Wednesday, April 06, 2005 | If you are as baffled by San Diego’s current priorities as I am, let’s work together to try to discuss some of your concerns and your questions. We should end up with a solution of sorts for each of them.

Here are some starting questions for you to consider, to reply to or to add to:

His first mistake after his initial election, and his most hurtful for the city, was to explain that he did not really understand politics and needed someone to help handle politics while he was mayor. We thought that was sort of wonderful, and meant he wasn’t going to be influenced. Unfortunately, he explained this same thing to John Kern, the shrewd political consultant who got him elected, and then made Kern his chief of staff. Kern’s considerable political talents do not extend anywhere near the administrative oversight of a city. Kern proceeded to conduct mayoral business with the same back-street smarts that had got Murphy elected.

In his first term, Mayor Murphy invited me to lunch twice in the most gentlemanly fashion. He explained that when I was critical of him in print it brought him challenges and questions and made it harder for him to govern the city. I heard him through and then explained as simply as I could that columnists are expected to do their own research, to form opinions, and to share them publicly. I must have been a real bore to the judge. I reminded him that strange custom has prevailed in the English-speaking world since the 13th century, when the British sequestered the nobility, the clergy and the commons as the first three estates, leaving room for the media to tag along later as the Fourth Estate, one which first became a powerful factor in government just prior to the French Revolution.

Mayor Murphy seemed interested in this point but did not seem to find it relevant, and continued to urge me not to express my opinions in print. With Murphy, I thought I was looking through the glass in Alice’s Wonderland, and have ever since.

We did it to ourselves. Someday, perhaps some behavioral pollster will explain to us why we have twice voted him mayor.


When we finally can fix this one, we will stand a chance of cleaning up City Hall.

Powerful forces are arrayed against Murphy’s regime. Boulders teeter above city politicians poised to fall when the earth quivers. City Attorney Mike Aguirre shows little restraint in exposing corruption where he finds it at City Hall. Bonnie Dumanis, the district attorney, has opened her own investigation.

That makes three public attorneys whose investigations could topple this administration before we have a chance to vote them out of office.

John Kern has taken his pension D.R.O.P. and resigned as Mayor Murphy’s chief of staff, but his disappearance is not all that it may seem. Kern was often amused to deny that he was Murphy’s Rasputin (a shrewd peasant who won power over Czar Nicholas II of Russia from 1911 until his murder in 1916). No, John’s not Rasputin. He’s survived. But I wonder if Murphy remembers his Russian history.

I like very much the little lesson that Councilwoman Donna Frye taught us this week in mobilizing public outrage against City Council actions that would have made covert actions even simpler for City Hall. No matter what you feel about our surfer princess, she has done more in the past two years than anyone else to demonstrate that San Diegans can still interrupt blunders at City Hall and force better government.

The best course to solve this mess is to support such activists both in and out of city government, and to wait patiently for actions from public attorneys. It would probably be possible to recall Murphy. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and might even create more confusion than it cures. He would be respected for resigning, but it does not seem in his nature. City Hall’s house of cards will collapse. I, for one, can hardly wait for a frustrated city’s chance to start over and get it right.

Please e-mail Voice of San Diego with other questions and your answers to Neil Morgan’s questions.

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