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Last week’s story about abandoned shopping carts in Mira Mesa presents a stimulating mixture of what makes San Diego tick. 

Though virtually invisible, the cultural themes embedded here bracket the conservative nature of our civic mindset. They’re worth a closer look if you’d like to better understand the city you call home.

The news hinges on a problem created by people who aren’t following the rules and the efforts of residents to do something about it. We’re told carts litter the roads because residents without cars don’t return them after rolling their groceries home. Yet, beneath this narrative is a story about prejudice. Not racial prejudice per se (though that’s included — Asian and Hispanic immigrants are identified as the culprits; white’s get a pass), but rather, the prejudice of choices; in this case how to solve the problem.

The decision to build for drivers over walkers sealed Mira Mesa’s fate a long time ago. Now, residents who walk are blamed for their anomalous cart usage, when where they live doesn’t accommodate how they live. The fixers are also paradoxically beseeching government to “fine away” the problem government zoning created to begin with.

Yet, while putting cars ahead of people has brought some bad, it has also brought some good: You see, there’s money in the thousands of carts left each year by the road.

So instead of blaming immigrants, minting HEROES (Hometown Efforts to Rescue Our Endangered Society) and regulating behavior — all predictable responses in San Diego — wouldn’t it be more productive to cash-in by returning those carts to their owners?

Kids are enterprising people, especially those looking for donations to their clubs, churches and schools. Some in Mira Mesa must be willing to hustle for the thousands of dollars those carts are worth when considering stores will pay up to $5 a return.

Funny isn’t it? In a city where people lionize the word freedom, no one has yet imagined a solution incorporating one of its most fundamental precepts: free enterprise.


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