“New Year's Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.”—James AgateWhen the good folks who bring you CityBeat decided to revive Spin Cycle last New Year's Day, this column suggested that San Diego was in need of a good B.S. cleansing. OK, the term actually used was “enema.”
Unfortunately, the prescription went largely ignored.
Instead, Mayor Jerry Sanders promptly declared in his State of the City address that “the era of decay and neglect is at an end.” City Council nemesis Donna Frye labeled the speech “happy talk.”
Since then, the wheels on our financial shopping cart have fallen off, and now we find ourselves in the check-out line, fingers crossed that a new president will somehow get Washington to print enough money to make all our potholes and traffic jams and various other boo-boos go away, pain-free. Oh, B.S., how do you charm us so?
Don't know about you, but Spin Cycle feels like it's been stuck in permanent-press setting all year, regularly churning out galling, sometimes even ironically snicker-inducing snapshots of the goings-on within the political wind chambers of our fair city.
I say “fair” because just looking at the blimp-level aerial shots of San Diego broadcast nationwide last Sunday evening during the Chargers' gleeful drubbing of the Broncos, you had to stop a moment and think, “Whoa. That's a cool-lookin' town. Even, well, pretty.”
No doubt thousands of others across the country saw the same sparkling images and shared the same thought, which leads to Spin Cycle's only prediction for 2009: The tourism business here will be just fine, thank you. So let's shut off those crocodile tears over needing more marketing dough before they begin, shall we?
Yes indeed, from hundreds of feet in the air, basking in the glow of a roaring sunset, San Diego makes most other cities jealous with its natural beauty. But come back to Earth, and the flaws, age lines and cracked foundations become all too obvious.
One-time Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir once observed that not being born pretty was a great blessing because it forced her to develop what she called her “inner resources.” Sometimes it seems like San Diego's great advantage—its physical beauty—is also its confounding curse, with too many suitors (who may not have the city's best interest in mind) pulling it in too many directions while its supposed protectors are busy spiking the punch bowl or out back having a smoke.
Do San Diego city employees work hard? In most cases, you bet. After all, municipal paradises tend not to just pop up on their own and stay that way without a dedicated core of upkeepers remaining ever-vigilant. But when precious resources over many years are diverted away from that important work, shoved instead into the pockets of the politically savvy with a wink and a nod, it doesn't take an actuarial rocket scientist to figure out that such behavior can't last forever without causing serious—perhaps irreparable—damage.
So, once again Spin Cycle pleads with our political leaders to stow the bullshit, treat us like adults and give us the bad news—not when it suits you but when it hits the fan. And do us a favor and temper that bad news with some good ideas to combat the inner feeling that this city is slowly sinking into permanent disrepair with little or no leadership at the helm.
Currently, cities across the nation are hoping to get in on the economic stimulus plan being floated by President-elect Barack Obama, who has proposed injecting some $800 billion into the moribund economy on so-called “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects.
Taxpayer groups are already lining up their opposition to this anticipated “spend America out of its doldrums” program. Tom Schatz, who heads Citizens Against Government Waste, said recently that “Santa Claus could not even provide all the money and all of the presents” that cities are looking for.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unveiled its list of more than 11,000 infrastructure projects nationwide that it says are “ready to go” except for the money needed to carry them out.
San Diego's wish list—totaling nearly $351 million—falls heavily in the street / road-repair / widen category, with a few other water- and sewer-related projects tossed in with plans to quiet trains Downtown ($20 million) and two transit projects: $500,000 for “bus pads” and $10 million for a transportation center.
By comparison, San Francisco looks to be thinking bigger with its $2.2-billion list. Plans include major renovation of an airport terminal, redevelopment projects, expansion of the Moscone Convention Center, port projects, a new city office building, a solar project for city office buildings and plans for recycling water and improving communications.
Now, a lot has been made of these lists. Are they the ticket out of our economic slump, or simply giant Band-Aids that will only temporarily spike new job levels while putting us deeper into the poor house?
Well, again, let's cut the B.S. and figure that out. San Francisco's list suggests that more than 12,700 jobs would be created if all of its projects were funded. San Diego's list includes no job projections. To Spin Cycle, that suggests that San Diego needs to work on its “inner resources”—its salesmanship, its stoicism, its belief in itself. (It should be noted that a parallel countywide SANDAG list does estimate job creation.)
Sanders, a while back, joked that his support of John McCain in the recent presidential race might hurt San Diego's chances of getting noticed by the incoming Obama administration. To that, Spin Cycle says, “OK, so you backed the wrong horse. Get over it, and get back to work.”
Will 2009 be sink-or-swim time for San Diego? Only a fool would bet against us—just look what the Chargers have managed to accomplish in what appeared to be a go-nowhere year.
If Sanders can't handle the job, Spin Cycle has an idea: Darren Sproles for mayor!
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