Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006 | The other day I got a tip that Mayor Jerry Sanders had attended a private meeting with Chargers President Dean Spanos. I finally got a second source to confirm the meeting and what was said.

But it was simple: Sanders, hands tied by a city still mired in crisis, asked Spanos if there was anything he could do to support the Chargers effort to construct a new stadium.

Spanos said there was one very easy thing that Sanders could do to help the Chargers out, something that wouldn’t cost him or the city a cent but would keep the mayor in the good graces of the team: Sanders could add his name to the list of supporters of Port Commissioner Stephen Cushman.

I’ve followed this pretty closely, of course, in the blog, but in case you’re not completely up to date here’s the situation: Cushman’s term on the commission is coming to an end. This is his eighth year. The city of San Diego gets to appoint three people to the Port Commission. Each serve four-year terms and City Council policy limits them to a maximum of two terms.

In other words, Cushman should be gone in the New Year.

But there’s been a surprising upswell in support for him. Labor union leaders have accessed all the power they have at City Hall. Republican City Councilman Brian Maienschein – not usually a friend of organized labor – authored a memo nominating Cushman to an unprecedented third term. And now we find out that what the Chargers want from the city of San Diego, at least for now, is that it keep Cushman as its representative on the Port Commission.

That’s not all. Today I spoke with Marco Gonzalez. He is a lawyer and adviser to the Surfrider Foundation. He confirmed that a coalition of environmental groups would be making public a letter soon supporting Cushman and recommending he be able to take that third term.

And the mayor?

He apparently ignored Spanos’ request. As I detailed earlier, Sanders had a very strong quote in the Union-Tribune not long ago about the possibility that the City Council would reappoint Cushman despite the fact that he had already served his two terms on the port.

“I just think two terms is the limit and that’s what I want to observe,” he said.

Sanders added, “I think there are a lot of qualified candidates. To say that there might be only one person in the city of San Diego that could help the port, I think, is a little ludicrous.”

He is right, of course. There are a few hundred thousand candidates to choose from to represent the city of San Diego on the Port Commission. If even the tiniest of fraction of them are capable of doing it, that’s still a few hundred possibilities.

But now, the mayor is the only one saying that. Besides me. And that’s no good for his politics. If the Chargers are effectively able to communicate that all they wanted from the city of San Diego and the mayor was his support of Cushman, the mayor might face a little heat from Charger fans if he rebukes that request.

That’s a bold move. I respect that. The mayor should do what he thinks is right for the city of San Diego and if he doesn’t think Cushman is, then you have to hand it to him for taking the stand against Spanos, against the environmentalists, and against the quiet Republican Maienschein who surprised everyone when, the one time he spoke up, it was about this.

And you also have to hand it to Cushman.

The mayor has been ignored in the past. Most memorable, of course, was his very public and adamant request last year that the majority of the pension board leave their posts.

They said no.

Cushman is about to deliver the mayor a similar rebuke.

We all talk about the new strong-mayor form of government. But while the Mayor’s Office may have garnered some bureaucratic power when the new system took effect, the proverbial bully pulpit appears wide open for the taking.

The mayor can’t seem to find his balance on top of it.

Please contact Scott Lewis directly with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or send a letter to the editor.

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