Re-elect Peters; Councilman deserves a second term

February 18, 2004

Overall city issues grab the headlines, but solving district problems gets San Diego City Council members re-elected.

In District 1, Councilman Scott Peters, a moderate who prefers quiet problem solving, seems almost out of place in politics, where self-aggrandizement is the norm. But his desire to find solutions rather than attract attention may be his best trait.

His opponents criticize him for taking money from development and business interests, but he takes money from environmental and labor interests, too. The problem in San Diego isn't development, it's bad development, a fact Peters recognizes. Peters has opposed developers more often than not. He also represents the city on the state Coastal Commission, where his voting pattern again has been moderate and considerate of local government.

Opposing Peters are Phil Thalheimer, a businessman who has dumped a whopping $350,000 of his own money into the race, and Kathryn Burton, a community activist who has raised little money. Thalheimer says Peters is not considerate enough of business interests. Burton claims Peters has betrayed his environmentalist credentials, although he's endorsed by the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. We like Peters' reserved demeanor and hard work, and we heartily endorse him.

Incumbent Brian Maienschein in District 5 deserves the same enthusiastic endorsement, only he doesn't need it because no one is challenging him. Maienschein is a strong presence in his community and appears to be a very principled politician. The fact that he has no opponents in a district with a lot of civic involvement shows just how broad his support is.

District 3 incumbent Toni Atkins represents some of San Diego's oldest neighborhoods, so she has focused her attention on fixing sidewalks, repaving streets, undergrounding utility lines and revitalizing commercial areas. Atkins also has championed affordable housing projects in her district, which some politicians shun, and she has supported several revitalization projects.

Atkins is running against John Hartley, a former councilman who has become a perennial challenger, and Gonzalo Garcia, a retiree who is campaigning very little. Atkins is the clear choice.

In District 7, Councilman Jim Madaffer is being challenged by Irene Stallard-Rodriguez, a businesswoman whose civic involvement has been mainly in San Ysidro, where her business interests were located. Madaffer is probably the strongest proponent in the city of using redevelopment to rejuvenate older neighborhoods. He also has been a strong proponent of libraries, transportation, parks and playgrounds.

Madaffer's various imbroglios, which always seem to involve irresponsibility with money, are troubling, and so is his shoot-from-the-hip style. We wish some of the polish of the other incumbents would rub off on him. But he'll likely win handily against Stallard-Rodriguez, and he deserves to be returned to office.

With the massive fiscal problems facing San Diego, especially the pension fund debacle, getting re-elected may not be a blessing. If these four council members can help keep the city's head above water over the next four years, they'll have done a good job.

The San Diego Union-Tribune (Print Edition)