A few points I’ve been meaning to make:

  • A friend asked me the other day why I hadn’t written much about the city of San Diego’s budget troubles. I think it’s mostly because I’ve found the whole thing a bit unsettling. It’s very startling to see such major service cuts proposed by the city and its mayor. Obviously, it’s the kind of realism I’ve pushed for, but public officials do everything they can to avoid this. When they’re worried, we should be pretty freaked out.

    And they wouldn’t have proposed what they did unless they really were very worried about the city’s fiscal health. I’ve been trying to process what that means for our near-term future.

    I don’t know yet, but here’s what I was able to gather as far as observations go.

  • I’ve had some rather interesting (and passionate) bits of feedback from this post recently in which I deduced that the Obama wave didn’t seem to be much of a factor in the Sherri Lightner vs. Phil Thalheimer race for the First District City Council seat.

    According to the figures at the time of the post, 7,443 more people voted in the 2008 District 1 City Council election than did in 2004 election — a presidential year in which Thalheimer spent millions to unseat the incumbent, Scott Peters.

    This year, Thalheimer was able to significantly improve his showing from 2004 and Lightner got slightly more votes than Peters did. I concluded that it looked like if there were any waves of new voters, Thelheimer got a huge number of them. Not so fast, many of you have told me. Let’s get the numbers in and do an intensive analysis. So, I concede, if I’m wrong, I’ll admit it. And I may very well be wrong.

    Perhaps when all the data is in, you guys can help me analyze it and really see how much of an Obama tsunami there was. And it’s not good enough to point out that Lightner did better in precincts like the ones around the university. Of course she did.

    The Obama Wave theorists believe that there was a huge group of relatively uninformed people who turned out to vote for the new president. And they believe that labor unions and others did a good job persuading these people to look for down-ticket Democrats like Lightner (even though no party designation appeared next to her name on the ballot).The Wave theorists believe that these people didn’t know Lightner from Adam but were told somehow she was a Democrat and voted accordingly. They believe this happened everywhere.

    But, there is one problem. If this was the case, it should have also helped someone like City Attorney Mike Aguirre. These Wave voters, if they existed, should have had no knowledge at all about Aguirre but would have looked for the Democrat, and gone for him. But Aguirre got absolutely hammered in his race. The Republican, Jan Goldsmith, just pulverized him. If Aguirre got an Obama bump, it’s really difficult to see.

    Alas, again, if I’m wrong, let’s talk it out. Two things first: The believers in the D1 Obama Tsunami are coming dangerously close to making a couple of conclusions I don’t think they want to: 1) That no Republican could have won; and 2) That if there hadn’t been this enthusiasm for Obama — if it wasn’t a “wave” year — they would have won.

    Let’s deal with the pitfalls of both points: 1) If no Republican could have won, doesn’t it just make the Republicans’ miscalculation even worse? They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and man hours on the D1 race. 2) The people who are in politics and who successfully manipulate elections pride themselves on dealing with the world as it is, not as they wish it was. The challenge in District 1 was to deal with the reality as it was and still win. To say they would have won if the situation were different is like someone telling you that the Chargers would have beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh if it hadn’t been cold and snowing and if the Steelers defense hadn’t intercepted Philip Rivers twice.

    It probably wouldn’t make you , if you were a Charger fan, feel any better.

  • Finally, I told Council President Scott Peters that I would talk to as many current City Council members as possible to see if they had found him to be someone who arbitrarily manipulated the council’s docket and forced them to play games to put their issues up for discussion when he might be opposed.

    This is the central argument of Carl DeMaio, the newly elected District 5 council member, and City Councilwoman Donna Frye, from District 6, who both want to gut the role of the council president and give all members of the body more opportunity to push forward their issues and resolutions.

    Peters argued to me that he had always accommodated requests from his colleagues to discuss issues even when he disagreed. Frye came up with two instances in which he hadn’t. But he implored me to talk to the others.

    I talked to Brian Maienschein, DeMaio’s predecessor the other day. Maienschein, said Peters had never blocked him or held back discussions of issues he thought were important to debate. And he didn’t get the sense you had to play “games” with the council president to get your issues heard.

    Since Tony Young, from District 4 does not want to change the role of the president and disagrees with DeMaio and Frye. And Councilman Kevin Faulconer vouched for Peters’ integrity on the issue, that leaves only Toni Atkins, Jim Madaffer and Ben Hueso to consult about whether they think Peters played games with the docket.

    Pretty sure Madaffer and Hueso, who wants to be the next prez, think the status quo is just fine. Next time I talk to Atkins, I’ll give her the same question.

SCOTT LEWIS

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