Buying political power in Solana Beach

I am compelled to respond to Kathalyn Nelson’s letter in this paper (Feb 6). No matter how you voted on Prop B, you should be troubled by the “new normal” of politics in Solana Beach, particularly the very large sums of money now being spent on campaigns. An example is the untold amount of money spent to push Prop B. One person, Peter House, essentially funded the Yes on Prop B campaign by contributing more than $93,000 to his political action committee, according to filings with the city so far.

Nelson tries to justify this disturbing change by spinning House’s infusion of the big money that made the Yes on Prop B campaign possible — she claims it is merely philanthropy. This spin is not credible.

What happened to the days when a broad group of citizens raised money in small amounts from many grassroots supporters? Or, what about the recent past when it cost less than $10,000 for a candidate to conduct an entire city council campaign in Solana Beach?

Without House’s money, there would likely not have been the expensive special election that cost our city more than $200,000. After all, Nelson and others acknowledge that House paid the big money for the initiative petitions, legal oversight and the professional paid signature gathers. Also, House’s political action committee named “Citizens for Solana Beach” paid for the high-priced political consultants, mountains of misleading campaign materials that stuffed our mailboxes, the full-page attack ads in this paper, etc. All of this money was spent to influence voters to support his point of view.

There is an agenda for House’s money; he did not spend it for nothing. I see it as an effort to create a wedge issue, and it is divisive. Others have mentioned in the media that the Yes on Prop B campaign was hijacked and designed to attack our present city council members and create discontent and leverage in preparation for the 2014 city council campaign. It is noteworthy that much of the House-funded newspaper ads and campaign materials focused on attacking the current city council members rather than the merits of Prop B.

Nelson conveniently leaves out important information about House’s local political activities and interests. House worked to formulate and campaigned to support the failed 2010 election to impose a new tax on Solana Beach businesses. Although House publicly supported the council’s work to rebuild the Highway 101 business district before the 2012 election, when it came time for the 2012 council election, he worked to support the three defeated council candidates that personally attacked the current council members for spending the money to revitalize the Highway 101 business district. There is also House’s divisive involvement in a Highway 101 merchants group, the Chamber of Commerce, and his efforts to contribute money to city and charitable projects in order to acquire political relevance.

Nelson’s letter is a calculated effort to minimize voter disgust with the infusion of big money in our city’s politics. I wouldn’t be surprised if House’s political consultants had a hand in Nelson’s letter.

Wake up, citizens of Solana Beach. Our city has accomplished a lot in the past few years to improve and protect the quality of life here, but it can be lost. Big money is at work to influence and change our future.

Bart Ziegler

Solana Beach