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Thursday, October 27, 2005 | Today, San Diego is a troubled, damaged, laughingstock city.

Two weeks from today, San Diego will be a troubled, damaged, laughingstock city with a mayor.

Two months from today, San Diego will be a troubled, damaged, laughingstock city with a mayor.

A year from today, San Diego will be a troubled, damaged, laughingstock city with a mayor. But by then, probably, things will have started to happen.

Today, the only thing known about those things is that they are going to take time. Jesus of Nazareth could be elected mayor a week from Tuesday and not heal the city overnight, or even next month. Working with what he had, he could turn San Diego BS into bucks and pay off the pension debt, cancel the national debt, pay for four years of college for every kid in America and put $100 in all our pockets.

But the city’s trouble and damage isn’t about money, though money is the result, and is at the root. The operators, however, are people. The trouble is, so many people ostensibly working for San Diego, in both public and private sectors, in fact were turning money into BS to get things they wanted for themselves, at the city’s expense. It sounds strangely defamatory. The definition of defamation is, “anything false published about a person that damages that person’s reputation or ability to make a living.” When you read all the false BS in public documents that have damaged the city’s reputation or ability to make a living, you wonder if you shouldn’t suggest to Mike Aguirre that he sue the principals for defamation. Or maybe not. He looks too close to spontaneous ignition already.

It is definitely people who have defamed their city and its citizens, and that is where the trouble rests and the damage lies and the jokes begin. It is true that things have to happen about money. The banks don’t care whether the bills come from a kid with a credit card or a councilman in a lobbyist’s hip pocket. All the banks want is a mayor with a plan to start paying off the bad debt. A year from now, that is one of the things that may have started happening.

But that’s the smaller thing. The bigger thing is counseling the kid, and correcting the councilman. On those strategies will the city begin to rise, maybe a year from now, or continue to fall? Interesting that this new mayor is going to be “strong” by definition. It will be either a strong female Democratic mayor or a strong male Republican mayor taking the oath after Nov. 8, which makes a strong contrast even stronger.

That is only definition. What can’t be defined, but what is most important, is leadership. Leadership employs constants, the most important being the reality that a leader, or commander, is responsible for everything his or her organization does or does not do. Leadership, however, is always situational, and San Diego deserves a prize for being situational. The Republican, if it is he, will have to lead the rank and file in a way that proves he values them equally with the so-called entrenched GOP establishment. The Democrat, if it is she, of whom the entrenched GOP establishment appears terrified, will have to calm and lead that group in a way that proves she values them equally with the rank and file.

Whichever it is, watch for signs of their acceptance, and assertion, of command responsibility going in. That is the strength that matters. With it, a mayor has a good shot at resolving trouble, repairing damage and making the jokes old, not to mention getting the bills paid, counseling the kid and correcting the councilman. What busy years lie ahead. Hopefully, we will be reading about it in the newspaper.

Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at www.michaelgrant.com.

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