Does Politics = Quality of Life


A politcal campaign is a living beast. It’s a moving target and an entity that takes on a life of its own. Far too many of us don’t pay attention to the daily rhetoric that spews from the beast; perhaps for good enough reason — politicians are practiced in the art of spewing steam rather than producing palpable substance.


We should be keenly aware of the effect political leaders have on our daily lives. “Pension reform” may sound like a vague process, with no day-to-day implication on our commute to work, where we choose to eat lunch or what architect we pick to remodel our home.

In fact, the opposite is true. Whether you’re navigating potholes on city streets or have been waiting months for the city to approve a building permit, the guys and gals in the suits at City Hall hold sway over your existence. 

The city’s pensions, contracts, policies and regulations shape the quality of our lives each and every day. 

Therefore, you have to keep tabs on these caretakers.

Granted, the political parade speeds up, the floats slow down and sometimes the band takes a wrong turn into a dead-end alley.

In mid-August, I attended a debate between San Diego’s mayoral candidates. Rep. Bob Filner and city councilman Carl DeMaio shared the floor at the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter, during a breakfast meeting of the Building Owners and Managers Association.

A one-hour time limit was set for discourse on topics important to the citizenry, and, since they were hosting the event, BOMA. A moderator asked Filner and DeMaio their views on pension reform, union contracts, renewable energy, San Diego Convention Center expansion, homelessness and green building codes.

It so happened that this debate took place the weekend after the infamous Midnight Water Gun Fight at Balboa Park. Recall that more than 1,000 revelers had shown up for some flash mob fun but in the process trashed the iconic, koi-and-turtle-filled Lily Pond in front of the park’s idyllic Botanical Building.

Filner and DeMaio were deeply embroiled in a war of words over who was responsible for the desecration of the park. 

(DeMaio’s domestic partner, Johnathan Hale, owns an online publication that made mention of the event, and Hale, once employed one of the event organizers. Filner says that made Hale culpable; DeMaio disagreed, and decried Filner’s personal shots at a family member.)

There was a possibility the candidates might have avoided this brouhaha at the BOMA debate. (But that’s not why every TV station in town sent a camera, was it?)

Sensibly enough, there were moments when Filner and DeMaio talked about real issues. Both agreed that over-regulation on building codes is hurting local business:

“There should be a time limit on permits; the city shouldn’t have an infinite time to issue them,” says Filner.

“Engineers and architects should be able to do self-certification, as it is in other cities,” says DeMaio.

Sandwiching moments like that, though, were mostly claims from each candidate that the other was a liar, was lying through their lily pads or was a dishonest scourge on the face of San Diego politics. 

Let’s look at the big picture. Those responsible for roughing up the koi in Balboa Park’s Lily Pond are knuckleheads whose squirt fest repairs cost in the tens of thousands. The city’s pension problem? It’s a billion dollar matter. 

Let’s pay attention. Let’s fish out the real issues. Without calling anybody any names, let’s demand that the beasts expend the same amount of energy tackling our city’s big-ticket items. 

-Ron Donoho

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