Saturday, January 17, 2009
On a lovely, balmy San Diego evening in January, I reluctantly went indoors to watch a television program . Soon, I was sorry that I did. The content and tone saddened my spirits which had been uplifted by the sweet breezes and warm temperatures of our unseasonal weather. The star and lone actor was San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders who somberly told us in his State of the City speech that sacrifice was in our future.
This wasn't a surprise, given the economic crisis. But it was a surprise, given his opening comments. During the first few moments, he looked and sounded jovial and grateful for a new city council, a new city attorney, his wife, and his daughters. He talked about trust and pride and successes and reforms. But then the problems invaded and we heard words like challenges, selfishness and our unfortunate past. I was prepared to hear more about sacrifice and girded myself for what my sacrifice might be. But, I wasn't asked to do anything sacrificial, except maybe to cut my showers short (my idea) to conserve water and forego some extras to finance a conversion to solar power. I don't think he was asking me to clean out fire pits or trim my neighbor's tree. Here's where I believe the Mayor missed a great opportunity. Although he alluded to new or increased fees, there was nothing specific that applied to me.
He had spent 30 minutes softening me up for that "ask" and it didn't come. This might have been the perfect moment to begin the campaign for what San Diego's single-family home owners have managed to avoid for almost 100 years: the trash pick-up fee. City councils throughout modern San Diego history have pulled back from reinstating a charge for residential trash collection, although apartments and businesses have to pay. Isn't this the time for equitable treatment, especially when it's time to sacrifice for the common good? Here's where some mayoral courage and leadership could have sewn the seeds to result in a bountiful harvest for his city now suffering from lean times.