This story first appeared at Newsmakers with Jerry Roberts.
Developer and District 4 challenger Barrett Reed this week skewered incumbent City Council rival Kristen Sneddon as vacillating and indecisive on key policies – while also blaming her for a bizarre City Hall investigation involving the religious affiliation of transportation czar Rob Dayton.
In response to questions, Reed also acknowledged that he did not vote in the 2017 municipal election, or in three other recent citywide elections, saying that, “at times I felt disconnected from local government.”
The campaign in District 4, which includes the Riviera, San Roque, Eucalyptus Hill and several other neighborhoods, to date is the only contested council race on the all-mail ballot for the Nov. 3 election, aside from the contest for mayor, which has drawn three challengers to incumbent Cathy Murillo. The interview comments by Reed, who serves on the Planning Commission, represent his most extensive and detailed critique of Sneddon so far, and set the stage for a bruising and expensive battle in coming months.
Asked specifically why he believes Sneddon should not be re-elected to a second term, he answered: “I would say inconsistency.”
“It’s not an uncommon thing to see Ms. Sneddon take one position and flip to another. It’s confusing and it’s hard to track,” the 36-year old downtown and Funk Zone developer said. “The residents of District 4 and our whole city deserve a more consistent style of leadership.”
At one point, Reed also accused Sneddon of being the source of a secret Human Resources investigation at City Hall involving transportation czar Rob Dayton, a simmering intrigue reported on this week by Nick Welsh in the Independent, charging that she had “attacked Rob Dayton’s religion.”
“A lot of these controversies, this Rob Dayton issue, it’s stemming out of council members — a council member in particular,” Reed said. “With all the issues we have in our city…how can you be effective in that when you’re out attacking someone’s religious beliefs?”
Asked which council member he was referring to, Reed replied: “It’s my opponent Kristen Sneddon.”
In an email response to Reed’s allegations, printed below in full, Sneddon said she is “surprised by the amount of misinformation my opponent is spreading, including descriptions of conversations that never happened, and references to votes and agenda items that are verifiably mischaracterized.”
“I am a consistent, transparent and reliable voice on what matters to the residents of District 4 — improving our fire safety, protecting our water supplies, investing in our roads and critical infrastructure, protecting our hillside residents from over-development, and supporting increased funding for public safety,” she said.
Sneddon strongly rejected his portrayal of her role in the murky Dayton affair: “As to matters of faith, I have a deep and abiding respect for those who live and lead by their values.”
Here is a look at campaign controversies arising from the interview:
Inconsistency vs backroom deals. In painting Sneddon as inconstant in her stances on crucial policies, Reed cited four issues: the city’s pro-union Project Labor Agreement; tenant relocation; an affordable housing project on De La Vina Street and reforming the Community Development Department.
In each case, the challenger alleged, the incumbent substantively switched her position at some point, which he charged was “probably based on outside pressures” from stakeholders in the policy conflict.
He was most detailed on the Community Development matter, saying that Sneddon had backed off support for certain proposed regulatory changes to streamline permitting which he strongly supported; he claimed her move surprised him because he had spoken privately with her about the proposed changes.
“I had private conversations with Kristen in particular to make sure we were on the same page and we were, in that work effort,” Reed said. “And when it came to council, she was a ‘no.'”
However, Sneddon said that so such conversations between the two ever took place; in fact, she told Newsmakers, she only ever has had a single conversation with Reed — when he sought her vote for his appointment to Planning Commission in 2019, which she provided.
In cases where her positions may have shifted, she said, it was because of additional information, contrasting her interest in what residents or interested parties say in testimony at hearings or in public comment with that of some colleagues.
“My job requires listening to my constituents and all residents of our City, talking to experts and asking difficult questions,” she said. “I believe in the power of public comment and public engagement, and I make my decisions based on this input, not backroom deals.”
Religious persecution and employment rights. The Rob Dayton matter focuses on the transportation czar’s leadership of an organization called “Believer’s Edge.” a men’s Christian group whose mission is to “share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as many men as possible…helping them to influence the culture of Government, Arts, Media and Education within our communities.”
No one at City Hall is talking publicly about the Human Resources investigation now going on, but it is known that Dayton is on paid administrative leave, granted by outgoing City Administrator Paul Casey; there are various reports that a) a council member or members asked City Attorney Ariel Callone confidentially whether the group’s commitment to bringing religion into “the culture of Government” represented a violation of church-state restrictions; b) Dayton complained that he was denied promotions because of a whispering campaign about his beliefs.
In our interview, Reed laid the entire matter at Sneddon’s door.
“It concerns me, it should concern everybody,” he said. “We can’t afford these distractions. Our leaders need to be focused on the issues, and from my experience with Rob Dayton, a lot of people’s experience with Rob Dayton, he’s not the issue.”
Reed also denied that he is is a member of Believer’s Edge — “I’m not in that organization, it’s not a group I’ve followed, it’s not a group I’m part of” — and accused Sneddon of being behind rumors that he is.
“Even though I’m not part of (Believers Edge), she’s trying to bring me into it as well, and it’s unfortunate and it’s a mess and it’s an avoidable mess.”
Sneddon noted that she is prohibited by law from discussing confidential city employment matters.
“I have clearly appointed, voted for, endorsed, and supported leaders who live by faith and (I) find it disturbing and completely inappropriate that an individual staff member would be named in this forum,” she said.
The missed elections. According to a copy of his voter file from the county elections office, Reed has participated in every even-year, state and national election since first registering in 2003 — but has failed to vote in a series of citywide elections — in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2017.
When first asked why he hadn’t voted locally, Reed expressed puzzlement, suggesting a possible mix-up tied to his changing his voter registration from Republican to Decline-to-State last year.
After the interview, however, he sent a follow-up email taking responsibility for not voting.
“Like many residents, at times I felt disconnected from local government,” he wrote. “Now, as a business owner and father, I’m running to inspire residents to get involved and elect leaders to make the change our city needs.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Reed also spoke expansively of his views on homelessness, housing, crime, Project Labor Agreements and his concerns that defund-the-police advocates associated with the Black Lives Matter movement not reduce the budget for the SBPD, among other matters.
Here is the statement sent us by Kristen Sneddon in response to Reed’s comments:
“I am surprised by the amount of misinformation my opponent is spreading, including descriptions of conversations that never happened, and references to votes and agenda items that are verifiably mischaracterized.
“I am a consistent, transparent and reliable voice on what matters to the residents of District 4 — improving our fire safety, protecting our water supplies, investing in our roads and critical infrastructure, protecting our hillside residents from over-development, and supporting increased funding for public safety. I’ve been front and center on actions to improve the permitting process between the City’s Community Development Department and local business leaders.
“My job requires listening to my constituents and all residents of our City, talking to experts and asking difficult questions. I believe in the power of public comment and public engagement, and I make my decisions based on this input, not backroom deals.”
As to matters of faith, I have a deep and abiding respect for those who live and lead by their values. I have clearly appointed, voted for, endorsed, and supported leaders who live by faith and find it disturbing and completely inappropriate that an individual staff member would be named in this forum.