What happened last week and what will happen because of it?
In 2005, Andrew Donohue and I were staff writers here and we tag-teamed on coverage of the race for mayor between Donna Frye and Jerry Sanders. It was a battle of financial plans. A battle that Jerry Sanders, of course, won.
Now, five years later, Frye and Sanders have joined forces after an extraordinary week in local politics. They’ve come up with a financial plan.
And Donohue and I decided to both get typing again to figure out not only what happened, but what will happen now.
Donohue says that the legacies of both Frye and Sanders look much different now.
“Until this week, Frye looked poised to end her elected career as a spirited fighter, but one without a signature victory,” Donohue writes.
“Sanders, on the other hand, faced a rapidly closing window to put anything on the 2010 ballot and the stark reality that he would be a lame duck by the time the next election came around. With his bet on incremental change and a continued booming economy having failed, there also existed the real possibility that he would be now passing the city’s deep financial problems on to his successor in two years,” he writes.
Now? Well, this could change it all.
It will also usher in what I’m calling a historic debate.
Whether you’re happy about the deal the City Council will put before voters — a package of reforms that, if enacted, will trigger a half-cent increase to the city’s sales tax — I think you should be excited about the upcoming conversation it has framed.
We also have a Fact Check for your consideration. Council President Ben Hueso claimed San Diegans were paying lower taxes over the last three years and it hadn’t done anything to boost the local economy as free market boosters would claim. Lower taxes? Really?
And in a related note, the Union-Tribune says the city is lowering environmental standards at the landfill, which is recognized internationally for its efforts to protect air and groundwater quality. Outsourcing the landfill’s operations is one of the reforms the mayor and Frye decided must be put in motion before the sales tax increase will come.
In other news:
• Prison violence and gangs are nothing new, of course — in state penitentiaries. But now federal lock-ups, like the downtown federal jail, are seeing a new breed of inmates.
“Younger, riotous and gang-connected. Federal officials are filling cells by going after the violent criminals traditionally prosecuted by the state: Local street gangs, prison gangs and organized crime syndicates like the Mexican Mafia and Aryan Brotherhood, plus large Mexican drug cartels like the Arellano Felix organization,” writes Kelly Thornton, our contributor on all things federal.
It may be a tale of unintended consequences. Federal prosecutors are going after murderers and other thugs that used be the domain of the district attorney and state law. They’re charging them with laws meant for organized crime and gangs with the intent of keeping them from becoming kingpins within state prisons. But now they’re becoming powerful within the federal system.
• Former City Councilman Brian Maienschein, who is now the local United Way’s commissioner for the Plan To End Chronic Homelessness, was ecstatic Friday about news that he’ll be able to implement a program that will identify 25 chronically homeless individuals and match them with a caseworker and medical help. The idea is that by following them, taxpayers will actually save more money than we would letting them randomly encounter public services.
• USA Today popped up today with an update about the effort to build a cross-border pedestrian bridge connecting San Diego to Tijuana’s Rodriguez International Airport. The idea has been batted around for some time, with different visions, but I had never heard that Sam Zell was involved as an investor. Better not tell county Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who’s been warring with Zell for years about properties he owns in East County.
• Recently we saw Mayor Sanders pull from the ballot his own proposal to build a new City Hall after concluding it would have trouble gaining voter approval and might conflict with his new financial package. Now, the Union-Tribune is reporting that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has asked to have his prized $11 billion water bond measure yanked from the ballot, too, after concluding it would be smacked by voters. It’s not easy, the paper reports and the whole saga could have major consequences for San Diego.
• Finally, The New York Times was in town to check on the National Guard’s deployment to the United States-Mexico border. “It turns out it will take weeks longer to select, screen and train the 1,200 National Guard troops the Obama administration had said would be deployed on Aug. 1 along the border from California to Texas,” writes the Times.
“It’s for show,” scoffed a professor from the University of Texas about the deployment.
If it’s for a show, could they do something more interesting to watch?
— SCOTT LEWIS