The basis of optimism is sheer terror.
The following is NOT a paid program brought to you by the San Diego Tourism Authority.
Establishing shot: A picture-postcard day in the cultural heart of the city, Balboa Park. (Take that, Rob Quigley!) The new "living room," to be precise, in the ever-evolving Plaza de Panama. Bright-colored chairs and umbrellas ring a large Astroturf mat scattered with puffy lounge pillows. Desert-themed planter boxes surround the whole affair, adding a sense of security and separation from the park's otherwise scurrying throngs.
This, Spin Cycle reflects, represents what's smart about San Diego. The little things. Simple things. No-brainer things that nevertheless seem to take eons to get done. The experimental San Diego; the ah-heck-let's-give-this-a-try San Diego. Yes, much more interesting than the over-analyzed, over-hyped, begging-for-attention-gah!-it's-a-competitive-world San Diego—the ever-present inferiority-complex San Diego.
Next, Spin imagines being kidnapped, blindfolded and whisked to an undisclosed, oceanfront hotel conference room. When the blindfold is removed, Spin is seated in a barren, darkened room in a dentist's chair, arms and ankles secured with straps. A massive projection screen mere feet away dominates the field of vision.
A public-address system screeches, then a tinny voice announces: "You are about to see the greatest documentary in the history of documentaries. A tour de farce of statuesque perfection. A riveting hour of incessant smiling. You have been warned"
A child's scream of delight, as the kid beats the snot out of a turquoise lounge pillow, snaps Spin out of this daydream. Relieved, Spin's focus returns to the plaza, nearly jumping out of his seat when he notices a familiar winged apparition has joined his table.
Spin: "Magic Budget Fairy! It's been awhile. I had a feeling you had a hand—or, should I say, a wand—in creating this magical space." Spin is laying on the sugar.
"Always with the jokes. Yeah, I came up with this over an afternoon when I just had to get out of City Hall. That place reeks of Axe body spray," Magic Budget Fairy replies, as her antennae briefly shudder.
"Well, kids will be"
"Enough small talk! I only have a few minutes on my own here before—yeesh!—my Magic Budget Fairy Godmother tracks me down."
"I was not aware you had a godmother."
"Ugh, I speak of her as infrequently as possible. We only let her out of the Forest of Municipal Saviors when business gets too brisk. Like now, in San Diego. She's nuts with the money. Can't give away enough! Shaky bookkeeper, though"
Just then, something bangs into the turquoise umbrella above, followed by a giggle and a crash to the ground. A dazed Magic Budget Fairy Godmother flaps weakly to a perch on another chair nearby, a bag of cash clutched in one chubby foot.
"Always with the grand entrances, eh 'Mother?" Magic Budget Fairy snarks.
"I don't know what you mean, dear. These umbrellas are new. You could have warned me. Who is this young man? You aren't talking about The Big Worry, now are you, dear? You really aren't authorized to discuss The Big Worry. You don't have Big Worry clearance."
Magic Budget Fairy waves her hand, and Godmother suddenly freezes in place.
"Sometimes it's the only way to shut her up," Fairy winks. "Anyway, The Big Worry Theory. "You're familiar with Mayor Kevin Faulconer? Well, he would love nothing more than to take a breezy, smiling victory lap from here to June 2016, when he hopes to be overwhelmingly re-elected. He does not want this thing to go into extra innings, say a November presidential election when Democrats finally emerge from their sleepy caves and vote.
"Well, to get there, it would behoove him if certain, um, messy issues magically resolved themselves prior to June 2016. Things like the minimum-wage hike, the One Paseo development in Carmel Valley, heck maybe even the Chargers stadium debacle from hell. Geesh, you humans and your NFL football."
Spin: "What can I say? It's a nonsensical emotional reaction to the notion that a city without professional football is somehow less worthy than its NFL-anointed counterparts. You said your time was short. We'll know more May 20. Let's not go there."
"Very well. So, the folks who gathered enough signatures to force the San Diego City Council either to reverse its approval of One Paseo or stick it on a future ballot keep saying Kilroy, the mega developer behind it, would foot the bill for a special election later this year, not 2016. And as long as San Diego voters are mulling that project, why not toss minimum wage and a stadium plan on the same ballot? Hard decisions cleared, pathway to coronation set!"
Spin pushes back, explaining that Kilroy had issued a statement expressing its disappointment in the successful signature campaign "paid for by an Orange County-based corporation bent on smothering competition," but vowing to "work hard over the next year to educate voters on the merits of what will be San Diego's most environmentally sustainable project."
"Kilroy said over the next year?' That doesn't sound like they're interested in paying for a special election this year," Fairy mutters.
Spin adds that the idea of a privately financed special election was met with blank stares from city officials. Unprecedented, they all said. Municipal Code and City Charter? Mum on the topic. And NFL officials have not outright rejected a June 2016 stadium vote.
"That so" Fairy trembles. The shuddering accidentally triggers Fairy Godmother to wake from her trance. "So you really shouldn't speak of The Big Worry," Godmother says, unaware she'd been frozen.
"Worry, worry, worry! Didn't you see the NatGeo documentary?" Fairy shouts, uncharacteristically. "No worries! No worries!
San Diego is fun and vibrant! Built upon conscious urban planning! Poised to move in a SMART direction! Do not question this!" With that, Fairy vanished in a puff of gold glitter.
"She gets emotional sometimes," Godmother says. "She worked hard on that film. Kevin has her working overtime, poor dear."