Saturday, July 16, 2005 | My mom always says, “Everything bad that happens brings an opportunity,” and, in reflecting on San Diego’s current fiscal and political crisis, I’m compelled to search for one. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about reasons why or assigning blame. I’m simply casting about for what can be made of this “opportunity.”

The rationalization I’ve come up with is somewhat circuitous: This strife serves a purpose, and the purpose is to cause just this kind of personal reflection. In other words, I, and a number of my friends, have recently found ourselves thinking about just what our city means to us, and what is important to us about being San Diegans.

Working for a local publishing company that is focused on our region’s cultural as well as natural history, I’m perhaps more likely than others to look back on our city’s history.

It is easy to find similarly dismal historic occasions, such as the early 1890s when San Diego was plunged into a severe economic crisis resulting from over-investment in land and the bursting of the subsequent “land-bubble” when the hoped-for thousands of newcomers failed to arrive. Many businesses and individuals went bankrupt and five banks closed. For a few years, San Diego was a pariah city, and travelers southbound from Los Angeles were even warned that the water here wasn’t drinkable.

Luckily, in that case, there were some visionary local businessmen who ignored the doomsayers and continued to concentrate on what the city had – and still has – to offer: great weather, colorful history and a wealth of potential investment capital. Naturally, technology then didn’t mean what it means now, but the principle’s the same: People in San Diego tend to be the kind of people who are willing to take some risks on new ideas, and new ideas bring new businesses.

As I said, this little essay isn’t about answers; it’s about whether we care enough to keep trying to find more and better questions. I’m sure that the questions will be as diverse as our citizenry. For example: Why did I come here? What keeps me here? Do I want to stay? And how willing are each of us to invest our own time and money (taxes) to see to what new heights this phoenix can again rise, once this blaze dies down and we shake off the ashes and debris.

Our city will celebrate its 236th anniversary, dating from the founding of the mission in 1769, on July 16. What an amazing couple of centuries it has been, full of wonder, achievement, and yes, some spectacular strife. I, for one, will raise a glass to what was once “America’s Finest City” – a city I believe will soon live up to that name again.

Jennifer Redmond is editor in chief of Sunbelt Publications, a regional publisher and book wholesaler in El Cajon. You may e-mail her at

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