Last week, The San Diego News Room’s David King wrote a scathing commentary about the young woman chosen to be the chief of staff for the San Diego Redistricting Commission. His accusations were based on pure partisanship and zero facts.
His analysis was one of a GOP henchman, and not of someone who has done extensive—or even cursory—research into the background and qualifications of the individual to perform a particular job.
The guys at Two Cathedrals have done an outstanding job of ripping King apart for his partisan hackery in columns here, here, and here. And I applaud them for it—they were far more biting than I could have been.
But there are still a couple of things that need to be further addressed. The first is the notion that if the Republicans do it, then it’s OK, but if the Democrats do it, it’s high treason punishable by death, which the Two Cathedrals guys highlighted. As they point out, Ralph Pesqueira was the chairman of the San Diego Redistricting Commission in 2001. Pesqueira is about as partisan a Republican as it gets, having twice been a delegate to the Republican National Committee, and a proud donor to such figures as Duke Cunningham, the California Republican Party, and just about every local Republican politician of any significance in the San Diego region.
One of King’s principal arguments is that Midori Wong, the 24 year old Chief of Staff for the Redistricting Commission, should be disqualified because her mother is a Democratic State Assemblyperson, she has worked for another Democratic State Assemblyperson, and she has ties to a progressive organization—the New Leaders Council. The Redistricting Commission is supposed to be a non-partisan group, so King argues that she should immediately resign.
King cites the commission bylaws as reason to dismiss her:
Highly ethical and objective, with the ability to navigate in a political environment without being political, and serve in an unbiased and impartial way.
Yet he presents no actual evidence of her inability to perform her duties in a non-partisan and “highly ethical” manner. His assertions against her are solely based on innuendo and conjecture stemming from her past work experience, ignoring the experience that makes her utterly qualified to hold this position, even at such a tender age and only 2 ½ years out of college (more on that later).
Where were Mr. King’s objections when Ralph Pesqueira was the chairman of the redistricting commission? Where were the Republican Party’s objections? It’s supposed to be a non-partisan group, after all, and it’s supposed to go about its job in a strictly empirical manner that adheres to the information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. If it’s OK for a guy who is so heavily involved in Republican politics, and particularly close to so many Republican pols—and highly corrupt pols at that—then why is it so easy to accept that Pesqueira would go about his duties on the Redistricting Commission in a fair and impartial manner? How was it that we were supposed to trust this man to redraw our city council district boundaries in a manner that would not heavily favor Republican candidates? And what qualifications did he have to serve on such a Commission, other than being well known in Republican circles, a restaurant owner, and having strong ties to prominent Republicans such as Pete Wilson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Duncan Hunter?
Apparently if Republicans are in complete control of the process, it’s OK and we can rest assured that it will be completely “fair and balanced.” But if those Democrats who actually care about service to their community, equal representation and making sure that city services get to where they are most needed, it certainly means bad news! Because if you are civic minded you can’t possibly be fair and impartial.
King also insists that Ms. Wong is unqualified due to her age and because of her lack of work experience. But in looking at her bio on the Redistricting Commission website, I would argue quite the opposite (I did not and will not contact Ms. Wong for this…….discussing this tripe would be a complete waste of her valuable time).
Here’s what hasn’t been addressed adequately by anyone, except maybe those who actually hired Ms. Wong: Her actual qualifications for the job. Just judging by her official bio from the City’s Redistricting Commission website, it would appear that she is far more qualified for the job than King or any of her detractors would care to admit. You see, it’s far easier and more effective to conduct a smear campaign based on nothing more than speculation and innuendo than it is to actually prove that there’s something untoward going on, particularly when there’s nothing untoward going on.
But back to Ms. Wong’s qualifications (all coming from her bio on the Redevelopment Commission website):
- She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCSD with a degree in Urban Studies and Planning, and an Environmental Studies minor. From the UCSD website: “The Urban Studies and Planning Program (USP) is an interdisciplinary social science undergraduate major that provides students with a variety of approaches and tools to understand the development, character, and culture of cities and communities.”
- She worked as a land use and environmental planner for the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), putting her degree to practical use.
- She is a member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), an organization of international renown. ULI is a collaboration of land developers, environmentalists, government agencies, university professors, engineers, etc., worldwide that works to promote the “highest and best use” of land, particularly in urban settings. Its chapters are localized to deal specifically with land use issues unique to that specific area—for example, the San Diego/Tijuana chapter that Ms. Wong has been involved with. Click this link to find out more about what the ULI does.
Because she’s studied it extensively, and because she’s been involved with organizations that deal specifically with land use, urban growth, planning, and development; and because she’s been “in the trenches” with these organizations here in San Diego, she understands the challenges that the region will be faced with in the near future, and how growth trends and shifts in population centers will affect our city. She understands the issues involved in determining what city services are more vital to different areas and how to ensure that those services are provided where and when needed in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
Ultimately it’s about knowing where to place the district lines that will provide not only equal representation to the city government, but also representation that fits the culture and needs of those areas encompassed by the nine city council districts. Who better to advise the Commission than someone whose specific training and background provides them with the tools for the task? Perhaps someone with a decade or more of experience working for an organization like SANDAG would be more qualified, but their expertise would certainly be more costly, and there is no guarantee that they would produce better results for the Redistricting Commission than Ms. Wong will. And it is beyond dispute that someone familiar with the cultural climate of San Diego and how that climate changes from one neighborhood to another will be far more effective than would a non-San Diegan.
The bottom line is that while David King may be more qualified to comment on the political matters relating to San Diego, it is crystal clear that King is completely and totally UN-qualified to comment on the actual work the Redistricting Commission is tasked with; in particular the city’s choice for the commission’s chief of staff.
I suspect that Mr. King’s problem stems entirely from his rigid Republican ideology. You see, Republicans hate government, and any effort to make government more effective and efficient flies directly in the face of that rigid ideology. And if Republicans aren’t placed in positions of authority so that they can go about the business of completely neutering government—even at a greater ultimate cost to the taxpayers—then it is automatically deemed an unwarranted and unscrupulous power grab by those dreaded “liberals.”
The difference is that by and large Democrats believe that government can work for the greater good if run properly. This is what scares King and his contemporaries the most; that if government functions well and provides a good value for the taxpayer dollar, then their entire house of cards will collapse in front of them and their straw-man anti-government rants will once and for all be proven to be the fabrications of the collective imaginations of conspiracy theorists that they are.