New Series: What you always wanted to know…
This question has been on my mind for a long time but it’s one I’ve been afraid to ask: How come so many San Diegans get away with murder?
Murder is a serious allegation. If you’ll settle for the lesser charge of white-collar crime (the FBI says it means “lying, cheating, and stealing…the full range of frauds committed by business and government professionals…”), you need only take a look at some of Don Bauder’s investigative stories about our hometown white-collar crooks.
But yes, when it comes to San Diego miscreants of a political persuasion these guys really DO get away with murder – both the metaphorical and bloody types.
Consider the case histories of two recently-departed politicians — ex-mayor Jerry Sanders and ex-councilmember Tony Young. Both are now sheltered in the cushy bosom of our city’s witness protection program, aka the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and the Red Cross, with annual salaries of over $300,000 and $200,000, respectively.
Mayor Jerry Sanders was delivered into the plump arms of the downtown Chamber notwithstanding a bleak dossier from his early days up till the present. A sampling:
- the violent deaths of 22 people in San Ysidro
- bearing false witness to San Diego voters with vows never to “delay, deny or deceive” the public about city problems
- denial of participation (I’m not a crook) in the scandalous Sunroad land-abuse scheme involving a high-rise project across from Montgomery Field airport
- barefaced public deception with a fudged city budget that promised a fairytale $16.5 million surplus while hiding a $40 million shortfall
- two terms in office as a vessel and frontman for downtown wheelers-and-dealers
Looks like the congenial Mayor Sanders gets off scot-free.
Then there’s councilman Tony Young. He turns tail on District 4 and ends up in the coddling embrace of the Red Cross, notwithstanding his abdication of responsibility to constituents … defection… desertion… taking French leave… chickening out… and sticking it to San Diego taxpayers to the tune of at least half a million dollars in public funds to cover the cost of replacing him in office. Otherwise, a forgettable public record. Yet no one is storming the gates, hollering and shouting, demanding due respect. Looks like Councilmember Young also gets off scot-free.
Then again, so did ex-mayor Dick Murphy, who was way over his head when he held office and ignominiously stomped on other heads in an attempt to keep himself afloat.
The same goes for ex-mayor Susan Golding, whose overweening thirst for higher office sucked the city dry and touched off an epic and enduring financial drought.
Ditto for city manager Jack McGrory, who was sharp and talented enough to have been (coulda, woulda, shoulda) a civic hero but dutifully enabled his boss-lady Golding to pull the plug on the city budget. He, like Sanders and Young, ended his public service with rich (not just) desserts.
In fact, history shows that San Diego routinely reserves the kid-glove treatment for quisling figures of many stripes. Take a look back at ex-city attorney Casey Gwinn and his talent for cutting ethical corners. Consider ex-councilmembers Madaffer, Inzunza, and Peters, who talked the talk but rarely walked the walk when it came time to vote. In the same mold is sitting councilman Todd Gloria. Cool as cucumbers, they have a knack for smiling at the cameras and getting away with….
The only person in our city who will NEVER get away with murder is Bob Filner. The fact is, he’ll be drawn and quartered — even for a minor infraction!
San Diego has finally elected a smart, sophisticated, progressive, energetic, and experienced mayor — fully capable of turning our city around. His goal is to put an end to mismanagement and entrenched deception.
But it won’t happen by magic. The mayor requires a team of knowledgeable and seasoned people in his administration if he’s to get the job done.
- He needs a first-class city manager (aka chief operating officer) to put an end to mismanagement and lack of oversight in the day-to-day workings of the city.
- He needs a scrupulous financial professional (aka chief financial officer) to cut through the Gordian knot of San Diego finances.
- He needs a well-organized, informed, and responsive office staff to answer to and serve the public.
One thing is for sure: there will be no get-out-of-jail cards for Mayor Filner. Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad thing.
bob dorn says
Slowly, slowly, San Diego is growing up. It might just be too much even for local grandees with more money than sense to control the town that has become, against their wishes, a city. All the insurance brokers, car dealers, furniture mavens, contractors, gravel pit kings and queens and others who made their money off sunshine and media control can’t any longer tell a majority what to think and whom to vote for. We’ve joined the rest of the country.
Anna Daniels says
The “witness protection program” (love that one, Norma!) includes more than the Chamber of Commerce and the Red Cross. UCSD provides a cushy soft landing for those who don’t really end their public service careers, if public service means a taxpayer funded paycheck. Jack McGrory is a faculty member of UCSD Urban Studies and Planning. Baseball “Czar” Mike Madigan and his wife Laurie, ex-Chula Vista assistant City Manager, have also taught classes there.
Nathan Fletcher will be teaching Political Science, although his position is supported by non-state funds.
But beyond the cushy positions, the UCSD profes will continue to influence public policy. That is of course the real danger. I can only wonder whether Fletcher will be using the Grover Norquist playbook…
Norma Damashek says
Politics aside for a moment — imposing high professional standards on the management of our city’s finances and internal departments would – in and of itself — turn our city around. But it takes specialized talent to do a first-class job of running a big city, something that’s still in short supply in San Diego.
The promise of a new way of thinking is exhilarating — but unless our new mayor throws his considerable talents into the nuts-and-bolts work of ensuring a well-managed city with fiscally-sound policies, it might all come to naught. His predecessors made out like bandits but Mayor Filner won’t be afforded the luxury of getting by on a wing and a prayer.