When we heard Sunday that Time magazine published an issue that named Dick Murphy one of the three shittiest big-city mayors in the country, we were ready to dismiss it as just the latest in a two-year series of embarrassments for San Diego. After all, San Diego had already been called "Enron by the Sea" in another national publication, and Murphy had already been taken down a couple of pegs with news stories coast to coast about how a write-in candidate-albeit a popular one-had received more votes than he did in last November's election.
The Time story just seemed old hat by now, a little more fodder for the Mike Aguirres and Carl DeMaios of the world.
But then came Murphy's outrageously clueless response. He defiantly stood in his Del Cerro driveway and said, as quoted by the Union-Tribune 's Matt Hall, "People should be proud of what we have accomplished in this city. Tell Time magazine that they just don't understand what's going on."
Proud of what, Mr. Mayor? Should we go back to your famous 10 goals, a silly list that is but a distant memory by now? Are you still slapping your own back because the downtown ballpark was built during your tenure? Because you created a rather toothless and ineffectual ethics commission? Because crime is down and sewage isn't flowing freely through the streets?
Or are you proud of the fact that teams of investigators have been scouring hard drives throughout City Hall in search of evidence of political corruption and securities fraud? Are you beaming with satisfaction over the fact that the city is deep in debt, and you can't do anything about it because your expensive auditors refuse to release an audit of the city's financial numbers from 2003, thereby making it impossible for you to float municipal bonds to pay for vital infrastructure repairs or repay pension debt? Are you positively aglow because Wall Street continues to downgrade San Diego's bond rating, making borrowing money-should you ever be able to-that much more costly. Does awaiting federal indictments and civil securities penalties absolutely light up your life?
Are you kidding?
Yes, Mr. Mayor, you're right-someone doesn't know what's going on in this city, but it ain't the editors and writers from Time magazine. It's you, bub.
We at CityBeat have had lots of fun at Murphy's expense. We've repeatedly criticized him for what we consider bad public policy. We supported Donna Frye for mayor, and we expressed chagrin when a judge ruled that she shouldn't be mayor because 5,551 people who voted for her failed to fill in a little bubble. We've called Murphy an "illegitimate" mayor because he would have been ousted under a reasonable interpretation of voter intent.
But we haven't flat-out called for him to step down-until now. In addition to his absurd response to the Time dust-up, here's just a few of the reasons he should:
* Because under his leadership, the City Council in 2002 voted to offer an enhanced retirement-benefits package to city employees in a quid pro quo deal that included the city's retirement-system board voting to allow the city to continue to under-fund the pension system, even though it's been well documented that Murphy knew how deep in debt the pension system was at the time and that the city could not afford the increased benefits.
* As a result-and in concert with city staff's annual falsifying, either deliberately or not, of financial statements-he and his cohorts have hamstrung the city's ability to sell bonds because of the above-mentioned audit delay.
* Because there will be a recall campaign to oust him, and there's a decent chance it'll succeed, and a mayoral recall is precisely what the city doesn't need right now. True, there will have to be an election regardless, but a special election to replace Murphy will be far less embarrassing and painful than an acrimonious recall.
* Because he seems to care more about the fate of the Mount Soledad cross than about the fate of the city.
* Because heading into a "strong mayor" form of government, the city of San Diego needs an actual strong mayor. Murphy has never shown leadership of any kind, when you think of it. And last Friday, most of his appointees to the reconstituted retirement-system board voted against waiving attorney-client privilege, which everyone agrees will only hinder efforts to get the city's audit completed. A true leader would have persuaded them to vote yes.
Seriously, Mr. Mayor, it's time to step down.