San Diego Voting Tuesday

San Diego, my home town in the tumultuous years of 1968-1969, and of close cousins their whole growing up years, always gets more than my passing glance when it’s in the news.  Today it’s about the elections on Tuesday to put a fully elected mayor in, to replace the temporary one, Todd Gloria, who replaced the serial harasser Filner last summer.

The candidates are big-business backed city councilor Kevin Faulconer and David Alvarez, also a city councilor, who counts labor unions among his backers. After  Filner, the first Democrat  mayor in decades, stepped down to deal with the torrent of accusations about his unwanted sexual demonstrativeness, his voters seemed in disarray. Hope had been high that he would be an antidote to the corruption and budgetary malfeasance San Diego had suffered under for years, earning it the nickname of Enron-By-The-Sea.

His behavior and leaving office were a double punch to the gut of his voters who at first seemed in disarray.  They seem to have recovered quickly with Alvarez as the standard bearer.  The vote count on Tuesday is expected to be close.

The NY Times, characterizing the race as one of sharp ideological divides, gives a good backgrounder, though for the life of me I don’t understand how ideology is a good characterization of what is going on.  There are almost twenty years of history to indicate the past effects of the policies Faulkner says he will continue to pursue.  There are thousands of people whose pensions were gutted during past Republican mayors who naturally, would prefer a leader who takes their loss, and the abrogated contracts and promises, seriously.

As usual, the winner will be decided not entirely on the merits of his ideas or actions but by the variable winds of voter enthusiasm, understanding of policy-to-pocketbook linkages and, unfortunately, fealty to myths, beliefs and ethnicity.

Whoever wins, perhaps the conversation will have been begun –using the minimum wage increases proposed by Alvarez as proxy–  over how any society determines what is needed for its citizens to produce enough in their working years to keep them alive and in dignity during the years they cannot work.

If, at the most abstract, one must earn enough in half a life to provide for a full life, how is that to be done?  If no surplus is created during the working, or is raked off by others, how is life to be secured for the years of no-work?   If during the working years, pensions can not be created, if the hope for living after the working years depends on the vagaries of a stock market — which can be sent soaring or falling by conditions in Brazil or Greece– do we have the basics of sound economies, and therefore livelihoods, even in place? It’s an enormous question which is never properly dealt with.

Tuesday’s San Diego election won’t answer the question but perhaps it will be formulated a bit more clearly and spoken more loudly.

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