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Monday, April 04, 2005 | The Pope is dead, an extraordinary leader in a time of stress, but isn’t that always? It’s nice to know that there is continuity, a succession that insures that people have a leader. Building respect is another matter.

In our community, we have elected leaders, called mayors. We hope for the best when we vote or we stay away from the polls and, you guessed it, hope for the best. With rare exception, we are disappointed, sometimes badly.

The Catholics have had continuity since ancient times; they know that their leader will continue to be the Pope. Perhaps for a few weeks after the living one dies, there is a slight vacuum, but nevertheless, the next one is voted in by the Cardinals, and is the leader until mortality ends. It is rather comfortable to know that there is no volatility to the process except for a few weeks of intrigue, but that just makes it more interesting.

Here, we nominate, we campaign and we sometimes vote. Whether we vote or not, we complain, for that is the American idiom. You take sides, you watch the election results and you prepare to complain, bitch, moan. The less you contribute to a campaign in money, the more this allows you to complain. It’s more satisfying to blame whatever is perceived as wrong, a mistake, an error in judgment or an “unnecessary risk.” It’s more democratic to not vote, for that preserves one’s integrity: “You can’t blame me, I didn’t vote for him or her,” and so it goes, on and on.

My idea is to do what the Catholics do, nominate a true leader, a man of principle (no waste experimenting with a female leader). We will not waste individual votes by allowing only a “college of principled voters” to vote for the next mayor, and the problem of who will be the next leader with the least votes forming a plurality. That will keep the mischievous media out of this, not allow any time-consuming campaigning, keep expenses to a minimum, keep the leader in office until he is 80 or in heaven, and voila, we will have solved our problems.

Sanford “Sandy” Goodkin is acting chairman of Civic Solutions, a group of leaders who analyze San Diego’s problems, prioritize them and search for solutions, representing diverse points of view. He is a trustee of the Urban Land Institute and is a pioneer of residential market and marketing analysis.

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