Monday July 23, 2007 | Several people, me included, were upset last week that Marti Emerald, the 10News television reporter and apparent candidate for City Council District 7, didn’t respond to reader’s comments and questions when she hosted the Café.

I asked her about it. The whole point of having her on the Café was to have her deal with the many questions people have about whether she’d run for office, how long she’d remain as a journalist while she goes through this process of deciding and what her positions were on certain issues.

After all, like this letter to the editor she sent the other day, she’s actively getting involved in the debates of the district. She’s appearing at events and writing some very political things. In her letter, which she followed with several comments in the reader feedback, she talked about the benefits of community planning organizations:

These mid-city communities have good reason to create community planning groups. This may be the only way they can prevent developers from plowing them under to building the cookie cutter condos that are rising throughout San Diego.

In the comments section under her letter, she promised readers some more observations:

scott lewis has invited me to share thoughts in the “café”….look for my posts there in the weeks ahead.

I wondered what happened. When she did get on the Café she put up one post and decided not to respond to any of the 40 or so comments she received that day.

Here’s a sample from the post:

I have to tell you I’m intrigued and inspired by all of it: the conversations, the columns, the blogs and the kvetching … the civil and not so civil discourse.

But I also recognize this discussion isn’t so much about Marti Emerald and her political aspirations. It really has more to do with our shared concerns about the future of San Diego.

Concerns about integrity at City Hall and how to restore public trust.

Concerns about public services and safety and how our tax dollars are spent.

Concerns about our ability to support our families and have a say in what happens in our neighborhoods.

These are the same concerns I’ve been addressing for the past 22 years as the 10news Troubleshooter: giving consumers and taxpayers a voice, exposing fraud, fighting for open and honest government, and giving the average person a fair shot on a level playing field.

Through it all I recognize I’ve earned a reputation, a big one.

And with it comes big responsibility, a duty to do the right thing.

At this juncture in my life, the right thing is to answer the call to public service.

That sounds like something a candidate would write. So why didn’t she respond to the many reader comments she got? She said she’s experiencing severe back pain for which she’ll have to have surgery in coming days. She also said she didn’t think it was appropriate for her to talk about her positions on political issues or to answer the questions that came up about that.

“If I become a candidate I will,” Emerald said.

And she sent me this statement (emphasis added):

It would be premature and presumptuous for me to answer questions about what my positions are unless and until I decide to run. But I will promise you this.  If I do run, I will spell out my platform so that everyone will understand it. There will be no hidden agendas.  I will always put the public’s interest first. I will not engage in behind-closed-door deals which has historically been the hallmark of this city’s government. It’s the only way I know of doing business.

That also certainly sounds like something a candidate would say. Emerald acknowledged that she was meeting with political consultants — people she might hire to run her campaign. But when I asked if she had made any commitments to anyone to run, she said she “didn’t want to get into that,” with me.

Emerald said she didn’t like the tone of some of the comments to her blog and she didn’t think it would be productive to get into it with them. Combined with the pain in her back, she decided to pass on responding to them.

That’s fair. Not all Café hosts live up to expectations. Some exceed my expectations. But I find it odd that she’ll act very political sometimes and then claims she can’t or won’t talk about politics because she’s not a candidate.

It appears she’s actively encouraging people to think of her as a candidate for office but at the same time trying to maintain the status and independent credibility that comes with being a journalist.

That’s actually a good political strategy. You get to build up all this tension about whether you’re running or not. Then you make a dramatic announcement. And you keep your current job while building support for the campaign.

So let’s burst the bubble. Marti Emerald is quite clearly running for office. If she doesn’t, I’ll run through the city’s Civic Center Plaza wearing a Scooby-Doo costume.

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

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