Friday, December 9, 2011

When no news is BAD news

Popular wisdom is wrong on this one: no news is bad news.  And distorted news is worse.  

The Union-Tribune -- mainstay newspaper for generations of San Diegans – has been stashed deep inside the vest pocket of developer-extraordinaire Doug Manchester, known far and wide as the most ruthless, take-no-prisoners, narrow-visioned bull that ever ravaged a proverbial china shop. 

The paper’s new hyperbolic motto: The World’s Greatest Country & America’s Finest City seems to be in keeping with the hyped-up ego of its new owner.  

(Not that Manchester is the only local fellow with delusions of grandeur.  Candidate for mayor Nathan Fletcher has plans to rebrand our modest hometown The World’s Most Innovative City).

No, I’m not saying we should throw in the towel.  If there’s anything I learned growing up in NYC that applies to us here and now, it’s this: if you want to keep yourself and the people you care about safe and sound you better keep your eyes wide open.  You better know what’s going on down the street.  Around the corner.  And the next block over, too.

What I am saying is that public ignorance is dangerous to the public health. Keeping tabs on our city and on the people who run it may be getting harder, but it’s as crucial as ever.   So I’ll do my part as well as I can and I’ll count on you to keep me moving in the right direction.

Starting with law enforcementthere’s a new and threatening game on today's streets and it's a far cry from the old days when kids were spoon-fed the myth about your friendly policeman (click it, you’ll like it).  This ditty’s advice was always a little iffy, depending on the color of your skin.  But given the changing role of our police force, it's gotten a lot iffier…for all of us.

Here’s my advice: try not to be fooled by the kind-faced policeman who parades as our benevolent mayor because you can bet that our city is right in the thick of it.  Tiny Tim must be turning in his grave over the following brief sampling of current events, in and out of San Diego:
·      A little-known but influential private membership based organization has placed itself at the center of advising and coordinating the crackdown on the (Occupy) encampments. The Police Executive Research Forum, an international non-governmental organization with ties to law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been coordinating conference calls with major metropolitan mayors and police chiefs…(San Francisco Bay Guardian)

·      1400 members of the Los Angeles Police raided a park Wednesday morning and removed or arrested all of the Occupy LA protesters…the LAPD use a 'Bat Cat' bomb squad vehicle to remove protestors from trees and hundreds of officers dressed in Hazmet suits removed the tents and other personal belongings from the park…(

·      (At Occupy San Diego) in the middle of the night…with few cameras around, officers in riot gear swept in and arrested 51…(VOSD)

·      San Diego police arrested East County activist Ray Lutz for trespassing on private property at Civic Center Plaza Tuesday afternoon after he set up a voter registration table and refused to remove it…(SDUT)

·      David Bejarano (former San Diego Police Chief; US Marshall; Co-owner of the private security firm Presidential Security Services; 2010 candidate for SD County sheriff; current Chula Vista Police Chief) has ended his relationship with (Veritas) an outside security company that was linked to a plot to smuggle Moammar Gadhafi’s son…(Veritas) specializes in clandestine operations, armed combat and provision of weapons…and lists Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano as its executive vice president for law enforcement training (SDUT)

·      San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne and Executive Assistant Police Chief David Ramirez appeared at a City Council committee hearing…to answer questions about a string of officer misconduct cases in the department… (and then our Police Chief claimed he was out of the loop about troubled people in his department like officer Anthony Arevalos, who was just convicted of eight felonies and four misdemeanors) VOSD

 Last piece of advice: keep an eye on who's running the new game in town.  They're big time players who carry guns. While they’re watching out for us they also take good care of one another.  The problem is, who is watching them?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Make the call, already

Gotta hand it to the guy -- New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg knows how to lay it on the line.  “The difference” he recently told an audience at MIT “between my level of government and other levels of government is that action takes place at the city level." 

Of course he’s right.  That's the beauty of local government.  It takes place in the here and now.  City politicians take a particular action (positive, negative, good, bad) and sooner or later the results show up in your neighborhood, around your corner. 

Back to Bloomberg.  Whatever else you want to say about him, this guy's not shy about how he uses his power.  And he's not coy about who's in charge of what goes on in his city.  As he informed the Cambridge, MA citizens, “I have my own army in the NYPD.”  

Back to OCCUPY.  Last week I wrote that mayors across the country consulted with one another about how to manage and/or quell OCCUPY activities in their cities.   Concurrently, police chiefs and federal agencies were doing the same thing.

Back to San Diego.  This may explain why our own Mayor Sanders managed to keep a straight face when he denied participating in conference calls with other mayors.  

Maybe what he really meant to say was that he let the city's Chief of Police Lansdowne do the talking for him, which would be consistent with his power under our newish 'strong mayor' form of government.  Under San Diego's new rules the SDPD is the mayor's right hand...if not his own army. 

Which brings me to the conference call I WISH had taken place.  

I wish that all mayors who felt so threatened by the OCCUPY activities in their cities (never mind that they've been essentially peaceful and lawful public assemblies, marred only occasionally by minor problems) were holding serious powwows over the ACTUAL common threat to cities across the country.

I wish that these mayors would come together to discuss the unprecedented number of cities possibly facing bankruptcy (yes, even San Diego) and understand that there's a connection between municipal financial failures and the Occupy Wall Street message.  

These mayors should compare notes on how their city's practice of gambling in the stock market destabilized their municipal pension funds and created unsustainable pension debt, leading to crushing financial crises in their cities.  

I only wish San Diego's mayor was kidding about how he didn't participate in OCCUPY conference calls.  As our city's top leader he owes it to us voters to act like a prime-time mayor should.  He belongs on the phone with other mayors.  And I don't mean talking football! 

My final wish for the day: I wish that Mayor Sanders would seize the opportunity in his waning days in office to set an example of good leadership for San Diego's future 'strong mayors' and start the ball rolling with the following small but crucial step to revamp our dysfunctional city finances:  

I wish he would initiate a conference call to mayors across the nation with the agenda of getting city employee pension funds OUT OF THE STOCK MARKET and back into stable and dependable public investments.

Now that would be an honorable and productive use of the phone wires!