After putting together more than 18,000 words' worth of positiveness in this issue's Best of San Diego feature, we weren't done. We simply had to do more—so we turned our attention to the world of news:
Mayor Jerry Sanders' reversal of his position on gay marriage in September represented the very finest of political leadership. Sanders had, for years, defended the rights of gays and lesbians to enter into civil partnerships but insisted that traditional marriage should be limited to heterosexual couples. When the City Council voted to sign on to a legal brief in support of a pro-gay marriage case pending before the California Supreme Court, Sanders flirted with holding fast to his earlier rhetoric and vetoing the resolution. But after some soul searching, he determined that he could no longer treat his daughter, a lesbian, and her partner as second-class citizens. In a televised news conference, with his wife at his side, a tearful Sanders spoke out in favor of gays' and lesbians' right to marry. Now that's integrity.
Best display of bigotry, ignorance and a really bad analogy
A week after Mayor Jerry Sanders' announcement that he was changing his position on gay-and-lesbian marriage rights (see above), the California Catholic Daily, published by Jim Holman, the editor and publisher of the San Diego Reader, did a piece on a protest staged by East County Republicans who opposed Sanders' decision—even though the resolution involved only the city of San Diego. The article described Sanders' daughter Lisa as “suffer[ing] from same-sex attraction” and contains this head-scratcher from Sylvia Sullivan, president of the East County chapter of the California Republican Assembly: “One does not have the civil right to every whim or passing fancy, any more than a super model does not have the civil right to demand to be an NFL linebacker.” Um, right.
Best white wash
Sunroad Enterprises built a Kearny Mesa office tower, the top 20 feet of which protruded into a flight path of Montgomery Field, and the citizens of San Diego demanded to know how and why it was allowed to happen. After six months of missteps, Mayor Jerry Sanders finally demanded that Sunroad reduce the height of its building. In addition, he called for an investigation into how the city allowed it to happen in the first place. The report summing up the investigation, written by Sanders' own ethics chief, Jo Anne SawyerKnoll, was rife with incorrect chronologies, missing documents and a failure to place blame on any member of the administration. The report only fanned the flames of outrage and inquiry, but post-report revelations doomed two high-level members of Sanders' administration who later resigned.
Best political spat (Aguirre division)
They say best friends scorned become the very worst of enemies. After two years of cooing over Mayor Jerry Sanders' efforts to bring the city under financial control, City Attorney Mike Aguirre lost his patience in the midst of the Sunroad debacle (see above). The break seemed to come after Sanders declined to support Aguirre's insistence that builders stop work on the building. The road from there was all downhill. Aguirre started throwing around words like “corrupt” and “incompetent” in describing the mayor's office and telling anyone who would listen that Sanders, et al. were beholden to developers. Sanders, however, took the high road, rarely referring to Aguirre by name and responding to Aguirre's accusations with the vague “there are those who think….” Meanwhile, in political back alleys, mayoral staffers and the Aguirre faithful engaged in some nasty scuffles amid flaps over pension benefits and La Jolla landslides
Best political spat (non-Aguirre division)
When City Councilmember Donna Frye voted this summer against banning big-box retail stores from opening in San Diego, the normally purring engine driving her supporters blew a gasket. When she voted against a resolution supporting gay marriage, it seemed like the whole works would seize up. Frye had to spend weeks defending herself from unexpectedly ferocious attacks from former supporters on the left who felt betrayed by the big-box vote, particularly labor lobbyist Lorena Gonzalez, sister of environmental attorney and Frye confidant Marco Gonzalez. Other observers considered Frye's move a savvy one—it would help the city avoid a ballot referendum on which Wal-Mart would spend enormous sums, and take the Wal-Mart fight to the neighborhood level. The repercussions of Frye's vote are unclear; she's safe from election-time attacks until at least 2010.
—Eric WolffBest endorsement for absentee ballots
It's a rare county in which citizens don't have trust issues with their Registrar of Voters. But no other county can beat San Diego County when it comes to controversial ROV hires. When Registrar Mikel Haas (he of the touch-screen-voting-machine “sleep-overs”) received a promotion earlier this year, the county brought in Mischelle Townsend—Riverside County's former registrar who made news after she took a trip to Florida, paid for by touch-screen maker Sequoia Voting Systems, and appeared in a promotional video for the company. Then the county hired Michael Vu to be the assistant registrar of voters. Vu came to San Diego from Ohio's Cuyahoga County, where he was head of elections. Under his watch, two of his deputies were found guilty of tampering with a vote recount in the 2004 presidential election (Vu was never implicated). The triad was completed by Deborah Seiler, hired by the county in May as permanent registrar. In 2003, Seiler, a former West Coast sales rep for controversial Diebold Election Systems, sold the county 10,200 touch-screen voting machines for $31 million that had yet to be certified for use by the state. At a Board of Supervisors meeting attended by folks angry about the hires, Supervisor Pam Slater-Price told the malcontents that if they had problems with touch-screen ballots, they should simply vote absentee, like her. Sure, but then you don't get your “I have voted” sticker.
Best use of a veiled threat to make a political point
Just a month ago, during congressional hearings investigating private-security contractor Blackwater USA, Congressmember Darrell Issa ominously wondered aloud on C-SPAN whether Rep. Henry Waxman could survive a trip to Iraq. He asked, hypothetically: “If Henry Waxman today wants to go to Iraq and do an investigation, Blackwater will be his support team, his protection team. Do you think he really wants to investigate directly?”
Best show of support for one's boss
At Mayor Jerry Sanders' State of the City address in January, a Fox 6 news cameraman caught Fred Sainz, Sanders' spokesperson and adviser, holding an annotated copy of the mayor's speech and clapping heartily into a microphone at pre-determined points. We don't know for sure—we can only guess—that Sainz was following a tradition begun in France in the 19th century: the manipulation of applause by “claqueurs”—professional hand-clappers whose job it was to get the audience to put their hands together. (Ssshh—don't tell Fred that the claqueurs were run out of town by angry audiences.)
Best use of $35.61 this year
Cost (arguably*) per San Diego County taxpayer to provide services for undocumented immigrants, according to a report commissioned by the county at the behest of county Supervisor Bill Horn: $35.61. Watching folks like Horn and Minuteman Jeff Schwilk and his ilk froth over how “the illegals” are costing us money: priceless. * The author of the report, San Diego State University professor John Weeks, acknowledged that it's impossible to quantify the extent to which taxpayers benefit from low-wage jobs held by undocumented immigrant workers.
Best ill-advised attempt at public relations
What was Scott Peters thinking? On Sept. 19, the staid president of the San Diego City Council “hosted” Café San Diego, voiceofsan diego.org's online politics forum, and encouraged city residents to conserve water. That's all well and good, except that he made only passing reference to his own water abuse. Just a week prior, voiceofsandiego.org published a story by staff writer Rob Davis revealing that Peters far outpaced all other elected city officials in water usage. In fact, the story showed, Peters' family of four—who live on a 55,146-square-foot lot in La Jolla—uses 7.5 times the amount of water used by the average San Diego family. “I'll admit to not paying much attention to my own water on our relatively large piece of property, and we use a proportionately large amount of water.” Nicely downplayed, Scott! As expected, Peters strolled into a hornet's nest of sarcastic Café patrons. Commented one reader, “Scott, this is a Conan O'Brien like joke, right? Having you preach about water conservation is like having O. J. Simpson talk about law an [sic] order. Are you going to author a book about water conservation called, ‘If I saved it'?”
Best almost-foiled attempt to portray utopia
Much ado has been made about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger grabbing ABC news reporter Claire Shipman's hand in an “I'm asking you nicely to shut up with the questions already” grip after Shipman grilled him about air response to the recent fires. Oh, the press—always ruining good talking points. Before Shipman interferred, Schwarzenegger simply wanted to point out how content the evacuated masses were. “Look around here,” he told Shipman, “and see how happy people are…. They're being chased out of their homes, but they're sitting here and they're happy. Why? Because they've gotten all the services, and they've gotten all the attention. They're getting tutoring, the kids, and they're getting their yoga classes and they're getting their food and their diapers.” Let them do yoga, indeed.
Best freak sports injury
It's not often a pro baseball manager is directly responsible for one of his player's serious injury. But when the player is tightly wound Padres outfielder Milton Bradley, the impossible is suddenly probable. In the eighth inning of a Sept. 23 game against the Colorado Rockies, Bradley reached first base on a two-out single and then got into a heated argument with umpire Mike Winters. Padres manager Bud Black scurried out to get between Bradley and Winters, but after Winters ejected Bradley, the outfielder freaked and charged the ump. Black looked like a man who had a tiger by the tail. He ended up throwing Bradley to the ground just to keep him from doing something really dumb. Bradley injured his knee in the field and was lost to the team for pretty much the rest of the year.