In Lieu of Flowers

From Today’s Hard Copy of City Beat

A Eulogy For Mike Aguirre

True to my prediction of four years ago, Mike Aguirre has become San Diego’s version of the mad Florentine monk Savaranola: having incited the locals to burn down the downtown power establishment he finds himself instead burned at the political stake.  His legion of detractors, however, from the editorial and blogger  pages of the UT to the front office of the Chargers to the halls of City Hall right to Jerry Sanders himself might well find they will  ultimately rue the day of Mad Mike’s fall.  For now whom will they blame their many failings on?

No longer having Aguirre to kick around, Gentlemen Jerry and the City Council may also find that the only thing that’s kept the political peace in San Diego for the last four years was their  shared fear and loathing of Mike.  Sanders first tried to triangulate with Aguirre against the council, then teamed up with the council against Aguirre. With Mike gone and all the financial problems hanging over the city, watch the mayor and council turn on each other like rabid and ravenous professional politicians.

Let us not underestimate or minimize the degree to which Mike mauled himself. By most accounts Mike’s management of City Attorney’s office was closer to Humprhey Bogart’s helmanship in the Caine Mutiny than E.G. Marshall’s stewardship in The Defenders His inability to focus on any one project long enough to see it to completion, whether it be run-of-the-mill civil litigation or major investigations left him long on rhetoric but short on accomplishment.

Meanwhile the promised centerpiece of his litigation empire—the lawsuit to roll back pension benefits– only served to alienate Aguirre from what could have been a political alliance with the municipal unions and gave the UT with millions of dollars in ‘wasted money” to shoot at him with.  That Jerry Sander’s said the lawsuits  needed to proceed and be resolved  before he could take any actions to solve the pension problem somehow has gotten deleted from the pension narrative.  With Jan  Goldsmith ready to drop the litigation, the UT’s question should be:  So what’s the new pension plan, your Mayorship? Instead, no doubt, the paper of record will congratulate Goldsmith for saving millions of dollars by dropping litigation aimed at saving hundreds of millions.   Se la vie.

And then there was Mike himself.  Or, specifically, Mike’s mouth.

Mike seemed to have reinterpreted Thumper’s Mother’s advice to be “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, go out of your way to kick them as many times as you can.” Mike was San Diego’s little boy who cried corruption so often that, even when corruption seemed to be evident (can you say Pensiongate?  Sunroadgate?) the press and much of the public rolled their collective eyes and said, “There he goes again.”   What Mike forgot was the Occam’s razor of municipal government: never claim corruption and conspiracy when simple incompetence will suffice.

Aguirre actually had a higher view of the city’s leaders than most common folk did.  Presented with the incredible screwups on every thing from sewer systems to development deals, most San Diegans simply threw up their hands and said, “What d’ya expect from those clowns.”  Aguirre was actually charitable enough to assume that city officials—both elected and appointed—where smart enough to know what they were doing and that screwups where actually intentional subversions of the public good.  His constant maligning of multiple malificient muncipal malefactors, however, eventually fell flat in the face of the depressingly low level of competence San Diegan’s have come to expect from their municipality.

Yet the real irony in the case of Mike Aguirre was that, no matter how flawed the messenger may have been, his fundamental message—that the city was heading towards, be it by incompetence, corruption or cowardice, a fiscal Armageddon and no one on the council (with the exception of Darling Donna Frye)  or the Mayor’s office was willing to even so much as admit how bad things were let alone take proactive steps to head off disaster–was  quite correct. Indeed, Mike is even more correct about the state of the city leaving office in defeat than when he entered it in victory.

Between 2000 and 2004 the city became the municipal version of the Titanic, slamming full speed into the pension fund debacle.  Over the last four years, under the stalwart stewardsip of two mayors, two acting mayor and scads of City Managers and CFOs,  the city backed up and then slammed full speed ahead into that iceberg again. And again. This time the ship might finally sink.

As Aguirre recently claimed (and Dan Bauder reiterated in last week’s Reader)  the pension fund deficit, around a billion  and a half dollars when Mad Mike came into office, is probably closer to THREE billion today.  Back in 2004 the City was in the middle of good times with the markets and tax revenues on the rise.  Today the City, like the rest of the country—and the world—is in a recession heading towards depression. Which means any hope of riding this out without making major—and painful—cuts are simply delusions or deceits.

The city council might want to hold off voting to ban plastic shopping bags. What will hundreds of city employees put the contents of their desks into when they are, let us say, sent on extended permanent furlough (what shall they call “firing you”? Let them count the ways…) once the full financial plight of the City is realized? Keep a few branch libraries from closing?  By this time next year the Council may be selling the library’s books on E-bay for spare cash and wondering how to keep at least a few police stations open. Citizen Aguirre thus leaves office as he came in,  with the name of his cherished boyhood sled “Bankruptcy” on his lips.

That Mike Aguirre leaves shallow footprints on city politics is in part due to his own personal failings but more because so many of the city’s movers and shakers worked so hard to brush him away.   His attempt to turn the City Attorney’s office into something of a Tribune of the People is now being rolled back, much to the relief of the city establishment. Safely ensconced at last in his new City Attorney digs, Landslide” Jan Goldsmith is ready, true to his word, to take the office back to the halcyon days of  Casey “Pension underfunding? Sure we can do pension underfunding”  Gwinn.

Just how will Ferret Man Jan deal with the next Sunroad? Or the next (as in current) pension under funding scheme?  Will Goldsmith continue any of Aguirre’s Quixotic adventures, like efforts to force Kinder Morgan, the corporation that owns the tank farms by the stadium, to finally make good on its legal responsibility to clean up the Mission Valley aquifer  contaminated in a fuel spill twenty years ago? Given that Goldsmith campaigned on the platform of turn the City Attorney’s office back into the legal mouthpiece of the mayor and council, one can only imagine the answer.

Meanwhile the changing of the guard at 202 C Street is now complete.  In addition to Aguirre’s agonosites,  the last four members of the City Council’s gang of seven (the gang that voted the city into its current fiscal failures starting in 2000) have been turned out as well, though, in these cases, by term limits and not voter vindictiveness.

And thus it’s a final irony that, with the exception of Dick Murphy (who cheated a public recall hanging by his own political suicide) Mike Aguirre is the only elected San Diego official since to pay any price for a lack of success in public office is recent memory. (And how many people DID get fired over that little Sunroad flap?  Ah ha.  Thought so.)  Scott Peters is off to his cozy sinecure on the Port Commission, a going away present from his former council buddies. The troika of Atkins,  Maienschein and Madaffer may be, as yet, unspecific about life post-council but we should all sleep well at night knowing that there’s probably a nice public sinecure or private partnership awaiting them somewhere.  Jerry Sanders,  meanwhile, having coasted to easy reelection can now hear, wafting whispers of his name on the lips of Republicans desperate to find some one to run for governor in 2010.

Only Mike Aguirre comes out of this miserably mauled.  But take heart Mikey. Your principal public antagonist, the UT, is on the sales block.  And your political antagonists like Peters and Sanders may well see their political shelf-lives shrink to that of overripe mangoes given the financial fury facing the city.  Indeed, it is unfortunately possible—and not for your lack of warnings–that your dourest predictions of municipal collapse might yet come true.  Like the mad monk Savaronola ranting against the corruption of the  De Medici’s, you may end up vindicated in the end.

And the citizen’s of San Diego may find themselves saying a few years—or months—if only we’d listened to that obnoxious Mike Aguirre.

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Shoulda Didda

Here, noble three readers, are my picks for who , come Wednesday, probably “didda” win after the chads clear—and who probably “shoulda “won:

MAYOR
Gentleman Jerry has had a good year: fires left him coated in good publicity Teflon, the return to the bonds markets (albeit limited in scope and at less than optimum rates) is a major step away from the municipal fiscal brink and no major oops have stuck to him, allegations of corruption by Mauling Mike Aguirre not withstanding. But Jerry’s scorecard of campaign promises met is even bleaker than the current Padre standings. And the return to the bonds markets is months later than he promised. Meanwhile City services continue to deteriorate and the mayor is on a collision course of epic NASCAR proportions with City employees over pensions.

Sander’s saving grace is that millions spent by supply-side businessman turned progressive civic savior St.eve Francis of the City’s hasn’t been the definitive tipping point one might have thought it to have been. Granted, given how the dollar has been doing in recent months, four mil just doesn’t buy what it used to. But Francis has not been able to translate his media onslaught into a coherent narrative of why Jerry, despite his shortcomings, should be dumped. Or, more importantly, why used-to-be-hard-right-now-coming-from-the-left Francis should do the dumping. Francis has positioned himself in the worst of both San Diego political worlds: progressives don’t trust him and conservatives resent him. He has not delivered a compelling narrative of just what drove his Paul on the road to Damascus moment of political conversion, leaving many to suspect cheap political opportunism as the motivation and not true social enlightenment.

Still, Francis has been able to do respectfully well against an incumbent supported by most of the City power establishment, from the GOP to the UT to the business community in general. He’s within five percent or so of Sanders in polls. And, while the other runner-ups are running far behind, the five to ten percent of the vote they might get tomorrow could possibly throw this race into a fall runoff. Which would give Stevo time to retool his message and reintroduce himself to the independents and crossover progressives he’d need to win in November.

Didda: Sanders wins a narrow victory tomorrow putting this to bed.
Shoulda: Voters burned by a succession of nice but nonperforming mayors should dump Jerry and take the chance on Francis, proven or not.

CITY ATTORNEY
I’ve laid out my pros for keeping Mike Aguirre, warts (…tantrums, media stunts, over-using of the “C” word, poor press conference fashion statements…) and all. Numerous times. His detractors have laid out their case to dump (or, preferably, immolate and scatter the ashes to the next Santa Ana winds) him as well. Mike Aguirre is the Hillary Clinton of San Diego politics: we all fully well know his negatives by now and fully well know what he stands for. The same cannot be said for his primary primary challenger, Judge Jan, whose campaign has been a statement in blandness. Meanwhile, of Aguirre’s two City Council opponents, Scott Peters is clearly the standout having demonstrated consistent—though often erroneous—leadership on the Council. But Peter’s opposition to continuing the investigation of Sunroad alone defines what he would be like as City Attorney—and, in my view, disqualifies him from consideration for the office. That’s without even considering the various pension-fiasco votes he cast. Ditto Brian Maienschein, except for the leadership thing, which he hasn’t really demonstrated. Think of him as Peter’s lite. That being said:

Didda: Aguirre gets his 30%+ and goes on to the fall runoff, probably against Goldsmith. What happens then is still, as the statisticians would say, a stochastic event.
Shoulda: Aguirre wins outright. San Diego, do you really want to go back to the Golden Gwynn days? And, his own warts and all, Peters would be a better choice than Judge Jan.

CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT ONE
Didda: Phil Thalheimer’s money beats Marshall Merrifield’s, buying him the right to stand against Sherri “The populist pauper” Lightner come fall.
Shoulda: Sherri wins outright as the vox populi speaks to say it’s tired of guys with tons of money trying to buy their way into office. Say what you will about the sordidness of soliciting campaign contributions. In the absence of public funding of campaigns, it is still better than just letting those with money already steamroller over those without.

COUNCIL DISTRICT THREE & FIVE
Given the matchups (or, in District Five, lack thereof) I can’t muster the emotional energy to pontificate on these two. Except, to point out, just how much I am really looking forward to four years of Carl Pod-boy DeMaio jovially joshing with Roger Hedgecock about outsourcing as many City Services as possible to for-profit private contractors who can then outsource them to a Chinese subcontractor using Pakistani labor imported through Saudi Arabia.

COUNCIL DISTRICT SEVEN
Didda: Marti Emerald beats April Boling by a reasonable spread.
Shoulda: Marti Emerald beats April Boling by a reasonable spread.

PROPA
Didda: Exempting fire and police personnel from privatization/outsourcing is a sure winner. After all, after supporting the troops, we love to support our cops and firemen (although not with competitive wages and benefit packages…). Prop A passes by a landslide.
Shoulda: Any social conservative government-is-bad-private-sector-is-heaven types who don’t vote no on Prop A should be forced to wear a scarlet “H” for sheer hypocrisy. The “managed competition” crowd will tell you that the private sector is always more competent and efficient than government. So why, then, should any of us entrust the most important function of government—keeping us all physically alive and safe—to such incompetent government? If trash collection and midlevel paper-shuffling can be done cheaper and better by the private sector, why not police and fire? After all, for most of human history these functions, when provided, were largely provided by private entities outside of government anyway. Or could it be, perchance, that there are some things that affect the common good that government can do better than the private sector? And if that includes cops, firemen and lifeguards(and, apparently, Marines, Blackwater notwithstanding) might it not include at least some of the other providers of government services conservatives would target for privatization? Perish the thought.

PROP B
Didda: Ditto Prop A, this passes by a comfortable margin.
Shoulda: Prop B should have expanded the Council by at least three seats to provide better, focused attention by representatives to the people they purport to represent.

PROP C
Didda & Shoulda: Donna Frye is wrong about Prop C. She says allowing the Mayor to have so much influence over who will audit the City books is like allowing the fox into the hen house. Actually, it’s more like moving the whole hen house into the fox’s den. Prop C should—and probably will—fail. I mean, how many times will you expect to see Carl DeMaio and Donna Frye agreeing on anything?

OK. Now go vote.

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.

Lucky Star

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Mike Aguirre must have been born under a lucky star. Which will serve him well through June though it might go into eclipse by November.

The City Council doesn’t like him, the entrenched city bureaucrats don’t like him, the city labor unions don’t like him, the cops don’t like him, the Chargers want him to fall in the bay (right in front of where they’d like that new, downtown stadium, if possible, the Union Trib loathes him, the Mayor is sticking pins into his little Mikey voodoo doll and the public has become progressively less enamored with him. (Rumors that his dog has declared “undecided” in a recent poll appear unfounded—I don’t think he has a dog. I do hear that his fish is looking at him with suspicion, however….)

And a recent Competitive Edge poll (the local gold standard on the public pulse) shows Mike Agonistes losing to all three of his major competitors: Judge Jan, President Peters and, well, Brian Maienschein—a guy so blandly nice that its hard to even come up with a handle for him. (Note to self: Call W on this one. He’s always got a good nickname or two…) Goldsmith beats him by 23 points, the other two by less than half that.

Conventional wisdom has Agonizing Mike surviving the June primary with maybe 25% of the vote, enough to win in a field divided between Aguirre and everybody running as “Not Aguirre.” But then he goes bye-bye come the November big show.

Not so fast. The assumption here is that those who will vote for different candidates to replace Aguirre June will rally around the second place winner in the fall—which, according to the CE poll, seems to be how likely voters are currently thinking.

But likely voters are still seeing June as a race between Aguirre and his competitors. It’s not. The race is now between Goldsmith, Peters and Maienschein. And, according to the CE poll, Goldsmith is in the lead in the race for second—but not so far out in front (17.6% to Peters 14.2% to Maienschein’s 9.5%) that he’s a juggernaut. With attorney Dan Coffey dropping out of the race and endorsing Peters, if his 2.1% of supporters throw in with Prez Peters he and Goldsmith are almost tied.

Had Jan Goldsmith been allowed to challenge Mike Aguirre Mano-a-Mano without the other wanna-be Mike whackers piling on Aguirre’s plight would have been dire indeed. Given the abysmally low voter-turnout likely in June—consequence of the early March Prez Primary—which would favor a more conservative candidate like Goldsmith, Aguirre might have been turned into a lame duck before the June Gloom had cleared.

But it’s not. Peters and Maienschein, both realizing their paycheck ends this year, decided a) they didn’t like Aguirre enough to run; and b) they might be able to beat him. (And, if either was the only candidate against Aguirre in June, they might have—though Peters was and is clearly the more logical City Council candidate to take vengeance on Menacing Mikey.)

So now if either hopes to advance to the title bout in November they have one job: convince the anti-Aguirre voters that “Mr. Ferret” (as a Republican assemblyman Goldsmith’s major accomplishment was to unsuccessfully push a bill to legalize the private ownership of the furry little rodents) is not the guy to take on Mauling Mike. That means they have to aim their energies at making Goldsmith look bad.

For both Peters and Maienschein this means showing San Diego voters that Goldsmith is a) an outsider originally from Poway (where he was Mayor) and who had to move his residency from Coronado to Little Italy so as not to appear the carpet-bagger he is); b) that Goldsmith is an outsider from Poway (where he was Mayor) and who had to move his residency from Coronado to Little Italy so as not to appear the carpet-bagger he is) who has had almost no experience in local San Diego City politics; and c) that Goldsmith is an outsider from Poway (where he was Mayor) and who had to move his residency from Coronado to Little Italy so as not to appear the carpet-bagger he is) has the worst hair in San Diego politics. Peters can also throw in that, being a Democrat, he is the safe Democratic alternative to Aguirre compared to the other two Republicans.

Goldsmith, meanwhile, is taking the high road of running against Aguirre as the generic establishment candidate. But if he doesn’t pay attention he could well be pulled down by the hounds of ambition nipping at his heels. Which could yield the unusual result of having two Democrats running in a City-wide general election for a higher office—Peters and Aguirre. Which, also, could also be the best chance for anti-Aguirreistas to remove him from office.

Come fall the political landscape changes dramatically. Especially if Barrack Obama is the candidate. Come November the combination of an energized Democratic base (and the city is now majority Democratic in registration) and depressed Republicans base (at least conservatives, of which San Diego has more than its share) uninspired by their party nominee could translate into a surge of voters more inclined to go Mikey should he be running against establishment Republican Goldsmith. If Peters is the opponent it becomes much murkier.

And, probably, nastier, as all the city’s dirty political laundry gets recycled yet again.

My money (all $7.39—don’t let my kids know or they’ll raid Dad’s wallet…) is that Aguirre survives into a second term by another narrow margin.

Waterboarded

What’s with the San Diego City Council lately? First Council President Scott Peters shows leadership in saying San Diegans may have to pony up more revenues if they’d prefer not to have their houses burn up in the next fire. Then the Council votes to flush Jerry Sander’s veto of the water reclamation proposal down the political toilet?

I don’t know what they’ve started putting in the water at 202 C Street (maybe some of that reclamated stuff—and I know “reclamated” isn’t really a word but doesn’t sound like it should be? ) but keep spiking their aqua with it, by all means.

Apparently Sanders skipped his waterboarding by the Council by “going to the movies” according to his spokesman. I do hope he was watching a retrospective of Lawrence of Arabia or Dune. Maybe that would have helped remind him that San Diego is an arid, semi-desert environment in which water isn’t all that copious a commodity.

The Mayor says there are other, more cost effective ways to satisfy San Diego’s thirst. Like what–shipping water here from Fiji in little bottles made of oil from Saudi Arabia so we can biologically transship said water into the sewer system and flush it back out to sea? Where it will eventually evaporate into the atmosphere, come down as rain in Fiji, refill the aquifers there to be rebottled and reshipped in our circle of life? Or depending upon waters from Nor Cal and Colorado when more and more people are sticking bigger and bigger straws into it?

It’s time to start thinking outside of the imported water bottle, your Honorness, and face facts. New technologies such as reclamation need be tried and embraced before water bills in San Diego, already soaring to record highs, start to surpass the gasoline and electric prices San Diegans are already being gouged by. It’s time for you to now faithfully follow the Council’s mandate and not bureaucratically bury this initiative out of misplaced obstinance.

And for all you who “dis” reclamation with the pejorative “Toilet to Tap” label, as I wrote back in September, shaddup already. You obviously don’t have a clue where that “fresh” water from your tap has already been before it ever reached your gullet.

I said after the great fires that Sanders came through it all smelling like a political rose. In retrospect, me thinks me was too hasty. Given the Feinstein roadshow’s scathing critique of San Diego’s failure to fully prepare for the next big fire last week, the post-backslapping on a job well done by Jerry and his boyz now seems premature. Kind of Jerry’s “Doin’ a heck of a job, Brownie” moment.”

The bottom line: Jerry has not delivered on pretty much any of his big campaign pledges. He didn’t raise taxes but he certainly raised water rates. He hasn’t outsourced nor downsized any of municipal government of note – perhaps because most of it, by nature of what it does, cannot be profitably outsourced nor meaningfully downsized. Not, at least, if you want to deliver first world, finest city sorts of services to city’s residents. The San Diego’s fiscal house is still not in order and the bonds markets continue to turn their financial noses up and preclude the city from reentering the bonds markets. Sanders’ much hyped dream team as decamped for greener pastures. Meanwhile the state-wide budget crisis, precipitated by the housing bubble bursting and the resulting credit crunch and about to be made worse by possible recession (Gee, haven’t the Bush years been a gas?!!!) don’t foretell an easy ride for the next four years. That Jerry, who couldn’t make things work in two years of relatively good times, can do the job in the coming years of fiscal famine, is far from certain.

So, Jerry. That reelection thing next year? Just a heads up. I don’t think it’s in Santa’s bag for you just yet, afterall.

Fire Alarm

I’m glad it was a personally busy week because it kept me from posting a blog on Tuesday flaming Council Prez. Scott Peters before he had a chance to redeem himself yesterday. The triggering of my pyromaniac punditry was a report on KPBS Tuesday morning about how Senator Dianne Feinstein came to town Monday to flame the City and County governments for not adequately addressing the region’s fire fighting needs, especially in the wake of still smoldering memory of the Cedar Fire.

As Feinstein pointed out, San Diego is about 22 fire stations and 800 firemen short of a full, fire fighting deck. She also pointed out that we are the largest county in the state that doesn’t have an integrated County fire department. But, then, Senator Feinstein comes from Northern California and doesn’t fully appreciate the political culture of San Diego. You know, the one where any attempt to integrate local government services is seen by our resident right wing wackos (yes, listeners of Rick “Rabble Rouser” Roberts, that would be you) as the first step to forming a North American Union in which we lose our sovereignty to the black helicopters of the globalist conspiracy. And where any suggestion that, if you want adequate fire protection and the resources—read tax dollars—to provide it you’re labeled a socialist.

By the bye, has the San Diego Taxpayers’ Association ever met a tax it liked? Oh, and by the way, I’m a San Diego taxpayer and I don’t belong to that group so, on my behalf and that of all the other San Diego taxpayers who neither belong to your group nor agree with your too often myopic world view that all tax cuts are good and all taxes are bad, might you consider changing your name to the Association of Those San Diego Taxpayers Who Agree With Us or some such? Don’t get me wrong – I think the SDTA raises good points about waste in government, etc., but it would be nice if they advocated just as strongly for tax fairness, as in having everyone pay their fair share of the social burden they place on our government of the people. Such as, I dunno, developers, maybe, who extract great profit from doing business in San Diego by continually pushing development out into the back country fire zone while municipal and county government fails to demand they pay the true cost of that development. That would be fees to cover those 22 fire stations and 800 firemen, not to mention the cost of the police, schools, water, roads, parks and other miscellaneous municipal incidentals whose true costs developers are allowed to push off on the rest of the residents of San Diego. The motto of San Diego’s anti-tax libertarians is Live Free—and make someone else pay for it!”

But I digress. How unusual of me.

At the end of the KPBS piece, Uber-Councilman Peters was quoted as saying that, the voters have twice rejected ballot measures to raise taxes—even Transit Occupancy Taxes that out of towners would pay—to fund needed fire protection expansion. That’s when I started seeing fire-red.

What a cop-out, I thought. Oh, the poor City Council. You tried to raise taxes to provide what was necessary for the public good but the dumb ‘ol public said “No!” (Actually, the hotel and tourist industry and the anti-tax zealots of AM talk and the SDTPA said no and put up the money where their mouth was to shoot you down. And, a few years later, San Diego burned while you all fiddled.) Oh, how can the poor City Council raise revenues to keep San Diegans’ from losing their homes—and lives—in the next great fire when no-one wants to raise taxes?

Ah, guys and gals? That would be called “Leadership.” You know, the thing where you explain to the people that, in life, hard choices have to be made and that, in order to save lives and protect property (which, as I recall, are a couple of the biggies government is supposed to do) you are either going to have to raise new revenues to fund public safety or cut other services and programs and shift the money. Neither are attractive options for anyone but, then, that’s adult life. And it’s time for San Diegans to put on their big boy and girl pants and man up. Oh, and those anti-tax advocates who keep ponying up money to convince San Diego’s that any tax is the first step towards Bolshevikism? How about pointing out that they are basically saying “I’m willing to let the rest of you burn and die so I can pocket a few extra coins and pad my corporate bottom line.”

Then you take the inevitable political heat and backlash from these municipal misanthropic miscreants at the election and stand tall and proud saying “I’m doing what I’m doing for the public good.” And, if the people of San Diego are, in fact, rational, you win. What you don’t do is stick your collective heads in the sand for four years until the next big fire to figure out how to do what you have been told repeatedly by the experts must be done. Which is what the Council did do after the fires of 2003.

Yeah, I was gonna flame Peters on this one. But procrastination is the mother of new discovery.

Yesterday, Peters showed some true leadership style, saying that the city might (Scott, just say it: Will) have to go back to the voters to raise the money by bond — of course we’re not in the bond market, yet–or sales tax. That is a great first step.

The next step is to not then shoot yourself in the foot by saying such an attempt may be “futile.” You don’t go into the big game saying “Hey, we’re probably going to lose,” big guy. You go in guns blazing. Your correct retort to San Diegans’ historic rejection of taxes should be: “After two massively devastating fires that cost the San Diego billions of dollars and over a dozen lives, only a misanthropic miscreant could oppose raising the revenues necessary to protect the people of this great city.” (Okay, substitute something softer for “misanthropic miscreants”— I just kinda like the phrase.)

Bravo for daring to raise the “T” word. Now prepare to get slammed by said miscreants. You’re in your last term on the council, Scotty. Time to put on your big boy pants and fight the good fight for what you know is the right thing to do.