Friday, March 7, 2008 | The average San Diegan is constantly caught between factions that resemble a dysfunctional marriage. Business interests and union interests maneuver within the city landscape over money and power. The public in general, accepts the role as detached children and plods along accordingly.

So, I’d like to indulge in a minor tantrum and attempt to solve a few civic issues with a degree of humor. I don’t mind being referred to as a simpleton. I’m an unapologetic member of the public.

I. Trade the Chargers

That’s right, we should trade the Chargers to Las Vegas. Most of us of are just worn out with the stadium side shows, blaming Mike Aguirre, and no action from the last few mayors. So, let’s make a deal. We offer the Chargers to Oscar Goodman, the mayor of Las Vegas.

In return, we get eight major conventions and a couple of minor conventions to be named later, per year. The convention money acquired would surpass the loss of revenue that the Chargers generate. Besides, any jersey-wearing sports fan knows that the pre-game party starts 48 hours before the kick-off. Games in Vegas would be a 72 hour cocktail party. Isn’t that better than lining up on Friars Road Sunday morning, and waiting for the gates to open?

We get more revenue for the city and send a bunch of San Diegans out of state for multiple days in the fall. We receive multiple convention dates with computer geeks, corporate big-wigs, etc. That is a win-win. And, no more of the civic blame game. Numerous issues solved.

II. Now, What to Do With Qualcomm?

We now make 75 percent of the Qualcomm parking lot the new mandated home for all the RVS, boats, trailers, etc. You know, all the “uglies” that are parked on all the community streets.

We collect monthly rental fees. Prime beach parking spots are freed-up for the anyone willing to feed a parking meter. The remaining 25 percent of the parking lot will be leased to a hotel-lodging group for “Camp Land by the River” (I have been informed that there is a river there). This idea will bring in more transient occupancy tax revenue. There will be additional jobs for city workers and for union members in the hospitality industry. Citizens can visit by using the trolley. Elected officials get to reward their most important constituencies and announce to the public that San Diego has just created a new city park. It’s a slam dunk winner.

Obviously, these are cynical suggestions. However, I’m attempting to drive home an important point. Very little is being accomplished, in San Diego, for the common citizen. The pecking order, over the last ten years, seems to have degenerated in the following sequence: High level city bureaucrat, elected official, hotel developer, city union leader, ex-city management type/former elected official turned lobbyist, Chamber of Commerce/business leader, average city employee, visitor to San Diego, and then citizen and stray pets. It is past time to reshuffle the deck. Bills are coming due and there is a bull’s-eye on the public’s checking accounts.

III. Respect the Public

From a public interest perspective, one of the most informative actions that the city has accomplished is broadcasting city meetings. Unfortunately, most of the city’s real business is off camera.

That isn’t a criticism.

By the time that the public is allowed to address the council, or the mayor, in chambers, the decisions have already been made. I know that some council people will object with that observation. Well, speaking as a modest activist type, they can object to that viewpoint until the pension fund is made whole. Because, they would be wrong. I’m not suggesting that elected officials congregate in some alcove like a coven of witches and plot strategies. Instead, consensus is accomplished through a series of meetings with lobbyists (both union and business) and senior mayoral officials who referee the proceedings and pass information. That is wrong and that is partially why this city is in such a mess. Citizen input is at best marginalized, and at worst, ignored.

IV. Respect the Public-Again

The mayor believes that his majority appointed Audit Committee should select the next city auditor. A major union organization has endorsed Scott Peters for city attorney. After one of the most egregious episodes of California municipal impropriety, the two competing power interests are still dealing out the same face cards.

Wouldn’t a true reformist/outsider mayor, looking out for the public interest, use his/her persuasive position to insist on a completely independent auditor with no strings attached to management? These political actions demonstrate a disregard for recent history and ask the public to accept the status quo.

V. Respect for the Public, by the Public

It’s time for some new people to be given the opportunity to interact and lead the “unaffiliated” citizenship. We are the majority.

We aren’t union members, city employees, or on the Chamber of Commerce committees. The only time that we ascend the pecking order is at election time. Before this city can be fixed, the majority has to elect some people that recognize that we have some serious problems. No more denials. No more press conferences for image making. Pretending, by pretenders got us to where we are now. Vote for someone who is going to listen to you after they are elected; because, they care about you and your neighbors. Select a candidate, who after the election, believes that interacting with the public is something beyond sending you a monthly Email newsletter. And, finally, vote for someone who is willing to lead by example. 

Dale Peterson resides in San Carlos where he is a member of the Navajo Community Planners, Inc. He has a degree in political science from Claremont McKenna College. Recently, he was the president of the Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Club and was a member of the now disbanded golf advisory council for the city of San Diego. He was just elected to the Mission Trails Park Advisory Board. You can e-mail him at What are the five things you think San Diego needs? Write your piece and e-mail it here.

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