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KPBS Commentaries

Two consultants in the next booth were insisting the other day that San Diego has missed its chance to be a great city. I don't know what they were selling, but it wasn't San Diego. In all the years I've been writing about San Diego, this city has never had so many lavish opportunities as now.

I admit that's a bit of a miracle. Unlike most cities this size, we haven't entirely messed up this lovely place. We can still build the dream city we like to think it is.

There are more bright ideas around than ever, far more money to make those ideas work and, best of all, a much deeper vein of smart people willing to help.

For a one-word handle to start the rebuttal, let's use the word, "audacious". It means bold, courageous, daring, even insolent.

We need people with all of those traits. Most cities do.

Playing San Diego's future too safe is not the solution to current poroblems, but playing safe is the contagion that tends to spread after a time of reckless misgovernment, such as San Diego has endured. Playing safe has always seemed to me to be a San Diego trait.

But look at what works. From the start, America has been a collective work of the imagination. The making of America never ends, for good or bad. The same is true of San Diego. The possibilities for this city, this border, and this nation remain wide open.

But the city can begin to unravel under leaders who neglect or choose to break those ties of civic respect.

We need to watch and listen.

There's a word that Pete Wilson, our former mayor, has come to enjoy using. Velleity. It describes the human longing to do great things, but without the will to do anything to get them done.

Soon after John Moores, the Padres owner, came to this city, he said he and his family would never leave. A few years later he renewed that pledge. But he had learned what the catch is with San Diego:

He said, "There's nobody in charge!"

Much must be done to fix San Diego. The structure of city government is worn out. District elections brought us back to precinct politics and scarred the hope of regional unity on grave public issues.

Our communities are locked in a morass of regional jurisdictions, and elected officials who are not team players or consensus builders.

Term limits have been a disaster. Our fracture of faith in city government is not yet overcome.

We begin to see our politicians as buccaneers and we shrug.

It's not the corruption that defeats us, but the sense that so many have grown used to corruption and don't seem to care.

Now, that is velleity.

And you know the only ones who can fix this?

You and I.

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