During the gubernatorial campaign last year, the two leading candidates got a lot of grief from Joe Mathews, a journalist and long-time observer of California politics.

Although both Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman told voters they had a plan to close the state’s budget deficit, Mathews was hearing none of it.

“The central argument for both candidacies is personal and, I believe, depends on magic,” he said in one interview. “Jerry Brown possesses special magic because of his long experience in government. And Meg Whitman apparently possesses special magic because she comes from Silicon Valley, which is a magical place.”

If he had been in the audience in January 2010, when Mayor Jerry Sanders delivered his state-the-city speech, Mathews would no doubt have picked up on a similar theme in the mayor’s remarks.

“Before [the next] 18 months is over, I will have come back to you with a plan to resolve the City’s structural deficit. This is what the taxpayers want me to do, and I will do it,” the mayor vowed in his speech.

Although he was already half-way into his second term, Sanders was finally going to find a solution that had eluded him for all that time. In short, he was finally going to discover his own brand of “special magic.”

As that 18-month-period of meditation, self-reflection, and cogitation approaches its end, the mayor has delivered his answer. It consists of dramatic cuts to basic city services like libraries and relies, for the most part, on one-time solutions that do nothing to actually close the city’s structural deficit.

The well of magic, apparently, has run dry.

Vlad Kogan lives in University City.

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