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ENDORSEMENT: Toni Atkins offers steady leadership in unsteady times

San Diego politics has at times been chaotic.

Certainly one of the most chaotic days in our city’s history was on July 18, 2005. In the midst of that chaos stood then-City Councilmember Toni Atkins – ready to serve her city and provide stability.

At 9 o’clock that morning, Acting Mayor Michael Zucchet took over leadership of the city from Mayor Dick Murphy, who had resigned in disgrace amid the city’s fiscal crisis. No sooner was Zucchet in office than the jury in his criminal corruption trial came back with a guilty verdict at noon -- forcing Zucchet to immediately vacate his office. By 2 p.m., the rudderless City Council convened without a chair.

It was at this defining moment that Toni Atkins’ City Council colleagues chose her as Acting Mayor.

Over the following four months, Atkins arguably kept the city together while an election for a permanent mayor was held. In addition to continuing to serve her District 3 constituents, Atkins dealt with the city’s financial problems, negotiated with federal investigators looking into the city’s financial problems, and prepared the city government for the pending transition to the strong mayor form of government.

Steady leadership in very unsteady times.

Atkins is now running for California Assembly District 76 against perennial Republican candidate Ralph Denny and also-ran Libertarian candidate Daniel H. Baehr.

After spending years as a City Council aide, Atkins was elected to the City Council in 2000. Atkins has never been a flashy politician. She is a down-to-earth community leader. She prefers policy over the politics.

More than anything, no one works harder than Atkins. She puts her heart and soul into public service.

Her efforts have paid off. City Hall observers note that Atkins – along with former City Councilmembers Scott Peters and Jim Madaffer – essentially ran the City Council for years. Atkins brought much-needed attention to the affordable housing shortage in San Diego.

Nonetheless, Atkins also was part of a City Council majority that some critics blame on some crucial mistakes made by the city government. She was part of the majority that approved pension benefit packages that have since been proven to be unsustainable. That majority also unwittingly approved erroneous financial statements for the city – resulting in the city losing its credit rating and becoming the subject of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. More locally, she championed the controversial 301 University Avenue project – a development far too tall for Hillcrest.

Given those issues, we do have some reservations about Atkins. At the same time, we are convinced that she has learned from each of these mistakes.

As we weigh the field of candidates for the 76th Assembly District, we believe that Atkins is best positioned to represent our community in Sacramento.

Unlike Denny, Atkins has been and remains an extremely active member of the LGBT community. She has built up extensive relationships across the region – and indeed throughout the state – that will best serve our community’s interests. We need a leader who will be involved 365 days a year – and Atkins has done just that.

We also are more confident in Atkins’ ability to tackle the state’s fiscal problems than Denny’s.

In an interview with SDGLN, Atkins reveals a willingness to tackle wasteful spending in state government and make balancing the budget her top priority.

We wholeheartedly agree with that priority. We particularly like her support for “rainy day” funds in good economic times to soften the blow during economic downturns. Most importantly, our state government is in desperate need of comprehensive pension reform. Given the city’s pension woes, Atkins will arrive on the job with more knowledge than most of her colleagues on this important issue.

Moreover, we hope that the same heart and soul that Atkins has always put into her public service will help her achieve fiscal reform in a way that does not adversely impact the neediest in our community.

Atkins also has made the economy a top priority. With the economy in the tanks, we need to focus on job creation.

Sacramento is more chaotic than the City of San Diego. But at one of San Diego’s most chaotic moments, we turned to Toni Atkins for steady leadership. As the state of California faces similar challenges, we proudly turn to Toni Atkins again.

We urge you to support Toni Atkins for the state Assembly.

Toni Atkins for State Assembly

Toni Atkins for State Assembly:

Visit www.ToniAtkins.com for information on how you can support the campaign.