Friday, July 6, 2012

Cats, birds, and bridges

I don’t know how the City Council hearing on the Balboa Park/Jacobs bypass bridge, scheduled for Monday afternoon, will end up.

I don’t know how many people will show up to support the Jacobs plan and how many will be there to condemn it.

I don’t know what the final vote will be if, indeed, there is a final vote.

But this I do know.  We’re getting exactly what we should expect to get when private business is brought in to solve a public problem.

Irwin Jacobs has been at the receiving end of criticism, potshots, and denunciation since he stepped in to take care of traffic and parking problems at the Laurel Street entrance to Balboa Park.  But it’s misplaced fury.

It reminds me of the first time the cat deposited a dead bird on my kitchen floor.  The kids yelled at poor pussy, berated her, told her she was bad.  

But I picked up little puss (after I got rid of the feathered remains) and explained to my appalled kids that our cat was just being a cat.  That’s what cats do.  They catch birds.  They’re so proud of themselves when they catch a bird.  Our puss was being true to her nature.  She was a cat.

So it is with businessmen.  The successful ones (and who can question the business acumen of Irwin Jacobs?) are good at solving problems.  They solve problems not your way, not my way.  They do it their way.  Nothing wrong with that.

Do you want to know what’s wrong?  The mayor, or some big kahuna in the mayor’s office, took a public problem and put it in the hands of a private businessman.  The mayor, or whichever kahuna it was, had no right to do that. 

The mayor is a publicly-elected official who has the responsibility and obligation to take care of public issues through well-established public processes.  That’s what the city charter, the municipal code, and state law say.  That’s what regularly-scheduled official public meetings are for.  That’s why we call elected officials public officials...public representatives.  

Private businessmen don’t have to ask the public how to solve their problems.  They should not be asked to solve our (the public's) problems.

Mayor Sanders and whichever underling had the temerity to invent a last-minute legacy project to memorialize the mayor's wasted terms in office are the ones who deserve a hearty round of catcalls and hisses.  

They bear sole responsibility for privatizing what should have been kept in the public realm and resolved through a public process. 

The moral of this story?  Public is public and private is private.  Don’t get them mixed up.  Government belongs in public hands.  Business belongs in private hands.  It works best when we stay true to our natures.