“When choosing between two evils, I always like to take the one I've never tried before.”—Mae WestWhat an exhilarating time to be alive, yes? In full nest-protection mode, neighborhood mockingbirds dive-bomb anyone who remotely appears to be a threat, a sure sign of summer's approach.
Meanwhile, the city's streetscapes have become political-sign wastelands with no apparent let-up in sight. Paired with the current propensity of “For Sale” signs, it's a veritable Mini-Billboard Hell. Too bad the city's not charging a permit fee for all of these placards. We'd be using Evian in our toilets.The visual blight is a clear sign that an election is a-comin'. Yes, June 3 will soon be upon us, and—much like that 17th birthday when you got the keys to Dad's old Gremlin in all its paint-peeling glory—you know what that means. That's right, it means we're less than a month away from July 1, when your days of cell-phone chatter while driving are over!
This pleases Spin Cycle greatly. If you're on the roads at all, you've seen it—perpetrated it?—all too often. The mindless left-turn cutoff while deep in chirpy girl/boyfriend talk. The two-miles-an-hour driver on the line seeking directions while simultaneously wrestling a fold-out map. The soccer mom/dad yammering solo in a Shamu-sized SUV, oblivious to the outside world.
I bring this up because it's taken six years to get to this point of logic—to make drivers focus on driving, not yapping—although hands-free phone-blabbing will still be a-OK, despite studies that find it equally distracting—worse than drunken driving, in fact, which seems to imply that we're merely swapping a bottle of Jack Daniels (hands required) for a beer helmet (hands free). This law took the usual path to passage—the slow, painful and, hence, lobbied-to-death way.Which gets us, more or less, to the point—why does the pending election feel like something akin to a bath in used motor oil? Just thinking about it, frankly, makes Spin Cycle feel like heading to the shower for a freakin' power wash.
With all due respect to the endorsements emanating from the pages of this publication last week, I'm finding most of the choices in this primary election less than invigorating. I can't help but think, What if the June primary still had a presidential race tangled up in it? Would enthusiasm be any greater? I asked a few folks who I respect for their thoughts on the topic, and, to a person, they all yawned a resounding “No.”
OK, so maybe it's the economic funk we find ourselves muddling through that's dulled the senses of the voting public. Everyone's just grown tired of circular talk about recession, war, pension reform, deferred maintenance and political malfeasance and incompetence, right?
Don't get me wrong. Spin Cycle loves a good yarn about political skullduggery, how Politician A cuddled up to Special Interest B who could care less about Public Person C. But Spin Cycle—news alert!—also craves inspiration. Yes, it's true. I want to be moved.
So far, not so much.
If you're a follower of Spin Cycle, you'll know that a poke or prod of Republican campaign architect Tom Shepard, the local Midas of Manipulation, is not an uncommon occurrence. And while most observations have not been positive in nature, it is not for lack of knowledge that he is one effective campaign strategist, arguably the most successful this city has ever seen.
So forgive me for my bout of indigestion every time Mayor Jerry Sanders opens a debate with the coma-inducing line, “I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to do; I'm going to tell you what I've done.” I personally have heard this invocation three times, which suggests that Shepard thinks it's a good idea.
At one debate, Sanders—with Shepard seated in the back, chin in hand—found himself the recipient of boos and catcalls when he spoke the line, and that was before sign-toting city union workers silently marched in front of him. Not a good day—nor a good line.
But what it shows, sadly, is a total abandonment of vision.
Conversely, we have multizillionaire rental-nurse kingpin Steve Francis, who has adopted the Throw-Every-Vision-Thing-Against-The-Wall-To-See-If-It-Sticks-With-Voters approach. This is equally disquieting, because there's a whiff of forced sincerity surrounding each pronouncement.
Perhaps it's just a feeling that words may be just that in this election—words. The Sanders folks will tell you that Francis is so obsessed with becoming mayor that he'll say anything to win. Funny, since it was Sanders who painted previous mayoral opponent Donna Frye as everything short of the Antichrist—with the Union-Tribune again playing along loyally.
The difference this time, ironically or not, is that Sanders has a record to run on. A very public record—warts and all—similar to Frye's position the last time around. The U-T dubbed Sanders “a fighter” in its fawning editorial endorsement Sunday, but believers in karma might suggest there's more whine than bite coming from the Mayor's office these days.
And to those who note that there are others in the mayor's race, you are correct. Bless their hearts, they try to have their voices heard over the din of negative campaigning and sniping by the 800-pound gorillas in the room, but, frankly, no one has captured my “vision” imagination.
Oh, I've heard Floyd Morrow talk about ending the Iraq war and building affordable housing on surplus city land, Jim Hart speaking quietly but rigorously about population control and solar power and Eric Bidwell being, well, Bidwellian (stay involved, young man!), but their chances of moving past the primary are zip. (Perhaps if the presidential primary were still in June. Ah well…)
So, what's motivating Spin Cycle for this election? Well, nothing other than what San Diego still seems to need: a break from its backroom-dealing past. Yes, the doors to the financial markets may soon reopen for our dysfunctional city, but it still seems like we're about to hand a Platinum card to a shopaholic. And don't think the interest charges will be that much different.
Like the Padres, San Diego needs a top-down spring cleaning. Here's hoping voters are so motivated—in between cell-phone calls.Update: Soon-to-be-termed-out City Councilmember Toni Atkins called Spin Cycle “mean” for suggesting in January that she had a hankering for the vacant top job at the city's Housing Commission—a thought that, she insisted, “never crossed my mind.” Now that it's come to light that Atkins has applied for the position—the Ethics Commission has advised her to avoid decisions involving her job prospects—Spin Cycle would like to apologize publicly for apparently putting the thought in her mind.
Got some inspiration? Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.