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This was submitted as an idea to the Politifest 2012 Idea Tournament. VOSD members will vote on the best ideas and on Sept. 19 we’ll announce six contenders Not a member? Join now to vote). At Politifest on Sept. 29, each of the six finalists will have five minutes to pitch their idea to a panel. The panel rates the ideas and two finalists advance. The crowd at Politifest will vote on a winner. The winner will receive an “idea-inspired” trophy custom-designed by former City Councilwoman Donna Frye. VOSD CEO Scott Lewis will also write about the winner’s idea.

If I had a dollar for every time someone complained that San Diego County suffered from a civic leadership vacuum, I’d be a very wealthy man. But I’d have some qualms profiting at San Diego’s expense. So here’s how to vanquish the void: create a Leaders’ Lodge.

It’s not that San Diego hasn’t tried to address this void. LEAD has provided leadership training and networking institution for about 30 years. George Mitrovich’s City Club has long offered a discussion forum on local and national topics. And local foundations, such as the San Diego Foundation, have provided training and financial support to aspiring leaders. They’ve all have served capably but the void persists.

Leaders’ Lodge is a different species of animal. It would a very informal, loosely structured and organic social gathering place open every evening and certain days. Like a “Cheers” for existing or aspiring leaders, it’d offer noshes and libations over which people could debate and craft solutions to the region’s many challenges. It could also offer a “speakers’ corner” hosting organized or impromptu presentations on local issues by leaders or local experts. The only rule: patrons’ discourse must deal with issues dear to the heart of San Diego civic society and not just issues of the heart.

In order to keep overhead low, it’d be located in a low-cost central location such as Sorrento Mesa or University City, perhaps sharing the facilities of a local corporation or empty space in an industrial park. Membership would involve a nominal annual fee to cover overhead. Food and beverage could be sold, donated or simply brought by members on a BYOB basis. It could be a profit-making operation, but it could easily be a nonprofit entity eligible for modest support by local foundations. And perhaps Norm could be found every night sipping his beer at the bar but not talking about Vera.

Michael Shames submitted this idea to the Politifest 2012 Idea Tournament. Join us on Sept. 29!

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