"All we know are the facts, ma'am."
—Sgt. Joe Friday
This is the city. San Diego, California. I work here. I carry a notebook. My name's Spin. The column you are about to read is true; one name has been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
It was Tuesday, Sept. 9. It was warm in San Diego. Damn warm. Warmer than a wool sock full of amorous hamsters. Sgt. Joe Tuesday was working the day watch out of Petition Assault and Fraud Detail. His partner's Gill Bannon. It was 4:27 p.m. when the phone rang.
"Sgt. Tuesday! Get down here quick!" the squealing voice on the line was saying. "Petition enforcers are attacking! We need backup!"
Sgt. Tuesday recognized the voice of City Councilmember Scott Sherman. "Slow down, Council man. What is it this time? A paper cut? A missing clipboard?"
"No, no, no, this is serious!" came the tinny reply. "We've got an angry old man who just shoved one of my staff to the ground! It's horrible!"
"Your staff is all in their 20s and 30s, right?" Sgt. Tuesday deadpanned. "This old guy must have been a moose."
"Well, no, not really. Kinda skinny, actually," Sherman stammered.
"Anyway, get down here now!" As soon as Tuesday hung up, he knew he was in for a long night. He'd dealt with this Sherman character before, as well as his council cohorts Lorie Zapf and Mark Kersey. Dominated by a Democrat majority, these three Republicans had gained a reputation reflected in their street name:
The Smiling Obstructionists.
"You know what bothers me, Gill?"
"What's that, Joe?"
"These wide-mouth punk politicians. While we're rewarded' with 3-year-old Maxwell House coffee for keeping Josephine Citizen safe, they're off in their air-conditioned publicity-mobiles, screaming Henny Penny' at the slightest sign of trouble," Tuesday said. "Know what really grinds my gears, Gill?"
"Josephine Citizen seems not to care one darn bit."
Tuesday and Bannon nodded at each other and headed out the station door.
Summer is the time for mischief, Tuesday thought to himself. Oh sure, we could put the cuffs on the stifling heat or around the idle hands of itchy-trigger-finger campaign consultants scrounging for the next meal ticket. "Where does it end?" Tuesday said to no one in particular.
On their way to the scene of the alleged crime, Tuesday and Bannon stopped by the cramped office of government-behavior specialist Carl Luna, a poli-sci professor at Mesa College, to get his take on the recent up-tick in petition crime and embellishment.
"I gave a lecture on this today," Luna said. "Politics is supposed to be a positive-sum game.
Everybody is supposed to win. We're supposed to be the Oprah Winfrey school of politics. That's why we're We the People.'"
Tuesday and Bannon nodded. "But in this my-side-or-be-damned, winner-take-all sort of approach," Luna continued, "the two sides can't meet on anything. So everything falls apart."
"So what's the answer, professor?" Tuesday said.
"Hey, if you've got the money, you can do anything you want with petitions," Luna said. "Maybe later, we'll have a petition to rescind the adoption of minutes from a council meeting!"
Tuesday and Bannon nodded, then headed to the crime scene.
A sweat-soaked Sherman ran up to the duo when they arrived. "Geez, I'm glad you're here. It's pandemonium!" "Looks pretty calm to me, councilman," Tuesday replied.
"Well, yeah, now, but you should've seen the chaos a few minutes ago. A grandmother shouted at one of my staff. And I think she'd been eating onions! What are you going to do about these heinous two-bit-thug minimum-wage enforcers?"
"You sure they work for Raise Up San Diego, councilman?" Bannon asked.
"Hey, if they're not with us, they're enforcers, pal," Sherman barked.
"Let me tell you something, Mr. Sherman," Tuesday cut in. "On this beat, we run into all kinds. Pimps, addicts, thieves, bums, winos. Liars, con men, cheats. Every time a crime's committed, you've got 1 million suspects to choose from. And the endless reports. You getting my drift?"
"No idea," Sherman replied. "Talk to Raisin Joe."
Tuesday and Gannon headed to the swank offices of Raisin Joe, a shark-chasing storyteller of infamy and chief lever-puller behind the anti-minimum-wage petition drive.
"Well, the Petition Patrol finally gets around to investigating this enforcer crime ring. About time!" Joe snaps without a hello.
Tuesday and Bannon stay steady as Joe regales the pair with bloated tales of all-out war, from pencil stabbings and clipboard grabbings to "bullying and voter disenfranchisement." The result? "Numerous police reports for assault, theft and other miscellaneous conflicts that have served as an embarrassment to our city."
"You finished now, Joe?" Tuesday asked. "Good, because now you're going to listen to me, you gutter-mouth punk. You keep harping about the minimum wage while you strut around in your custom suits and drink your expensive craft beers. Last report, we have more than 2,000 citizens— 2,000 souls!—who signed a form saying you and your merry bunch have flat-out lied to them to get their John Hancocks. Like every hoodlum since Cain up through Capone, you've learned to hide behind some quirk in the law."
"I know my rights, and I know the law," Joe said. "You got nothing on me."
"Maybe so, Joe, but try to put that walnut-sized brain of yours to work on this," Tuesday leaned in. "By sundown, we'll know if the Signature Removal Brigade has outfoxed you, or whether you and your kind over at the Chamber of Commerce will be forever regarded as the true obstructionists to community action. If your plan is to end elective government as we know it, well you've put your prime client, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, in some hole."
"How so?" Joe asked.
"You think it's coincidental he's lying low on the minimum wage right now?" Tuesday glared. "He's in a bad spot. Don't push it, and his base fractures. Push it, and the moderate votes he seeks in 2016 will evaporate. Good luck with that."