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KPBS Commentaries

Wherever I travel, I seek ideas to steal from other cities for San Diego. Ideas for public transport TO make Balboa Park and Lindbergh Field more accessible... to transform our harborfront into the alluring golden arc that its architects seek.

But the problem is...the city of San Diego is broke. The news from City Hall tells us that San Diego needs much more of something else that's even more trouble to give...our own time and attention.

We know San Diego government critically needs reform from within. We can't all run the city, but we can watch others run ...and speak out if it goes off track...Doing that might have spared us this current debacle.

If Mayor Sanders were to honor a San Diego citizen every week, which wouldn't be a bad idea, it would be timely to name the woman who was pushed into the limelight as a whistle blower...Dianne Shipione. She's a prime example of citizen reform.

It was almost four years ago when she first phoned me at my Union Tribune desk. I knew her only as a neighbor... Her father had been a Merrill Lynch director who hammered business ethics into her head, starting in her teenage years. He taught her to participate in local government.

So here was an earnest citizen on the phone, brooding over what she was hearing at San Diego city pension fund board meetings.

If her father had been right, the public trust of San Diego was being butchered.

I asked her to my office to talk. Her amazing story from City hall checked out. I began writing about her and the pension scandal.

(**An editor warned me that it was not yet corruption. It was alleged corruption.)

To some local media then, the task of reporting an insider city scandal seemed risky and troublesome. If it was true, it was happening on the watch of a respected city mayor whom the newspaper had endorsed, the former judge Dick Murphy.

As I reported the pension mess, my editors checked my columns ever more closely, and finally the pension fund scandal was on the front page.

Whistle blowers like Dianne are rarely honoredd, and seldom forgiven. But she knows her father was right when he told her to pitch in on local issues.

As the court hands down sentences to those in this pension case who ignored her warnings, it's our turn to be grateful to a whistle blower.

In memory of this scandal, city hall must become more responsible to the people, not just to the insiders.

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