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Stinkpot

The people we have elected to City Hall are trying to deal with the inevitable backlogs of years of misgovernance. Much of the damage is financial, but some of it, sadly, is human. Old habits are being reviewed, and many seem long out of date.

We need continuing hard-nosed analysis of this citys management..and reassurance that City Hall knows that its working for voters who are watching. This is an issue around which San Diego media have tiptoed too often with half-hearted coverage. The lazy old small-town buddy sytem still floats around out there, and it stunts our growing up.

But now we have tentative agreement among mayor, city attorney, and City Council members..that the city will do whatever is needed to clean up the debris from the pension fund scandal. And, one hopes, any others.

The loaded question at City Hall is blunt: who, if anyone, are we still trying to protect??

Mayor Sanders must become a more forceful leader. Tell us precisely how bad it is, Your Honor, and how you propose that we cure it.

The final actions of federal and local public attorneys still lie ahead. But this reform needs to be led from both inside and outside the civic snakepit.

We would be much farther along if we had heeded the advice, a year ago, of our best former mayor, Pete Wilson, and declared bankruptcy. But that word carries the stigma of misdeeds, and seemed too ugly a word for City Council and mayor to concede.

Yet the presently favored reform process will seem quite a lot like bankruptcy. It creates an auditor general, an audit committee and a monitor. An outsider may serve as the ultimate controller for debt repayment and budget reform.

But we should find a more experienced tutor in re-energizing City Hall. The milk-toast counsel of the Kroll company has cost us millions, and a citizens committee could have done as well. Within this city of famously successful corporate chieftains, why aren't we shaping our own models of reform?

Mayor Sanders should now be bold enough to lead an earnest search around the nation for outside counsel that can remain untainted by the political cronyism of City Hall.

The mayor.the city attorney. and even City Council seem ready finally to accept a wide recovery program that should come from both inside and outside the city. At City Hall, we have mostly reasonable managers and good staffs. But some still react to hot, current issues with old-fashioned mindsets.

Before we fall back into another civic stinkpot, lets teach ourselves that City Hall politics is not a spectator sportthis is our own city. And this is our own money. Let's watch more closely over both.

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