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Nathan Fletcher’s service in the Marines isn’t just a section on his resume. It’s the foundation of his political career.

He fills his stump speech with lessons from his service. It’s the ready-made answer for questions of whether the 34-year-old sophomore assemblyman is ready to be mayor of the city of San Diego.

With that backdrop, we have been examining at Fletcher service for months, talking with the Marines with whom he served and studying his military records.

Not only did those interviews and documents reveal a distinguished career, but they also showed how Fletcher’s conciliatory tone and relationship-building earned him respect on the streets of Iraqi villages and the desolate plains of northern Africa as he worked in counterintelligence. Those same traits now have become his biggest political asset.

“In politics, his approach has allowed him to win over San Diego’s police union, the Democratic speaker of the Assembly and the parents of a murdered Poway teenager. In the Marines, it allowed him to turn potential adversaries, from war-weary Iraqi fathers to African tribesmen, into trusted sources,” Liam Dillon writes.

This is the first of many in-depth pieces we’ll be doing on specific aspects of the major mayoral candidate’s lives and careers. They aren’t meant to be general profiles, but rather focused looks at themes central to their candidacies or politics.

Gerry Braun, former longtime local journalist and now aide to Mayor Jerry Sanders, summed up the piece well: “An illuminating profile of Nathan Fletcher, by a reporter who’s nobody’s cheerleader.”

Keep tabs on the entire campaign at our page for the 2012 mayor’s race. We’ve also been polling the candidates regularly on a wide range of topics; check those out here.

Job Recovery Continues

Expect to hear one word a lot in the mayoral campaign: jobs.

Things are already looking positive — relatively — on that front here. Total San Diego employment grew 2.2 percent year-over-year, the fastest growth since before the recession, says Rich Toscano.

We’ve now recouped 37 percent of the jobs lost when the bubble burst.

“That is progress, but this recovery will have to continue for quite some time if we are to return to peak employment,” Toscano writes.

Call the Red Tape Reduction Task Force!

One of the early themes among all three major Republican mayoral candidates has been cutting City Hall’s red tape.

Their colleagues Bill Horn and Ron Roberts over at the county Board of Supervisors have been sounding that bell down the road, creating a special unit to look at ways to make development easier. Its name: The Red Tape Reduction Task Force.

The task force wants to greatly curtail the powers of the 26 community advisory groups that were created decades ago to increase resident participation in land-use and development issues.

The planning groups say it’s a stealth attack designed to limit opposition to future projects.

“They argued that proponents of the plan were using the sluggish economy and well-established inefficiencies in the county planning department as excuses to run-out experienced community planners or replace them with neophytes,” the Union-Tribune reports.

Slab City, USA

There isn’t much red tape out at Slab City in Imperial County. Actually, there isn’t much government at all, and that’s just how residents like it.

“This is the last truly free place in America,” one resident tells the Los Angeles Times’ San Diego reporter, Tony Perry. “I can smoke some weed, drink some beer, be loud and rowdy, skinny-dip in the canal, and there’s nobody to tell me I can’t have fun.”

Perry visits the famous outpost and finds it thriving.

There are no municipal services, no streetlights and no water or sewage services. But nobody charges rent or collects fees or tries to impose homeowner covenants.

Several hundred people — ranging from the free-spirited young, retired “snowbirds” from colder climes and the tight-money crowd of all ages — live in a ramshackle collection of tents, trailers, aging mobile homes and other ad hoc dwellings. But this unlikely community appears to be growing, perhaps because of the troubled economy.

The Globe’s Chief Steps Down

Credit Lou Spisto with leaving the Old Globe Theatre significantly stronger financially than it was when he took over in 2002. Its budget has grown from $12 million to $20 million a year and under Spisto’s watch completed a $75 million capital campaign.  

Artistically, the U-T’s Jim Herbert says in a look back at Spisto’s tenure, the progress is more difficult to measure. “The Globe, like any theater, has had its ups and downs, as Spisto tried to balance support for new and riskier work with shows more likely to fill seats,” he writes.

A Neon Sign of the Times

As the tough economic times stretch into another holiday season, the neighborhood pawn shop is becoming an increasingly acceptable spot for Christmas shopping, says The New York Times.

And pawnshop owners are embracing it. Yigal Adato, owner of San Diego’s CashCo Pawn, says he’s offering half off diamond jewelry and holiday discounts on electronics and tools.

 “We’ve had a couple of customers who say, ‘You know, if it wasn’t for you guys’ prices, my kids wouldn’t be getting anything this year,’” Adato says.

I’m the editor of VOSD. You can reach me at andrew.donohue@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526.

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