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Thursday, July 07, 2005 | Self-appointed as “America’s finest city” by then-Mayor Pete Wilson, San Diego has been mostly fable but targeted possibility. Someone said that San Diego is a “terminal case of laid-back,” which I think is the best description I’ve heard.

The future will be made of whether we are terminally laid-back – a disparate group of people brought together every few years by either the San Diego Chargers or San Diego Padres – or built-for-action mavericks who will energize our future.

At this point, we are in the midst of a contest as to who will be the next mayor. So far it has been good, with courtesy – unknown on the national or state scene – extended and some decent debates. My feeling is that at least one of these candidates is the right one and that would launch us on our comeback tour. We could become a great city, but we’ll have to wait for that proclamation as it’s still in draft form.

The right mayor will be one who is brilliant at listening, for the ear is built to carry ideas to the brain, though often blocked by the “waxy condition,” called bureaucracy. He/she will be superb at carefully finding advisors who are strong, ethical and energetic so that the administration becomes the same. He/she will have a strong ego but little vanity, for one allows listening and the other looks for praise and ovation, like our president appearing before handpicked audiences of cheerleaders.

The mayor will not be alone. There are excellent organizations that mean to assist the accelerated evolution of our city from myth to national contender; they are planning just below the radar screen to help create a better future, as real – rather than a draft, wishful-thinking list. I’ve been privy to some of them and their underdevelopment “white-papers.” They include, but are not limited to:

– C-3, an excellent organization envisioned by terrific Max Schmidt, who mentored and sometimes tormented them and the city thinkers;

– Partners for Livable Spaces, nurtured by Steve Estrada (one of my favorite and most courageous friends) and George Driver, a devil’s advocate who leads the timely “green movement” now; and

– Canyonlands, a collaboration among several organizations communicating the uniqueness of this region’s canyons and why they are the basic infrastructure of this fine place in the sun, also greatly assisted by Steve Estrada, along with planning guru Mike Stepner, who is coordinating this for Civic Solutions.

We are making progress as we wait with great hope for a new mayor to take office, whose strength will not be a strong-mayor edict, but who will be strong because he/she will be excellent at listening and bringing together that team, just waiting to energize this exceptional place.

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. Read his real estate columns at

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