As we all eagerly await the mayor’s speech tonight, I continue the countdown to the No. 3 story to watch for this year (which could easily be the best one of them all):

3. The Race for City Council District 7

I rank this as a bigger story in 2008 than the mayor’s race because I think it’s going to be a much more interesting. It is a classic political fight. Republican April Boling is smart and extremely literate on city policy matters. Democrat Marti Emerald is charismatic and, as a television reporter and “consumer advocate” for decades, she’s honed her speaking skills well. She’s going to be the populist to Boling’s pragmatist.

Boling shoes must be wearing out.

Neither candidate can easily be written off or summarized. Boling is a perennial insider, who shouldn’t assume that’s a negative designation. There are few people, even city officials, who can so effectively explain archaic terms like “deferred maintenance” and “negative amortization of unfunded actuarial liabilities.” In 2004, I remember sitting in meetings of the Pension Reform Committee as then-city officials shook their head at Boling and the committee’s insistence that there was a serious problem. The committee was validating for the establishment what whistleblower Diann Shipione had been effectively communicating for months.

Much to the chagrin of the status quo soldiers — several of whom are under indictment now — Boling persisted and helped define herself as, yes, an insider, but one who wasn’t afraid to anger the others.

She will have massive support from the city’s business community. Others in her position might take a step back to try to spend their way to a win. But she is humble and has most likely already worn out a pair of shoes or two walking the district in attempt to talk to every voter, one by one.

On the other side, sits a dream candidate for left-leaning forces in the city trying to take a seat on the Council that Republicans have held for years. Emerald has instant name recognition and labor will give her everything it can to get her into office. This will make for a powerful candidate. But it won’t be easy to classify her: She will be able to cast herself as a maverick.

Marti Emerald staging her shot.

As you might well remember, I was frustrated with her flirtation with the campaign — her unwillingness to abandon her influence as a journalist until the last possible moment was a bit upsetting. I thought she owed her viewers more honesty about when it was that she switched from being a reporter to a candidate.

That said, she is now a heck of a candidate. The City Council has not had, since I’ve been following it, anyone who even comes close to the personality appeal that Emerald has. She’s warm and enthusiastic. What she lacks in authority on policy issues, she’ll make up for with a potentially strong team.

The money will flow into the campaign from both sides. Neither has a decisive advantage. As a political junkie, I’m thrilled about it — it’ll be like a great college football bowl game. It won’t be the biggest game in the land, but it will be potentially the most exciting.

I am hoping only that it doesn’t get nasty. I know that is naive, but these two have so many good things to argue about and debate. Their leadership styles will be so different. Their policy positions will be so distinct. Whoever wins their ultimate debate has the chance to be the kind of model member of the City Council that could lead this city to a better future. They are professionals and they have experiences and abilities that make them ideal candidates for the jobs.

In a dream land, they’d talk about how they would each handle things like the city’s deferred maintenance and the best way to allow SDSU to grow.

Let’s do more than hope that is close to the reality of this great race.

SCOTT LEWIS

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