October 27, 2006

National City Spotlight:

October’s Baseball and Politics

By Ted Godshalk

I watch baseball in October. The ball is livelier, as is the base running, when there is a sense of sudden elimination like there is at Championship time. It’s World Serious. Spring and Summer are just too busy to sit in front of the tube for an extended break—even if it comes with a seventh inning stretch. Yes, October has always been synonymous with baseball for me.

I fondly remember listening to the 1968 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers on my nine- volt transistor radio complete with the required earphone. That small, plastic, low-tech, original iPod tucked into my pocket brought the thrills of Bob Gibson’s pitching prowess and Low Brock’s daring stolen bases right to my school desk. Yes, October is for baseball.

But October is also the high season for politics, whether it’s the 1960s or today. At home here in National City there is a glut of candidates for office. Some are big spenders, some pretenders, and most of these people are not really demonstrating that they have a plan that many voters will want to follow. Alas, a horribly split vote awaits us.

A record five candidates are running for mayor in our town. In addition, six candidates are vying for the two seats on the City Council. For the sake of discussion, let’s see how this team measures up.

Batting first and playing first base with a long history in National City and Logan Heights we have the “Louiseville” Slugger, Luis Natividad. This current councilman can handle the ball when it’s hit to him, but in the batter’s box Luis often swings for the fences. While he has some power, he sometimes strikes out as he did when he couldn’t get affordable housing off the table and into the community.

Batting second and playing center field is Daryl Gorham. Daryl has run for office so many times that he now wears his batting helmet out into outfield. Gorham famously flip-flopped on both Redevelopment and the sales tax increase. Playing in center field as he does allows the other surrounding fielders to cover for Gorham. At the plate, he is only mediocre and not mayor material.

Batting third and playing third base is Pearl Quinones. This veteran player at the hot corner is playing in National City as a temporary starter and is looking for a favorable trade from her team at the Sweetwater High School District where she is a board member. The scouting report on Pearl states that she doesn’t have the arm to throw to first. Pearl has never seen a tax she didn’t like as demonstrated by her strong endorsement of the recent school bond measures. As mayor, look for Quinones to continue to advocate for more debt at the city and the CDC. Lastly, big money developers back her and some say she still has ties to the Inzunzas, though she denies it. Keeping Quinones at the school district is our best bet.

Batting fourth and playing catcher behind the plate in his dark blue, and very official-looking uniform is the other incumbent city councilman, Frank Parra. In his position, Parra has given the appearance of calling pitches, but in reality he has been receiving the orders from the sidelines. Frank lacks the initiative to solve tough problems as shown in his famous dropped foul balls: the failure to call for Nick Inzunza’s resignation last year, failing to enact strong campaign contribution limits and an Ethics Commission, and failing to support a strong, effective Police Review Commission in National City. Parra needs to sit on the bench this election cycle.

Up at the plate in the fifth position, and running in her first political race, is the second base player, Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. Alejandra has been on the diamond a couple of years and seems sure handed, but can she handle the hot hits up the middle? To show the voters in the grandstands that she can play in the “Bigs,” Sotelo-Solis will have to produce some solid policy positions that are different from her opponents. Rejecting a regressive sales tax and closing down a mistrusted redevelopment agency would be a good first inning play.

Another mayoral candidate bats sixth and stands stoically at shortstop. Mike Dalla is an everyday player unlike most of this year’s crop. As City Clerk, he is at City Hall everyday and at every council meeting. He has all the information he needs and he has been at the plate before as a city councilman. But something gives this bleacher bum the impression that Mike Dalla watches the action on his heels.

Batting seventh in left is Bill Goulet and batting eighth in right is Randy Myrseth, and this is no comment on their political leanings. These two are city council candidates and they are best known for their strong stance against taxes and fiscal mismanagement. While they may be ready for Tuesday nights at City Hall, they are relatively unknown quantities. Goulet, to his credit, gives the more solid answers to the questions I’ve heard asked of him.

The strong anti-incumbent sentiment of the fans may give one or both the chance to show they have the lumber and leather to play daily.

On the bench, two other rookies wait for the voters’ call. Norma Pinal remains as the tenth active candidate, but from her lackluster performance so far, she doesn’t seem to have a strong interest in the game, nor any real knowledge of it. Camilo Marquez, while placed on the official ballot, has withdrawn from the race and is headed for the locker room.

Batting last for the NC Yanquis and standing on the mound is Ron Morrison. All pitch and no hit like most hurlers, Morrison has struggled in numerous game situations lately. Like his battery mate Parra, Morrison watched Inzunza err with numerous political and personal mistakes. In the clutch, instead of throwing the heat he gave Inzunza an intentional free walk. This hurler also failed to shut the door during the eminent domain hearings and put all property owners at rest. Late into the extra innings of that game, and after hearing much public distrust about eminent domain, Morrison said Mayor Inzunza had started it all. Yet after taking so much heat, he still thinks some use of E.D. is OK. Likewise, in numerous decisions on high-rises and increased density, Morrison has thrown lots of soft pitches to the developers. Now developers are paying for his campaign. Voters in National City need someone who can throw chin music when needed.

In summary, Morrison and Parra have to be benched for this town to really work on the structural problems it has. Paying employees reasonable salaries, but expecting a share of the retirement contribution to be paid by the employee is something that is structural and should have been fixed by these men. Cutting the redevelopment zone back is structural and should have been done by these men. Requiring more affordable housing and fewer alcohol permits should have been a priority. Clearly seeing the city’s financial problems coming and doing something other than taxing the poor and elderly is structural and should have been addressed. We made it through the last four years on some kind of promotional effort, some kind of special giveaway game, and not on solid progress.

This team may have a one run lead due to the sales tax passage, but it faces a bases loaded situation with no outs. On first base stands Rising Salary and Pension Costs, and standing at second is Declining Housing Market. At third base, stands the runner, Anti-Incumbent Mood, distrustful of everyone in there now. And up at the plate ready to drive in the whole lot with a tape-measure blast is Eminent Domain with its Ruthian power. In this October Classic, swapping the players around may help, but it is the structure itself that must be rebuilt.

Ted Godshalk can be reached at paradisecreek@mac.com

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