Poll Dance

The KGTV/Survey USA poll released yesterday adds a few glimpses of San Diego’s  politically undiscovered country.  According to the poll,  Gentleman Jerry “Jeez, could we have gotten back into the bonds market any closer to the election than this? And Stevo—another G+1/T-1 to you!” Sanders leads  St. Francis of the City by a five point margin.  Good news for Sanders who has barely rippled the media waters with campaign ads even as Francis has used his millions of media dollars to generate what has turned into a tempest in a San Diego teapot.  Bad news for Jerry: 43% of respondents said they were voting for one of the other candidates and seventeen percent are outright undecided.  That means Sanders hopes of knocking out Francis in the primary without need for a runoff may be a tad dimmed.  But Sanders is still the odds on favorite to put this to bed on the third.

In the City Attorney brawl, Maligned Mauling Mike Aguirre continues to sail on under his lucky star.  While Judge Jan, supported by the  local GOP, the “Damn the turpitude, full speed ahead” downtown business crew and their spokesrag in chief, the UT,  was supposed to wallop Mike in June and end his reign of misery.  But the unexpectedly crowded field of Mikey-replacement wannabes has drowned that dream.

The KGTV/Survey USA poll shows Aguirre cruising (for a bruising?) with 29% of the vote.  Councilmen Scott Peters (17%) and Brian Maienschein “Steamroller (15%),  meanwhile,  drown out Jan Goldsmith (15%).   If this trend holds, Aguirre goes on to the runoff against his City Council President and arch-nemesis Peters—two democrats fighting it out.  While I think Peters is probably the  best qualified  (Wizard of Oz Witch size warts and all) out of the pack of Aguirre opponents to take on the job of City Attorney , he would probably be a weaker opponent than Goldsmith, with his GOP base to float on, might be.


Charter Reform This

Egad how complicated can you make charter reform. What to put on the ballot? When to put it on? Come on, guys, it’s not that complicated. Here is the four-step plan to simple San Diego charter changes:

1. Mayoral Veto: The UT had to have published one of the most inane editorials it ever has (and believe me, the competition for the title in the annals of UT lore is intense) last Sunday when it lambasted the City Council for refusing to accede to the Mayor’s ultimate dream scenario of requiring a super-majority to veto Mayoral actions.

“The flimsy pretext for this unwarranted delay was that a six-vote requirement to override the mayor’s veto would constitute more than two-thirds of the eight-member council.”

So sayeth the oracles of the UT.

Exsqueeze me? Not wanting to adopt a 75% override super-majority is a “flimsy” excuse? So what now? The UT’s Bowtie Bob Kittle disinters Jimmy Madison from his crypt over in Montpelier and slaps the corpse around for having the temerity for putting a two-thirds veto Congressional majority into the Constitution as opposed to the three-quarters required for ultimate weighty issues like, say, amending the Constitution? How dare Mr. Madison, et. al, constrain the power of the energetic and noble executive.

A Super-Mayor (as opposed to just a run-of-the-mill Strong Mayor) would provide one-stop convenience shopping for the powerful economic interests that dominate the downtown scene. So, of course, the UT would love to see a Mayor with a super-majority veto shackling the City council. At least, that is, a Mayor who conforms to the UT’s editorial board positions which, often as not, align all so nicely with those of the downtown money crowd (which, given the paper’s dwindling readership, seems to be their principle subscribers anyway).

I wonder what the UT’s position on the veto would be if a social progressive like a Donna Frye was Mayor. Hmmmm, let me think…

UT, get over it. Ain’t nobody this homie knows of that requires a super majority for a legislative veto. The Council’s veto should be set at two-thirds. Which, of course, means the council has to be expanded to at least nine districts, with six necessary for the veto. And which leads me to suggestion….

2. Council Expansion.: The proposed nine council districts is better than the ridiculous even numbered eight council districts the Strong Mayor reform package left the city with. Going to nine districts will reduce the number of people each councilmember is trying to represent from 163k to 146k. But this pales in comparison to the level of personal representation afforded citizens of, say San Francisco, whose 11 supervisors represent around 70k citizens each or Chicago, whose 50 (yes, 5-0) Alderman represent around 50k each. In other words, San Diegans are vastly underrepresented.

Okay, significantly increasing the size of the council adds to costs (staff and salaries, etc.) and to complexity (more people trying to reach agreement). So, what? How about we abolish the council entirely and just have a mayor—maybe a wealthy one like Steve Francis who will foreswear his salary—running the show? Boy, that would save the moola. And, of course, flush the whole concept of democracy down the porcelain fixture.

I’d like to see a council of 11, 12, 15 or 18 (which makes the 2/3 veto majority math easy). That would increase representation (and, potentially, diversity) on the council. So what if that would also render the current council chambers obsolete. They keep saying City Hall is outdated and needs to be replaced. So do so and build a new one, big enough to accommodate the needs of San Diego in 2008 as opposed to 1974 when the current City Hall was built. Which brings me to suggestion….

3. Build a new City Hall and don’t build it downtown. Why is “downtown”– a place most San Diegans seldom go to–the nexus of City municipal life? Could it be because the rents and land there is are cheap it would be foolish to move City Government somewhere else? Could it be because downtown is centrally located and convenient in terms of traffic and parking for most San Diegans to reach? Could it be because it places City Hall within easy walking distance of all the developers, bankers and lawyers representing these said and other special interests who can afford to maintain tony downtown offices precisely to lobby City Government?

Gee, I wonder which one it could be?

How about we sell all the City’s downtown property and disperse the mechanisms of City government around the City itself? Downtown San Diego has always been more of a wish than a reality anyway. Why is Normal Heights or Clairemont any less advantageous a locale for the seat of governance of a sprawling Uber-burb like San Diego? There are these thing called phones, fax and the internet which, I hear, makes communication over vast distances (like, say, Linda Vista to Mira Mesa) very doable these days.

Put the main City Hall, and its council chambers someplace truly central, like Kearny Mesa or Tieresanta. Have each councilmember’s office and staff located in their own district so their constituents can find them as opposed to the downtown suits. And put the Mayor in a really big RV and have him or her tool around town, doing each day’s business in a different district.

Okay, the last one is a little pie in the cracked sky. But why keep all the representatives of the City in the same building every day? They should be in the communities they represent. And access is power, something, interestingly enough, mayoral candidate St. Francis of the City acknowledges when he’s suggested the Mayor’s office be moved to City Heights or some such . Why do you think the very first battle in every new administration, be it mayoral or presidential, is who gets the office closest to the chief? You keep city government downtown and,–Surprise! Downtown money interests get disproportionate influence.


4. Fix the City Attorney conflict. An elected City Attorney cannot faithfully serve both the people who elects him or her and the members of City Government as the interest of the People and the Government often conflict. This puts the CA in an untenable position: either be a lapdog of the Mayor and Council (as past CAs were and which the Council and Mayor would like the current and future ones to be) or be a public advocate at odds with the very City Government he or she is called upon to represent. So, as I’ve advocated before, split the job. Create a new position of City Counsel to represent the City in legal affairs and turn the CA into something more akin to the County DA—a watchdog representing the legal interests of all members of the community. Do that or simply abolish the elected status of the CA and return the position to that of Council/Mayor appointment. You can’t have a good watchdog and lapdog at the same time. (Well, actually you can as my ninety pound shepherd-collie-Afghan mix attests to, but you get point.)

There are other tweaks that can be done (like having truly independent City Auditors appointed by a “blind” panel of public citizens and a truly independent City Ethics Commission. But these are my Big Four for Charter Reform.

Then again, why fix anything? I mean, things have been running so well in San Diego government for so long, if it ain’t broke……

Maienschein Steamroller

Maienschein? Councilman Maienschein? The kind of competent but blends into the City Council crowd Maienschein? That’s the one who’s now joined the dogpile on Mike Aguirre?

OK. Wonders never cease.

Now, if you’d said Peters, that would be a different story. While I’ve disagreed with Councilman P repeatedly over the years he a) has the gravitast; and b) has the high profile to run against Aguirre — something many have thought and continue to think he should do. Peters is probably the only municipal figure of note that could give Aguirre the Avenger a run for his political money.

But Maienschein? Nice enough guy, but here’s what his candidacy will do: he’ll split the anti-Aguirre vote with Judge Jan, Disgruntled Dan and whomever else hops on the pile. If Alan B. decides to sit this one out, Maienschein, with his built in voter constituency, is best positioned to come in second to Aguirre in the June primary. And Mike mauls him come November for being a member of the very City Council that got San Diego into the mess Mike’s been railing against for the last four year.

Jeez, Aguirre. How lucky can you get?

Journalistic Excellence

I continue to be amazed that America’s finest city can, amongst its plethora of blessing (sound municipal fiscal management, alas, not being one of these) that stalwart bastion of non-partisan journalistic excellence, the Union Tribune. When CityBeat published my piece on Mike Aguirre this week I included, amidst all of his trials and travails this fall, how the UT had slammed him for having taken illegal, unethical, immoral and just really as rotten as an overripe avacado left to mold and fester for a month under a San Diego sun campaign contributions.

It remained for my own intrepid editor, Dave Rolland, to insert into my final draft that the UT had, in fact, done the honorable thing and published a retraction of the accusation of the original editorial in which UT editorial honcho Bowtie Bob Kittle had not only accused Aguirre of impropriety but had also basically demanded Aguirre’s immediate deportation from the planet.

That was news to me. The retraction thing — not the Kittle wanting to deport Aguirre thing. But our Editor, my lord and liege, is seldom wrong about such things and, once again, right he was.

It was also news to our fellow alternative media source, The Voice of San Diego, as Scott Lewis’ piece pointed out Thursday.

You see, it seems that, even though the UT felt so confident about their accusation that they were willing to publish it directly in the editorial pages (as opposed, to, say, running it as a news story and then waiting a news cycle or two to get all sides of the story on the record before shifting from statement of possible fact to righteous demands based on absolute certainty) and that, after words, just about every competent legal authority on the matter scratched their heads and said Kittle better loosen that bow tie because it seemed to be cutting off the flow of O2 to his brain because there was pretty much absolutely nothing to the charges leveled and that, even after BTBK spent days working the media trying to justify his bogus brouhaha, no-one was buying, the UT powers-that-be, in their infinite professional wisdom, finally decided to man up and do the Spike Lee right thing.

They published a full and fair retraction. Just a scant three weeks after the allegation was made, published brazenly right out there for all to see on page B-2,347 of the local news. (I’m so excited by this new outburst of journalistic responsibility that I’m checking Le Monde to see if they’re issuing a retraction any time soon about the Dreyfus affair!)

I think it was Gertrude Stein who once remarked, when asking a porter for a newspaper and having been brought a Los Angeles Times, “I’m sorry but you misunderstood me. I asked for a newspaper.” That was back in the notorious Otis Chandler days. Living now in the Kittle days of San Diego journalism, I begin to empathize with her.

The fall of Mike Aguirre

(From today’s CityBeat)

OK, don’t get excited, loyal and dedicated Aguirre bashers. I don’t mean to imply that Mike “Agonistes” Aguirre is finally down for the count. There’s plenty of pluck left in—and public support left for—San Diego’s embattled city attorney. Yet, from failed lawsuits to his flaming fire fears, bad headlines have been dogging Aguirre constantly since the dog days of summer. And Aguirre hasn’t passed up many opportunities to throw additional fuel on the fires, either. Which has all come together to make the fall of 2007 the autumn of Mike’s discontent. The big question now is: Will his stumbles this fall translate into the ultimate fall from political grace in next year’s election?

This past spring, Aguirre was a civic hero for taking on the Sunroad “damn the FAA, full speed ahead” corporate juggernaut and forcing it to back down on (and de-build) its Kearny Mesa Tower of Terror. But then Mike had to go off quarter-cocked and accuse Mayor Jerry Sanders of corruption in the matter, destroying any last vestige of bonhomie with Sanders or his supporters. Sure, his Honorableness took campaign money from Sunroad and then took actions that seemed to try to help the beleaguered company out of its bind, but you don’t call that being corrupt—you call it being a politician. Meanwhile, Mike’s pension-recall lawsuit was largely recalled by the courts while he was lambasted for blowing millions of dollars on fruitless litigation. Read the rest of this entry »