG or any other regional boards or commissions. So, lack of experience is a red herring. The advocates of this agenda support massive increases in road taxes allowing huge spending without voter approval, all in the name of so called “regional planning and forcing small cities like Imperial Beach to build high density, high rises.
The opposition to Mayor Aguirre serving on SANDAG was about ethical conduct. SANDAG’s CEO Hasan Ikahrata donated $1,000 to her campaign contrary to the ethics guidelines of the International Association of Cities/Counties Managers. Managers should refrain from making financial contributions, signing, or circulating petitions, or participating in financial activities to support any individual seeking or holding elected office. While Ikahrata’s contribution to Aguirre’s campaign may not be technically illegal, it was certainly unethical by professional standards. Aguirre’s acceptance of Ikahrata’s contribution has involved her in his scheme to use politics to not only redirect SANDAG policy, but also possibly effect his personal compensation and job status.
Therefore, Councilmembers Fisher, McKay and Seabury were correct to oppose Mayor Aguirre’s participation on the SANDAG board to avoid any appearance of undue influence. Councilmember Fisher is a fine choice to represent Imperial Beach on SANDAG with Councilmember McKay as the first alternate, so he can gain experience, and new Mayor Pro Tem Leyba-Gonzalez as the second alternate.
Vol. 39, No. 1 - Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023