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Wednesday, March 02, 2005 | First of two parts – Part 2 coming tomorrow

San Diego could rise above the “Enron-by-the-Sea” by doing the following things:

1. Pro-active leadership wouldn’t hurt. Tell City Hall that in the private sector, Frank Quattrone just got 18 months of slam-time for reminding his bank employees to shred documents regularly, per existing policy. Outside inquiries had started but no investigation was underway. Our hometown public servants, however, suddenly started shredding documents and erasing e-mails after an investigation had started. In her weakest moment, Martha Stewart erased a single e-mail, thought better of it, and had the message restored. She’s in prison doing six months. There’s no report yet of city employees restoring any erased e-mails. Enron came clean. We’re hiding evidence.

2. Keep the airport where it is. No city in America enjoys landings so convenient to its main business district. Revitalizing downtown and then jerking out the airport seems schizoid, only because it is. Air travel since 1999 has grown modestly. San Diego lost international flights due to low demand, not capacity. The railroad business peaked long ago, unit automobile sales haven’t been vigorous for decades, and air traffic cannot grow forever. It might increase for awhile if terrorism stops. Hmm. And if oil prices permanently drop … oh. Security checks and easy teleconferencing suggest business demands may ebb. Oops.

Can you imagine the lawsuits if Scripps Ranch and La Jolla citizens suddenly hear those jet engines roar overhead? Of course, there’s Borrego. Yeah. That’ll boost traffic. Campaign for a bullet train to LAX. We are a cul-de-sac city. Homebuyers pay extra for the quiet, safety and superior lifestyle of cul-de-sacs. So why would any city hope to become an intersection? Of course, Wally Schirra would like to move it to Miramar: That drops his commute time from Rancho Santa Fe. Of course Malin Burnham wants it moved: That makes his Point Loma home quieter, but those citizens bought understanding they lived with airport noise.

3. Support the Chargers, but not financially. Spend more tax nickels to upgrade the Zoo. When San Diegans travel, out of town folks say “What a great zoo.” And the primary business of San Diego is tourism. Visitors come for the Zoo, beaches and Sea World every day of the year. How many fly here to see the Chargers on those eight afternoons they’re scheduled to play at home?

Gary Sutton was CEO of eight businesses between 1980 and 2000. Five of the shareholder groups enjoyed great returns, one escaped alive while two were sickening tragedies that only time will cure. He’s the author of “THE SIX MONTH FIX” and “four other books that failed to make any bestseller lists.” Sutton holds several patents, none of which are “commercially interesting.”

Tomorrow’s column will offer other suggestions from Gary.

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