Stripping it down
OK, San Diego. Let's take one big breath and one step back from the media maelstrom that has enveloped City Hall since the feds swept through the council offices of Michael Zucchet, Charles Lewis and Ralphie Inzunza last week over what they're calling "Galardigate" in Las Vegas.
Geez, with all the videotape, ink and newsprint used to cover this alleged scandal in the past week, you'd think we would have found a few bodies stuffed in trunks by now. At least some napkins with lipstick imprints. Anything!
But, no, what we're left with is speculation, hyperbole and, frankly, some dismally uninformed interpretations of the city?s skin-merchant regulations?and by that we?re talking about campaign-finance laws.
Does anybody do homework in this town' Or is it all about the Big Tease, the scurrilous, innuendo-driven media muck-lucks who'd rather spend a few hours at a place like Cheetahs in search of the big scoop.
Here's where we find ourselves in this rudderless town. We have a mayor whose new nickname will now be Mayor 1Goal for his unbridled concern for himself and his flaccid re-election campaign. The mayor, a former judge who should know better, ran out before the cameras and the glomming media stenographers in record time to announce that, yes indeed, his office had not been raided. Well, gee, thanks, Mayor'that was our first worry.
To his credit, Mayor 1Goal's handlers did shove him out in front of the cameras on Day Two of The Feds Storm City Hall to mumble something about 'innocent until proven otherwise' and 'Lookee here! I'm your leader!' but by then, enough people around town had seen the true face of Judge One-Clap. As an insider put it, 'I see Flipper is working his way through the Republican handbook of quotes: First day, Nixon's 'I am not a crook.' Second day, Alexander Haig's 'I am in charge.''
OK, some folks may be having just a tad bit too much fun on this topic. And that's a shame, really, considering the pile-up of issues on the City Council's plate these days. But at least this ain't Vegas, where this story is taking on a life of its own.
Press reports from Las Vegas note that city is in the midst of an election involving one of the characters in this soap opera, a councilman by the name of Michael McDonald (no, not the former lead singer of the Doobie Brothers) who has admitted no wrongdoing while being on the payroll of Mike Galardi, who owns the strip clubs in Vegas and San Diego that were raided last Wednesday along with the San Diego council offices.
Voters offered a mixed bag of opinions on the Vegas councilman, who is a former cop and high school buddy of Galardi. 'Where there's smoke, there's fire,' one voter told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
But others seemed unfazed, even angered by the feds' crackdown during the height of a supposed war on terrorism. 'The FBI doesn't have anything better to do'' one McDonald supporter told the Review-Journal. 'We're at war, and they raid a strip club and chase topless women around with machine guns.'
Others noted the coincidental timing of the raid and the city election three days later. The suggestion, if one reads between the lines, is that something fishy is percolating through Sin City. In a story yesterday, the paper even quotes sources as saying the investigation'which appeared from the outset a Vegas production'actually had its beginnings in San Diego.
But let's not hold our breath that San Diego's councilmen-in-the-glass-bowl will be heading for a slapdown anytime soon. The central figure in this sorry episode, ex-traffic cop Lance Malone, who went to work for Galardi after incompetently losing a seat as a county commissioner in Vegas, has apparently gone into hiding with the help of the FBI. The question is: Is this guy, who has reportedly had problems with the truth in the past, trying to save his own ass by playing along with the feds'
Meanwhile, the speculation continues to dribble out locally. After throwing more than a dozen reporters at the story on Raid Day, the Union-Tribune, insiders say, is holding off on running a story about how councilmembers would be replaced, should any resign. Apparently, U-T executives feel it would be in poor taste to jump the gun, even though they clearly are eager to pump new life into Mayor 1Goal's meandering re-election campaign at every possible turn. Other questions floating around: Does this have anything to do with efforts to unionize dancers' Did Inzunza fancy himself a kingmaker' Does Jim 'MadDog 2020' Madaffer really not know the difference between lap dancers and mimes' Was anyone trolling city agendas for donations'
We tried to contact another mystery guy in this tornado of controversy, Charles Walker, executive director of the Ethics Commission, but he did not respond to an e-mail by press time. Walker, if you recall, came to the commission after 30 years with the FBI (20 years in the San Diego office), where he made a career out of investigating organized crime and political corruption. He also promised, when first appointed, to dig into the bundling of campaign contributions as allegedly happened here in Galardigate, activist Mel Shapiro points out.
And does the City Council seem unable to conduct business as usual? Not really'this week, it spent more time adding expenditures to a proposed budget that remains tens of millions of dollars in the red. They seem as delusional as ever about the city's fiscal black hole.