September 2, 2013 (San Diego) It is always of interest to try to see how many layers an onion has. In the case of San Diego we have had four major political scandals in the last twenty five years. Three drove Mayors from office, the fourth involved former City Attorney Mike Aguirre. So one thing that is always instructive is to look at the past to try to see if there is any continuity or validity to claims made by the latest ousted mayor.
The first thing one must remember is what politics is about. Ultimately politics is about control, and that control means agendas, and that means policies that will affect all of us. But chiefly, these are agendas set by the powerful, and in many ways City Council is not as independent as we wish it was.
The June 2 issue of the Palm Beach Post had very interesting coverage on the Bill Cleator and Maureen O’Connor race for mayor after the ouster of Roger Hedgecock. This was the June 2 issue of 1985. That was a special election called after the ouster of the first mayor in a long sequence of politicians disgraced, and of political scandals that have affected stability at city hall.
O’Connor, a Democrat, who narrowly lost to Hedgecock in 1983 runoff, has argued that developer’s money has long controlled City Hall, a tradition she says she would end.
This statement echoes the warning by Bob Filner to the Chamber. In that warning he did indeed refer to interests that have controlled city hall for close to fifty years. It was the time all the council leaned forwards and paid attention. Most observers thought it was still hubris running down the now ousted Mayor, but those of us who have been pulling on the threads, and City Council, knew exactly what he was talking about. I might add, this is the layer of the onion that none is looking at. Nor is this a layer that most reporters in this town dare look at.
That long distant race and scandal offers a window into the present in ways that most of us probably have not thought about. For example, as incredible as it sounds from today’s perspective, Roger Hedgecock was a very liberal Republican when he ran for city council, after serving on the County Board of Supervisors. He was a lefty, by the standards of the day, and an environmentalist. As we will see in a series of articles, being an environmentalist in San Diego carries a certain risk.
But there are other echoes from that era that are instructive to the present. This Letter to the Editor of the Los Angeles Times dated October 6, 1985 could have been posted in the comments section of multiple local publications today.
Here is the relevant section.
Councilman Martinez is one of the elected officials in San Diego who are royalists who rule on behalf of the developers and bankers, contrary to the interests of the people of San Diego.
This political tragedy is doubly ironic because the majority of the registered voters are politically orphaned, thus becoming apathetic to the political process, thereby creating a political syndrome that permits the minority self-serving royalist wing to remain in power and its leadership to disregard the ethics of good conduct while in office.
The charges that we have an oligarchy running the city, regardless of who is in office has a continuity in the echoes that should scare most of us. Regardless, most of us rarely pay attention to this, but here we are, the same type of speech, separated by a generation.
We must ask, has anything changed? I have it on decent authority that it really has not. We still have a group of people who will do what they need to keep control of city hall by any means possible. Though the names have changed. At one time it was the Hazards and the Luces, and Copley. These days it is the McMillins and Irwin Jacob, as well as Doug Manchester. The game is the same, control of the power structure and to continue to develop the town with as little red tape as possible.
And you may ask, well, what happened to somebody like Roger Hedgecock? He was a relatively young man when he was sent to prison. After five years the New York Times reported that his convictions were mostly reversed and whatever remained, as a plea bargain, became a misdemeanor.
With the dismissal of the misdemeanor, Mr. Hedgecock’s criminal record was erased except in a few cases that the judge specified. Although Mr. Hedgecock’s lawyer, Charles Sevilla, argued against it, Judge Exarhos ruled that Mr. Hedgecock must disclose his misdemeanor record if he runs for public office, which he may do with a misdemeanor conviction. The judge also ruled that Mr. Hedgecock must disclose the conviction if he applies for a state or local license or if he seeks to obtain a contract with the California lottery.
We will see this pattern somewhat repeats itself later, in the scandals that followed. It is as if there are threats of prosecution, in some cases we see it, in the end there is not much to it. But what was the lesson a former liberal republican, yes I typed those words, learned while in prison? He came out, and took to the radio as one of the most conservative pro business, pro downtown, people locally. He decided that he had crossed them enough I suppose.
One word of warning, Nathan Fletcher, he comes from a formerly powerful San Diego Family. There is more, the echoes of 1985 might very well play out with Nathan Fletcher and Carl DeMaio, who will definitely play the role of Cleator, who like DeMaio, is tied to the developers in this town.
Watch this space, as we continue to go down the rabbit hole. There is far more on this than meets the eye by the way.