Councilmember’s Ralph Inzunza, Jr., and Michael Zucchet were found guilty of conspiracy, extortion, and wire fraud while serving as Councilmember’s for the City of San Diego by a Jury that found the evidence overwhelming. When all the legal wrangling is done and sentencing is carried out there is a good chance that these two men will spend time in jail.
By now, of course this is old news and in hindsight it would be easy to echo the sentiment that they got what they deserved. Instead, we see this as a tragedy for all concerned. For the families this is a devastating turn of events. In Zucchet’s case it is a worst case scenario what with the birth of his first child just last year. For Ralph Inzunza, it is a devastating humiliation for the closely knit family. The Districts that they represented are now without a voice, and for the city, in general, this is just more piece of bad news heaped on top of all the other bad news that has plagued the city and its citizens. San Diego has lost its claim to being America’s Finest City!
These two men started their public careers with the best intentions of serving the public good by doing the best job possible and with aspirations for long careers as elected officials. While we may have disagreed with them on issues and the way they represented their communities, in particular with Ralph Inzunza, these are not bad people in the criminal sense. They were two men who crossed the line between serving with honor and dignity to men who crossed a line and for this they will spend time in jail. Spending time in jail is something that we do not enjoy seeing happening to these two men.
As Ralph Inzunza defiantly stated after the verdict, and we are paraphrasing here, that he did nothing wrong, that he played a political game as it has been played by all other politicians, in a sense he is right, all we have to do is look to the scandal that is brewing with Congressman Duke Cunningham for yet another example.
While it is true that politics is a game played with real money and that lobbyist are a part of this game, there is a line, as blurred as it may seem at times, but it is there and once crossed there is no going back. Inzunza and Zucchet crossed over that line several times. And, these councilmen did something much worse than breaking the law; they broke an oath, a trust with the people that they represented. To add insult to injury they crossed the line with the tawdry business of strip clubs and Las Vegas types and all that implies.
While we can’t speak intimately of Mr. Zucchet, we have known the Inzunza family for decades now and have watched as this family has climbed politically to the point that patriarch of the family Ralph Inzunza Sr., went as far as to describe the family as the Kennedy’s of the South Bay! Though many of us chuckled over this comparison, this label seems to apply, for all the wrong reasons.
What has been missing from this political family has been the rock, the icon that the sons could turn to for guidance for their ethical and moral guidance, but this has been sorely lacking. It should have come from the Father, but he set the example of “win at all cost” when he turned his back on the Chicano community, with whom, he was at one time an active participant, in the South Bay. Unfortunately, this legacy was passed on to his sons.
For now, and for the near future at least, political campaigns will focus on moral and ethical character of candidates and less on the issues. Issues will take a back seat to these personal characteristics and become paramount as they should be. Issues come and go, but moral and ethical character is forever!