Photo illustration by John R. Lamb
“One of these days, Devin, bang zoom!” “It’s Kevin, Mr. President-Elect...”
Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.
— Mark Twain
Ah, the one-two punch in the nether regions that is the holiday season—the rabid consumerism/sugar-high buzz of Christmas morphing briskly into the rabid consumption of fermented sugar products to welcome in the New Year, followed by regretful hangover.
The last part, dear reader, is only an estimate, given that this column was constructed in the waning days of 2016. So I have no clue whether we actually made it to 2017. But Spin will expend its remaining drops of faith rationed for 2016 on the assumption that we crossed over the year mark in one piece, roughly in the same spot as before.
And where is that spot exactly? Who knows, really? But wherever it is, it sure feels like it's sitting on quicksand, ready to trap San Diego in an energy-sucking, downward spiral of struggle between haves and have-nots.
When asked about the current sour tone of discourse, long-time political observer Carl Luna, a Mesa College political-science professor, has taken to quoting from the movie that's impossible to avoid during the holiday season, the Frank Capra classic It's a Wonderful Life.
As hokey as the 1946 film may be, Luna sees parallels between the current poisoned state of party politics and the movie's principal characters, George Bailey (defender of the common folk) and Henry F. Potter (slumlord and a-hole supreme).
The Republican platform, advanced by the party's new golden-haired standard-bearer, President-elect Donald John Trump, has become "insidiously simple," Luna said in an email.
But as far as the Democrats go, they've "become a party with so many platforms that they've become a party without a platform," Luna added. "What the heck did 'Stronger Together' actually mean for average people? Where was the New Deal hope, the Great Society promise, the Civil Rights righteousness?"
Luna included a snippet of dialog between Potter and Bailey, where the dour Potter grumbles, "and all because a few starry-eyed dreamers like Peter Bailey stir 'em up and fill their head with a lot of impossible ideas."
Bailey, torn between a desire to leave his small-town roots behind and his firm belief that his late father, as head of a small bank, made a difference in ordinary peoples' lives, would later snarl back, "Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?
"Actually, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle."
Perhaps 2016 can be summed up simply as the Year of the Frustrated Old Man. Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Chargers honcho Dean Spanos, neither all that aged, danced like a doddering old couple for most of the year while lawyers and campaign consultants picked scraps from the carcass of the NFL franchise that remained.
Here's the thing, though: Spin gets the civic pride argument. That losing a major sports team is like having a municipal testicle removed without anesthesia, making a town somewhat less masculine, presumably. But when a team is this bad (reminder: it lost to the 0-14 Cleveland fricking Browns two weekends ago), nothing's sadder to watch than civic pride melting into desperate, blind loyalty to a faded family folly.
Get off the dance floor, mayor and owner dude. You've sized each other up, exchanged corsages and motel-room keys, broken up, patched things up, restarted the break-up talk, blah yadda blah. Don't leave us wondering what's up a year from now. Enough!
Speaking of enough, will 2017 usher in a less-smiling, more-stoic Mayor Faulconer? Budget cuts hang on the horizon like buzzard silhouettes. Tough to be Mr. Happy Talk when you're telling little Billy and Sally, "Hey kids, I'm glad you've enjoyed the bigger park and longer library hours, but now that I'm reelected, we can't afford those luxuries anymore!"
Oh, maybe he'll find magical budget beans in the City Hall couch cushions and maintain those hours somehow. But cuts are going to have to come from somewhere and parks and libraries always seem in the crosshairs when times are tough.
Most interesting, perhaps, will be the Republican mayor's relationship with the incoming president. Spin asked a mayoral spokesman if Faulconer and Trump had spoken yet, but alas there was no immediate response. Pesky holidays!
The Los Angeles Times noted that L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, a strident Hillary Clinton backer, spoke to Trump by phone in late November on a variety of topics, from infrastructure investment and immigration reform to the city's 2024 Olympic bid, for which Garcetti said Trump expressed support.
Garcetti, like Faulconer, criticized Trump during the election season. Faulconer later acknowledged he had voted for House Speaker Paul Ryan for president, effectively tossing his presidential vote in the bidet. One can only imagine how that conversation will go when it happens.
"Who's this, Faaaalconer?"
"Mayor Faulconer, Mr. President. Kevin. From San Diego."
"SAN DIEGO? Shit place didn't vote for me. Coronado voted for me. Why am I not on the phone with the mayor of Coronado! Oh what the hell, Faaalconer, you've got 30 seconds. GO!"
"Uh, thanks for taking the time from your busy tweeting schedule to speak with me, Mr. President. We're a city on the go — "
"OK, time's up. Nice chatting. Work on your voters there, Devin...<dialtone>"
"It's Kevin, sir. Hello? Hello?"
Hello, indeed. Be kind, 2017.