Hierarchy of San Diego’s Elected Venerables

by on October 31, 2017 · 1 comment

in San Diego

Credit: Pixabay

By Norma Damashek /San Diego Free Press

You and I – as ordinary voters living in greater San Diego – have a mindnumbing number of opportunities to elect scads of people to serve as our public mouthpieces.

We routinely go to the polls or mail in our ballots to select the “public servants” we believe will represent our personal and community interests and improve our well-being. Keeping up with who’s running for what is a daunting job.

In fact, if we built a totem pole made up of all our elected officials, it would surely reach the clouds, maybe even touch the sky.

Curious about how it might look?

  • On the bottom level you’ll recognize scores of neighbors elected to our city’s 30+ community planning groups.
  • A notch above you’ll find a layer of School Board Trustees (five from the San Diego Unified School District, more from outlying school districts), squeezed in next to five Community College District Trustees.
  • Pressing down on them would be San Diego’s nine City Councilmembers, plus our Mayor, plus multiple other Councilmembers and Mayors from towns and cities throughout our sprawling county.
  • Oh yes, on the next layer there are our five County Supervisors.
  • Perched on their heads might be our County Sheriff alongside our County Assessor-Recorder-Clerk. Oops… almost forgot to leave room for our District Attorney.
  • Up a level and breathing down each other’s necks you’ll find our elected State Insurance Commissioner, our Superintendent of Public Education, our State Attorney General, our State Controller, and four members of our Board of Equalization.

Getting a stiff neck? Patience, please … we’re not done with our voting obligations yet.

  • Squint up to the next level and you’ll see our county’s seven State Assemblymembers enviously coveting the spots on which our four State Senators sit.
  • Then focus your binoculars up a layer to the five representatives we county voters send to the US Congress. While you’re up there, be sure you notice our two US Senators.
  • And hey! waving to us from the penultimate level, isn’t that the Governor?
  • Finally, at the tippy-top of this dense hierarchy of elected venerables you’ll recognize a facsimile of the US President – his head bobbling in the rarified breeze.

Theoretically, given the sheer number of representatives we elect to take care of us, we should be the most contented citizens of all time. Seen from a distance, it’s an impressive display.

But the view up close, at ground level, tells a different story. As I recently observed about city and county government, many elected officials we ceremoniously induct into this prestigious political club fail us.

It’s remarkable how many of San Diego’s elected officials have perfected the knack for gliding, sliding, and shimmying their way up the political totem pole, despite leaving behind scant evidence of positive change from their days in city and/or county office.

Fortunately, hope springs eternal in the hearts of voters (my optimistic heart included).

So here I’ll repeat myself: “… since it won’t be long before we are bombarded online, on TV, in our mailboxes, on our front doorknobs by campaign solicitations and promotional endorsements on behalf of a bevy of candidates badly wishing to claim a seat on ( fill in the blank), shouldn’t we know a lot more about the job these candidates are knocking themselves out for?”

Next time we’ll pluck out the Board of Supervisors from the middle of our behemoth political superstructure and get some answers to questions about County Government, specifically: Who, When, Why, How come, and What’s next?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Marc Snelling October 31, 2017 at 1:01 pm

The false idea that totem poles convey hierarchy is a European one. On actual totem poles the sequence of figures from top to bottom is not indicative of their importance. The bottom of a totem pole is usually the most carefully crafted part as it is the most visible, and the most important figure can be there. They are meant to tell stories, represent families, act as memorials, etc. They have deep significance to the Haida and other Nations for whom it is part of their culture.


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