Come home Sam—We need you
August 17, 2011
OPINION By DAVE CONGALTON
I begin by making a statement that I have offered repeatedly on the radio these last few weeks. I have been part of this community for nearly 25 years and I’ve never seen San Luis Obispo, a town I love deeply, so torn apart. This special election on Measures A and B, regardless of outcome, is destined to only increase bad feelings on both sides of the binding arbitration debate.
Most people assume that both measures will pass easily. Perhaps. But then what? What happens when we wake up on Aug. 31st? What kind of morale will we have among our police officers and firefighters after beating them into the ground over salaries and benefits, repeatedly suggesting they are not worthy? What kind of relationship may we realistically expect between our public safety personnel and City Hall, especially when we continue to lavish high salaries and benefits on managers? How many years will it take these wounds to heal?
A couple things to keep in mind. (1) Mayor Jan Marx has been weak and ineffectual in providing leadership, standing by helpless (and hopeless) as Andrew Carter seized the spotlight and pushed his agenda; (2) I suspect there are police and firefighters who would rather take their chances in Compton than work under Mayor Andrew Carter, a likely scenario for 2012 if A and B pass; (3) Abel Maldonado has already announced his intention to challenge Lois Capps for Congress next year; and (4) Sam Blakeslee, who has never lost a race, is heading for certain defeat, pundits say, if he chooses to run for re-election in 2012, facing a stiff challenge from Democratic Assemblyman Bill Monning in a newly-redesigned state Senate district that leans heavily to the left.
For about a week this summer, Sam told friends and colleagues that he would challenge Maldonado and try to go to Congress. Wisely, he changed his mind and avoided a bruising primary bloodbath against the former lieutenant governor. That doesn’t leave Sam with many options. He could try and take on Monning and hope for some kind of political upset. It is unlikely that Democrat Jerry Brown would offer him an appointment. With his Ph.D., Sam would be ideal to be president of Cuesta College, a school where he launched his political career as a trustee, but that would mean sticking it to Gil Stork and Sam won’t do that.
So what does that leave for Sam Blakeslee?
To me, it’s simple. Come home, Sam. Come home and run for mayor of San Luis Obispo.
Hear me out.
Given the weakness of the current mayor and the collective egos of the four remaining council members, it is not far-fetched to picture an election where Ashbaugh, Carter, Carpenter, and Smith all decide to challenge Marx. Just tonight, on my radio show, Dan Carpenter, who was appointed less than a year ago, announced that he was considering running for mayor. Can you imagine the circus?
No, the next mayor should be an outsider, someone who has not been tainted in the current debate. Someone who might serve one, or possibly two, terms and focus on getting San Luis Obispo beyond the nasty binding arbitration issue.
Sam Blakeslee is the ideal choice. He brings a veteran politico to the job at a time when his knowledge, experience, and political skills are needed the most. Only someone like Sam can reach out to both sides in this bruising debate and try to nudge the city forward. Even if they lose, police and firefighters have no reason to blame Sam. His connections to Sacramento come as an added plus in these tough economic times.
Lois Capps will retire soon enough. Then Sam can make his move, having done his part for San Luis Obispo. And I suspect his wife and children wouldn’t mind having Sam home for dinner more.
So come home, Sam. Run for mayor. San Luis Obispo needs you.
Dave Congalton serves as Contributing Editor for CalCoastNews.