By Norma Damashek / NumbersRunner
To misquote Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Something is rotten in the state of our Denmark …our city. Most likely it’s the result of too many years of inbreeding.
Take a look at appointees to San Diego boards, commissions, committees, and political organizations like United Way, the Chamber of Commerce, and Red Cross. You’ll discover that San Diego is an epicenter of incestuous comings and goings. (Incestuous: repetitive, indiscriminate, unwholesome, unnatural, intimately intertwined, endogamous co-mingling of self-serving individuals)
Look at the staffers roaming City Hall. They occupy a hermetically-sealed world – punctuated by narrow loyalties, a tendency toward inflated egos, frequent dalliances, and more revolving doors than in an Abbott and Costello meets Frankenstein movie. Individuals who recently worked for (we assume it was for) former-mayor Bob Filner are now lodged in the office of Filner’s nemesis, councilman Todd Gloria. Some have leapfrogged to other council offices or elsewhere in the bureaucracy… marbles in a game of Chinese Checkers.
Check out the inbred monopoly of San Diego’s top political consultants. First they get their candidates elected. Then they linger a while as “advisors” to ensure that their grateful clientele don’t rattle the status quo or stray far from the fold.
In the same vein, have you looked closely at the “transition team” of our newly-elected mayor Kevin Faulconer? It’s like a B-movie rerun stacked with stock characters from the city’s big business, municipal union, real estate, Navy, and LGBT establishments. They’re has-been players who’ve been around the block too many times – jaded and devoid of inspiration, imagination, vitality, or public-mindedness.
Now take notice of the mayor’s “leadership team.” At his right hand are political operatives previously aligned with Carl deMaio and Jerry Sanders. Joining him is a new press secretary, a U-T reporter who traded his professional commitment to objective political reporting for admittance to the inner sanctum where ex-journalists earn their keep by crafting weasel words and snow jobs. (Names can be furnished upon request.)
This tradition of incestuous activity is no joke — it has consequences in the real world. Did you notice last week’s headlines about how the citizens of San Diego were jilted and left standing at the altar by cronies from ex-mayor Jerry Sanders’ “leadership team”? These high-flying but incompetent operatives were handsomely paid to orchestrate next year’s Balboa Park Centennial and they dropped the ball without so much as a public apology… not even a whispered sorry for royally screwing the city out of critical preparation time, not to mention $2.8M of public funds.
Likewise, no apology yet from ex-mayor Sanders for his cynical appointment of unqualified insiders and for giving them unprecedented control over Centennial planning. And no whispered sorry from him for his own arrogance in setting up a sham Centennial committee. As for San Diego’s inbred good-old-boy’s network (which continues to coddle and protect our man Sanders as he sits pretty in his downtown Chamber of Commerce echo room) don’t hold your breath…
Of course there’s been no apology from our recent interim mayor Todd Gloria. A self-proclaimed “can-do” man, he hid the Balboa Park Centennial fiasco from the public for more than six months. In the face of mounting city harm, financial mismanagement, and loss of precious time he chose not to level with the public. Instead, he passed the buck (alongside mayor Faulconer) with ludicrous attempts to lay blame on former-mayor Filner.
On the other hand, Todd Gloria made good use of his six month stopover in the mayor’s office to have a ball. Like in a Cinderella story, he seized this window of opportunity to wield a borrowed magic wand. With feet propped up on the desk of the defenestrated former mayor he hired, fired, appointed, reorganized, and issued executive orders with impunity, ignoring City Charter limitations on the powers granted to a short-term stand-in. The City Attorney played the role of permissive fairy godmother, winking and nodding at blatant political improprieties.
Maybe the magic wand went to his head. Councilman Gloria’s last act as temporary big boss was to order the destruction of city email files older than a year (with the City Attorney still winking, still nodding). What in the world were they thinking? What’s been going on behind closed doors at City Hall to precipitate this over-the-top attempt at a cover-up?
While it may be true that our new mayor Kevin Faulconer agreed to a temporary hold on deleting city emails, his remarks are alarming: “I am going to ensure that there is a balance between transparency and cost. We will see what makes sense from a cost standpoint.”
A COST standpoint? Arbitrary destruction of city records is a profound assault on the democratic process and on citizens of San Diego. Surely our new mayor was just kidding.
Isn’t it time to open our eyes to the handwriting on the wall? San Diego’s small-minded compulsion toward political incestuousness and routine inbreeding is taking us downhill — fast. The city is stuck in mediocrity. We’re captive to the ambitions of self-serving interests and incompetent “leadership.”
It’s a mindset that pervades all levels of civic and political life — north of I-8 and south of I-8, within young leadership groups and in VIP conclaves, in boardrooms and labor halls, among the haves and have-nots, Democrats and Republicans…
Here’s our choice: a) we can stay complacent and allow inbred malformations to become the norm; or b) we can demand more public truth-telling and evolve into a healthy, public-minded, ethically-motivated 21st-century city. I’d say b) is worth a try.
Norma Damashek is a long-time civic activist who focuses on promoting decision-making that serves the public good. She has spearheaded community-based coalitions and served on city and regional-government task forces and as past president of San Diego’s League of Women Voters.