Friday, April 27, 2012

eeny, meeny, miney, moe

Still can’t decide who to vote for in the upcoming mayoral primary?  One thing’s for sure – this race should not be decided by the eeny-meeny method.  

Why not? because this is not merely a titillating race among mayoral candidates with a range of personal values, lifestyles, and world-views.  It's a particularly pivotal one, given the wide span of political perspectives among our four choices.

So to take some of the guesswork out of making your choice for our next mayor I’m providing the following list of observations.  I hope they will be food for thought.  

1) It’s not just you who are confused about who and what our city needs to get the potholes fixed, resolve our pension debt, restore community clout, and so on.  Hardly anyone has digested the effects and repercussions of the city’s switch several years ago to a ‘strong mayor’ government (more about that in my next commentary). 

And almost everyone remains in the dark about what voters can and should expect from a first-class, full-blown, chief-executive mayor.   It does not help that our current mayor has set the bar very low for his successor. 

 2) The mayor's race is further complicated by the fact that politics in San Diego have gone crazy in this political season.  At the start of the campaign season the lineup included one life-long Democrat (Bob Filner) toward the left end of the spectrum and three mutually-antagonistic long-time Republicans (Bonnie Dumanis, Nathan Fletcher, and Carl DeMaio) clustered at the right.

But the ground recently shifted under our eenie, meeny, miney, and moe candidates, prompting them to reconfigure their seating arrangements.

3) The kink that set off the rumblings.  Nathan Fletcher was spurned by his Republican Party teammates, his fervent declarations of party faithfulness and loyalty notwithstanding.  Barely pausing to lick his wounds, he emerged from the closet as a political indeterminate…independent…decline to state candidate, raising the question: did miney become meeny?   

4) Hold on!  It gets even weirder.  In a town like ours -- historically under the thumb of a good-old-boys-network of not-always-upstanding-but traditionally MODERATE Republican bankers, hoteliers, newspaper and sports team owners, land developers, and downtown boosters -- the San Diego Republican Party went ape and endorsed the most right-leaning, polarizing, ideological, off-putting candidate of all, Carl DeMaio.  People are scratching their heads.  How come they picked moe and not meeney or miney?

5) Could it be because of money? LOTS of money?  Unlike the other candidates, DeMaio has the capability of pulling in untold piles of cash from ultra-wealthy, super-conservative billionaires and political groups from all over the country.  He’s the ticket for the San Diego Republican Party’s once in a lifetime opportunity to enrich their coffers and catapult party chairman Tony Krvaric into the big-shots league!

6) Now here’s the funny part of this story.  San Diego’s aforementioned good-old-boys-network (of bankers, hoteliers, newspaper and sports team owners, land developers, and downtown boosters) got themselves all tangled up right from the start of the mayor’s race.  Which Republican should they choose to be an utterly compliant, suitably compatible stand-in for the current mayor?   Their first choice was Bonnie Dumanis.  She got the endorsement of Mayor Sanders, Councilmember Faulconer, Sheriff Bill Gore, County officials, former city attorney Casey Gwinn, and a long list of other old friends.

Why not DeMaio? because most San Diego king-makers understood that DeMaio was a separate breed of Republican who answered to much different drummers.

7) OK, now for the punch line.  San Diego’s good-old-boys-network of bankers, hoteliers, king-makers, etc. got tripped up by none other than former mayor Pete Wilson -- who may be getting on in years but still has a healthy appetite for state and national politics.  And a sharp eye for malleable talent. 

 Pete Wilson adopted Nathan Fletcher as his protégée, plucking him from an already well-padded and protected position as a staffer to Duke Cunningham (of course no one in that office smelled the blatant corruption …certainly not Fletcher…) and Wilson anointed Fletcher as the next mayor of San Diego. 

8) Whoops! Now you know why you’re confused?  DeMaio’s got the US Mint backing him up, fortified by the iron fist of Doug Manchester.  Dumanis has the usual old-time-cronies shuffling nervously in her corner and stripping off the petals: will she or won’t she? will she pull the plug? should she throw in the towel? in whose direction?  what’s her consolation prize for getting everyone out of this jam? state attorney general?

9) Meantime, the band plays on. Along with his strawberry blond, Fletcher is now waltzing with wily mentors and consultants, who have turned this military team-player into an independent matinee idol. 

He’s lately been seen waltzing with another chorus line of San Diego business executives, who were also blinded by political affiliations in their past lives but are now free at last to be middle-of-the-roaders, beholden only to moderation and the public good. 

 10) There’s a French moral to this story: plus ca change... Translated it means: The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

 Think about it this way: the same old guys who have traditionally run our city suddenly find themselves screwed by their own Republican Party.  They’ll do what they have to do to stay in control.  If it means calling yourself by some other name, that’s okay.   Labels don’t matter.  Control matters.  So will it be meeny, miny, or mo?  Which team player will step aside for the good of the good-old-guys?