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During my conversation with Mayor Sanders, I asked him about his dismissal of land-use czar Jim Waring. I wondered why it came when it did, etc.
Here’s what he had to say (the emphasis, of course, is mine):
I like Jim Waring. I think Jim Waring has done a lot of things. I gave Jim Waring the benefit of the doubt right to the end. I felt like it was important that I give Jim a reasonable way out. And I also felt that Jim came into public service with the right reasons. It’s not like he needed a job. And I think he did a pretty good job in all the arenas. But what it amounted to is it kind of showed me that and I imagine that Jim would agree, that this is much more difficult than what it looks like from the outside. And what works in a business environment doesn’t necessarily work in a political environment. And I think that’s where we got crossways on the issues.
Again, the mayor highlighted that poison of experience in the business world. At this point, Sanders spokesman Fred Sainz (who was sitting with us) interjected, pointing out that Waring had succeeded as a lawyer, businessman and negotiator by not necessarily folding when someone in authority told him “no” on some issue. Sainz said Waring succeeded by finding ways around “no” and negotiating big deals that some might have thought were dead. And yet the mayor meant “no” when he said the Sunroad building had to come down 20 feet — no exceptions. Waring continued to work on a solution.
I’ll have to ask Waring about that take.
But aside from that, I, and many of you, were quite surprised at how much Sanders has soured on the idea that a person with experience in successful business ventures can succeed as a high-level manager and reformer at City Hall.
After my column went up, Steve Francis, the businessman who seems to be the main potential opponent to the mayor in next year’s election, gave me a call. He was, he said, “shocked” by the mayor’s comments in the piece that businesspeople and ex-military officers basically need not apply to be his next chief deputies.
“In regards to business people running city government, of course that’s a good idea. The problem they’ve had is they’ve hired a few business people like Jim Waring with no adequate supervision,” Francis said.
Francis pointed to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan as businessmen who have or are successfully managing municipalities.
“Sanders doesn’t understand how you manage people in the private sector. It appears he believes you hire them, go spend all your time being a senior statesman and don’t spend any time holding them accountable,” Francis said.
And then the final twist. Francis turned on his own:
“Unfortunately everyone in the business community wants to let him off the hook because they fear that someone from the liberal left might beat him,” Francis said.
But that brings us to you, readers, let’s hash this out: Is Sanders correct that only a seasoned manager of big municipalities or government agencies can effectively handle San Diego’s day-to-day operations and enact reforms?