Tuesday, February 22, 2005 | In the early part of the last century, a study envisioned what San Diego could become in the ensuing years. Wrong. There was Lynch and Appleyard’s 1974 study, “Temporary Paradise.” From what’s been accomplished of its recommendations, we’re still temporary.

There have been many other attempts to craft our future – to “move our city forward” – that rival airport studies in futility. There was the business community’s “Vision 2003” drafted in 1993 and then buried in some City Council committee. A coalition effort called “Compass” faded into oblivion. There have been major recent efforts from our collegiate ranks at San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego. The odds for success of either one are not bright. Neither is the recently produced plan from Carl De Maio’s Performance Institute to bring new efficiencies to city government, as brilliant and thorough as it is.

In addition to problems at the head of the government beast, it has been almost impossible to get anything progressive done with council people beholden to unions and other special interests. This problem will continue even under a strong mayor since the council can veto the mayor quite easily.

So is there an answer? Maybe. My answer, and it isn’t new, is simply … leverage. If we could get every key business organization plus a bunch of other groups, add up the numbers of members and employees and money they control and scare the hell out of our elected brethren, then we’d have something. Until the elected leadership listens seriously and takes action to follow our lead, nothing will happen. One recent encouraging sign was the vote of the City of San Diego’s Land Use and Housing Committee to accept the Chamber of Commerce’s affordable housing plan, asking the city manager to prepare a timely report. But if past is prologue this plan also will fall into the dark pit of futility.

A lot of us have been staunching our wounds for years and those of the community. So it’s not apathy you’re seeing or feeling, it’s really defeatism. This doesn’t mean we don’t continue to tilt at windmills. Malin Burnham is one key person who never quits. And he backs up his moves with money. So do Mel Katz and Phil Blair, and our newcomer John Moores and Sol Price. Now let’s see, who else…yes, who else…?

Not to end on a sour note, one thing we do as we muddle along with our short-range view is make some progress. We can only hope that the minds behind the short-range views are smart, that they pay some attention to the visionaries and that we continue to be blessed with luck.

Dave Nuffer is a longtime citizen of San Diego, a civic player who has served as chair of both the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau and believes that San Diego, whatever its problems, will transcend all. He is chair of the 30 year old public relations firm that bears his name, Nuffer, Smith, Tucker, Inc.

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