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Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006 | While the Union-Tribune and voiceofsandiego.org have taken sharp positions in regard to the fraud conducted by city officials, union leaders, and oversight board officers in the pension crisis, one thing that has gone completely unmentioned is that the city is still being governed by a council, a voting majority of which, is made up of the offenders who manufactured the fraud.
The fraud was not a mere matter of negligence, but one of seeking privileges in a variety of ways, and in the case of some, involved a direct quid pro quo: you ignore the pension fraud and you get paid a swell pension. In other cases, however, the payoffs were surely somewhat more obscure, in the form of other kinds of payoffs, and journalist should pursue their own creed further: follow the money.
But, in a broader context, the culture of secrecy and cronyism that helped produce the city’s fiscal crisis still exists. The SEC deliberations were secret, the negotiations were a secret, names are still unnamed, and the council routinely retreats into secret sessions while the mayor muzzles his staff and public employees.
But what is the Big Secret? The Big Secret is that the entire city government still operates as a weapon of the rich: the developers, the high-tech crowd that depends on the military providers, the casino pickpockets (their secret – you lose), the tourist industry gougers, the drug trade, and the universities which, despite claims to independence, quality, and academic freedom, too often are little more than apologists for things as they are, while their presidents are living in homes owned by local elites.
This use of governmental power as a tool of wealth, rather than a neutral serving all in a democracy, is endemic in the U.S., but especially severe in San Diego, where the lone print newspaper continues to play a key role in obfuscating city life. I hope the Voice can help break that chain. The city attorney has done a courageous, if sometimes, eclectic, job. But, at the end of the day, only education and direct citizen action can help us beyond this crisis.