While most of the intelligentsia who read voiceofsandiego.org may not watch the adult-oriented cartoon “South Park” on TV, questions about what can be done to address our culture of corruption reminded me of a recent episode where bad boy Eric Cartman’s self-centered single mom is finally required by his school to get some help for his chronic acting out.

First she turns to Nanny 911 who flees in disgust. Then SuperNanny has her try – but ends up in a padded room. Finally, they turn to….the Dog Whisperer, who arrives and applies the magic tools: cool consistency, discipline and accountability. It works like a charm – or so it seems – until the Dog Whisperer leaves and mom goes back to her old ways of getting attention to her needs from her son, instead from other adults, and all is lost. Little Eric reverts instantly to his old bad habits. After all, when your needs are being met through any existing network of relationships – why change?

It’s very funny in a cartoon and reveals that in real life it’s seldom a problem with just one individual – it’s the interactions of several that serve to reinforce bad behaviors from any network of relationships – whether it be dogs, humans, or politicians.

How can we apply whisperer discipline to our political culture of incompetence/corruption?

The bad news is that there is no substitute for politics – which is to bring up that hackneyed saying that democracy isn’t a perfect system; we just haven’t come up with anything else better. There is no panacea for this kind of attitude problem. Public financing of campaigns – with appropriate hurdles to qualify – could help.

It is indeed enlightening to note that the only reason the city was brought to heel – to the small extent that they have – was that they finally lied to the Wall Street types. It wasn’t due to any due diligence from the power brokers themselves. They would have happily kept the system going until they started bouncing checks.

Handling the power and ego trips that come along with having access to other peoples’ money is much harder. Human nature requires check and balances. Either the electorate will wake-up and stop supporting lightweight candidates, or we won’t address our cultural shortcomings. Having run for City Council and experienced that “delightful” process, I’m convinced that those who most support political campaigns prefer first, candidates who feign agreement with them at least on the surface, and second, candidates who don’t ask too many questions. This makes it tough for candidates to succeed who would question people later.

In the end, its semper vigilans and caveat emptor. Always be vigilant and buyer (voter) beware.

I would like to see increased public access to all meetings and to strictly limit discussions in closed session. Even then, governing on faith and who you know has a long standing history in politics.

Citizens have to band together and understand how to hold people accountable for their shortcomings. It ain’t easy – like I said earlier about loving a city. But it’s all we’ve got.


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