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Thursday, November 10, 2005 | Jerry Sanders said: “They [the voters] have chosen a new path for the city of San Diego.”

Well, not exactly. It was forced on them, and thank God. The old path was an ant hole to hell.

So the new path was a given, whichever candidate won, and it boiled down to this:

With Donna Frye, change was guaranteed.

With Jerry Sanders, reform is the plan.

Merriam-Webster Online defines “reform” as, “1. amendment of what is defective, vicious, corrupt or depraved; 2. a removal or correction of an abuse, a wrong, or errors.”

An interesting distinction. What is defective, vicious, corrupt or depraved can only be amended. Abuse, wrongs or errors can be removed. Does history suggest to the definition brokers that things defective, vicious, corrupt or depraved are beyond the reach of removal? Is amendment the best that history (and the future) can hope for? This election was brought about by elements that were demonstrably defective and corrupt and, perhaps in a few eyes, vicious and depraved.

On this new path that the city is guaranteed, what extent of amended defectiveness is going to be permissible? What percentage of corruption must be amended to prove acceptable? These are reasonable questions, since no organization, institution or human being is ever free of defect, and corruption in small degree has tempted humans to pocket office supplies since the beginning of time. What is the minimum level of defect and corruption achievable, and sustainable, on the new path? By what mechanisms are they to be reached, starting from an ant hole to hell?

What a 50 years the city has had. Before 1972, San Diego was the “sleepy Navy town.” In 1972, Richard Nixon pulled the rug from under the city and moved the Republican National Convention to Miami. Retaliating, Mayor Pete Wilson proclaimed San Diego “America’s Finest City.” In 2005, the city is an “Ant Hole to Hell,” with a mayor, two councilmen, fiscal stability, a pension fund and public and institutional confidence eaten alive by swarming, voracious agents busily coming and going in their defective, corrupt errands with clutches of money clamped in their tiny maws.

Now we can print Chamber brochures, T-shirts and bumper stickers: “San Diego: City on a New Path.” The goal: amended defectiveness and corruption, and also viciousness and depravity, should they become troublesome. Can voraciousness be reformed? There’s something about the local political climate that suggests it should at least be penciled in. Also to be anticipated are a removal of abuse, wrong and errors. Or, if removal is not likely, then at least correction. Make that timely correction. If a wrong occurs, such as a fast one pulled on a pension fund in the “City on a New Path,” don’t remove it five years later. Remove it, or correct it, before the sun goes down.

In the end, there remains a longing for change. “Reform” by definition leaves the old thing, that needed reform, in place. When you speak of reform, Donna Frye was right: “Same old, same old.” Amended, certainly, but still same old.

It is possible that the same old – the old establishment (both public and private), the conservative business community, the business-as-usual constituency – developed a contingency plan, just in case Frye (gulp) won. Those plans would have addressed the realities of working with a new mayor whose planks in the new path were change and truth. What promise might those contingency plans contain? What workable concessions might they include? They would make interesting reading, if any copies have survived the shredder.

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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