By Mic Porte
Editor’s Note: Floyd Morrow has had a long distinguished presence in San Diego’s political and social landscape. He served as Deputy City Attorney in 1963 and then spent fifteen years as a City Councilman representing the greater Clairemont area. He is a frequent contributor on KNSJ 89.1 FM, the national social justice radio station in San Diego.
Floyd’s lifelong commitment has been to peace, justice and affordable housing. He established the Environmental Trust Fund, financed by a 1% increase in the SDG&E franchise fee and helped create Mission Trails, Tecolote Canyon, and Mission Bay parks as well as thousands of acres of open space. He ran for Mayor of San Diego in 2008. His platform was to make San Diego “safe, affordable, green and solvent.” Although he was unsuccessful in his mayoral bid, the now octogenarian has never stopped working on these issues.
Floyd Morrow is an ex-Marine sergeant who served in combat in the Korean War and later earned a law degree at the University of Texas. He has been a career attorney and longtime citizen activist, both in and out of the San Diego political scene since 1952. He currently leads a philosopher’s round table every Wednesday in the Linda Vista Village community room. The roundtable is a potluck and it’s a potlatch, a native people’s word that means everybody contributes.
“Everybody contributes” would be one of the tenants of Floyd Morrow’s philosophy of life, as well as “positivism,” his personal contribution to a round-the-table query of everybody’ s favorite “isms” which included “prism, hedonism, favoritism, romanticism, mechanism and fiesty-ism. ” We laughed that capitalism, socialism, and communism didn’t make the cut. We shared a moment of silence for the great Pete Seeger, who just died, at 92, a heroic voice of many generations, but only a moment of silence as there were many talkers at this council of scholars.”
Roundtable attendee Gina Cord, founder and columnist of the Mission Valley News, reported that the East/West Bank, worth $26 billion, just moved into town last week, and that Mission Valley has the most homeless and people living in their cars. San Diego has between 8,000 and 9,000 acknowledged homeless people, one of the highest numbers in the nation.
Professor Alan Ridley, also in the group, countered with the example of Sydney, Australia, a city with four times our population, but only 700-800 acknowledged homeless. How do they do it? We’d better find out! Let’s ask some of the millionaires who live in San Diego, especially the ones with secondary houses that sit empty most of the time.
Marlene, Floyd’s wife and partner of 60 years, contributed Floyd’s famous chili to the roundtable, as she does every Wednesday. She claims that she had nothing to do with his career, she just raised the kids and did everything else…like legal assistant, secretary, assistant campaign manager, and perfect natural hostess.
Floyd’s lifelong concern for the homeless stems from personal experience in his early childhood in a Texas compound for itinerants in the 1930’s depression, and throughout his life he has always focused on equitable distribution of the self-evident global resources: Air, water, sun and land. As his friend, Dr. Jonas Salk once replied to the question “Who is going to own the patent for the cure for polio, who could own the sun?” As a longtime Rotarian, he reminded us that the origin of the first Rotary Club was to provide toilet facilities for the homeless in Chicago.
His life as one of a set of twins separated at a young age (by the death of his mother during the Depression and the adoption of her nine children to all different families) led him to join a continuing psychological experiment on the nature of twins and human nature at the University of Minnesota. Floyd and all his brothers and sisters, including twin Lloyd, have been re-united as adults and stay in touch.
Floyd is a follower of the early 20th century American economist Henry George , who advocated for land value taxation. He is proud of his participation in developing a real world urban village model in Linda Vista, and of his efforts to broaden the basic economic education in our school curriculum. He is currently involved in developing and marketing expandable temporary/emergency shelters at a plant south of Tijuana.
One of his most memorable moments in civic life was to lead the city welcome committee for the aircraft carrier return of astronauts from space in the first Pacific splashdown.
One of his most memorable political escapes was NOT getting caught up in the 1970 “yellow cab” scandal simply by having diligently declared that anonymous $50 bill left on the counter of his campaign office as an “anonymous contribution of $50.” He is glad that much progress has been made in campaign financing laws, accountability and transparency.
When Floyd first took office as Deputy City Attorney in 1963, he had a shared desk in a shared office in the County Building, and was his own secretary. Since that time he has watched the expansion of San Diego and it’s administration. With his famous wise and friendly smile he asks “Did you know that there are 17 books touting San Diego as a paradise?”
What three words would Floyd Morrow use to describe San Diego? “Paradise,” of course and also “pair of dice,” and “paradox.” Why?
Although San Diego is not the biggest city in America, (8th largest at this time) we have the biggest military base of operations in the world. We also have almost the biggest justice/penal system, close to the most homeless people, close to most millionaires and billionaires, and busiest border crossing in the world. San Diego County has the most small farms.
We have arguably the best climate in the world and a wealth of natural resources, ocean, air, sun for our sustainable growth; we are in fact America’s Finest. As Voltaire’s Candide said, and Floyd would second, “We must cultivate our garden in the best of all possible worlds…” This is our home.
Floyd Morrow’s advice for young people and our society would be a new, improved Peace Corp, modeled after JFK’s and civic and social missions to broaden our horizons and experience in a global outreach for peace and shared prosperity.
Here is a classic Floyd Morrow moment in an excerpt from San Diego Historical Society archives from 1971,that sums up San Diego convention center politics, and how Floyd Morrow played his part with conviction and common sense:
WHEN THE ELEPHANTS MARCHED OUT OF SAN DIEGO
The 1972 Republican Convention Fiasco
by Vincent S. Ancona, Assistant Curator, San Diego Historical Society
The council also heard arguments from the floor, and not surprisingly several of the same men who had participated in the ad hoc committee meetings spoke in favor of the convention. An equal number of private citizens were present to voice their protests. A few of these citizens opposed the convention because of the fear of widespread rioting such as had occurred during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Most opponents of the convention were against it because they felt that it was detrimental to San Diego as a whole. They argued that the convention would only benefit land developers and the hotel industry, and that the quality of life for the average San Diegan would be diminished by attracting even more people to live in the area. Despite several impassioned pleas from the audience, only one councilmember, Floyd Morrow, voted against the resolution. Morrow declared that if the Republican Party wanted to have their convention in San Diego as badly as the press claimed, then they should be paying the city to come here. Cheers rose up from the audience but to no avail; once the resolution passed, Mayor Curran immediately appointed Leon Parma to chair the newly formed Civic Committee to Invite and Host the 1972 Republican National Convention.
The Republican National Convention declined San Diego’s offer in the end.