- Photo by David Rolland
Ten years. It’s an eternity and a split second. CityBeat’s first issue came out on Aug. 21, 2002, and it seems like a lifetime ago, and like yesterday.
Not even a year had passed since terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Gray Davis (remember him?) was still the governor of California. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors was occupied by people named Roberts, Cox, Jacob, Slater and Horn—wait, what? They’re all still there? How can that be? In San Diego, Donna Frye had been an elected leader for only 14 months. No one here had ever hard of Carl DeMaio (sigh). Hardly anyone was thinking about city-employee pensions; it was three months before Diann Shipione warned city officials that the ship was heading straight for an iceberg (and, no, we weren’t paying attention when she did).
One of the reasons CityBeat started was that no local mainstream media were providing progressive perspectives. There’s a liberal alternative weekly in every large city in the country, and in most college towns, as well. But San Diego’s dominant weekly, The Reader, was—and still is—an anomaly in our industry; it doesn’t do liberal opinion. So, we stepped in, and I’d like to think that, as time passed and more and more people came to know us, we’ve increasingly made a difference. At the very least, we’ve voiced opinions that had been missing in the local press. Who knows, maybe we’ve even helped get some people elected.
Here’s my list of CityBeat’s top 10 editorial passions of the past 10 years:
1. George W. Bush and the Iraq War: Nothing in the past 10 years has made us more furious than former President Bush’s unnecessary war in Iraq. Bush and Co. misled a huge chunk of the U.S. populace into thinking that Saddam Hussein was somehow responsible for 9/11 and that he was determined to strike again. The whole thing was a colossal lie. The result was nearly 4,500 U.S. servicemen and women dead and more than 30,000 seriously injured, not counting psychological damage; likely more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed; and more than $800 billion in U.S. taxpayer money spent directly on the war.
2. Homelessness: Here in San Diego, CityBeat’s No. 1 passion has been homelessness. We’ve wholeheartedly supported supportive-housing projects (subsidized housing plus social services). We railed against police giving sleeping-in-public tickets to homeless people before that practice was partially ended through a court settlement. We’ve rallied behind the Neil Good Day Center and the Water Man Check-In Center, which both provide vital services for people living on the streets, as well as public bathrooms. And we continue to advocate for the continuation of an emergency winter shelter.
3. Donna Frye, Mike Aguirre, Jerry Sanders and Carl DeMaio: It’s likely that no local individuals were more stained with CityBeat ink than Frye, Aguirre, Sanders and DeMaio. Hands down, Frye was San Diego’s greatest public official during the past decade. Aguirre was a classic tragic figure, a man with impressive smarts and a focus on the big picture, who was nonetheless done in by his debilitating personality flaws. Sanders is exceedingly likable, but his policy choices (save for his about-face on gay rights) drew rebuke after rebuke in these pages. And DeMaio—well, he’s the opposite of Frye.
4. Money in politics / wealth inequality: We’ve said repeatedly in this space that if you hunt for the roots of just about any societal problem, you’ll find them in the way money infects political campaigns, and the biggest problem of them all is the increasing wealth gap between the super-rich and everyone else. This has been a constant theme in our editorials.
5. LGBT rights: Marriage equality is the civil-rights issue of this era, and CityBeat is proud to have been a vanguard in the battle against those who want to deny same-sex couples the same rights afforded to heterosexual couples. It’s fascinating that those people can’t look into the future and see themselves as equal to the bigots who fought against interracial marriage.
6. Scandal City: Things in San Diego started going haywire in May 2003 when the FBI raided the offices of three City Council members, looking for evidence that they’d traded policy favors for campaign cash. The shit really hit the fan about nine months later, when the world found out that City Hall had a) misled bond investors about the city’s financial condition and b) under-funded the employee-pension system while increasing retirement benefits. These scandals claimed the careers of two council members and former Mayor Dick Murphy, as well as a number of high-level city staffers.
7. Immigration: When the economy tanks, right-wing conservatives look for scapegoats, and they find them in illegal immigrants. As the fear-mongers have built their border fences wider and longer and spewed their xenophobic bile, we’ve called for sane immigration policies that account for the reality of how hard it is and how long it takes to immigrate legally. DREAM act—yes!
8. Marijuana: We often joke in the office that CityBeat’s all about homeless people, sex offenders and weed. It’s funny because it’s true. Few issues have grabbed our attention like marijuana policy. Up the ladder, we’ve pushed for legalization of medical-pot cooperatives in San Diego, legalization of marijuana in general statewide and removal of cannabis from the federal Schedule 1 drug list.
9. Prisons: The way California warehouses people in prisons has become a national disgrace. The “rehabilitation” in the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is a joke—criminals come out worse than when they went in. We’ve long advocated for policies that divert less-serious, nonviolent offenders away from prison and into programs that might not, you know, harm society.
10. Republicans: If you flip through our back issues, one thing becomes clear: We really dislike Republicans. Whether it’s their attempts to kill good local social policy, like needle exchange, for example; or their stubborn refusal to simply put a tax measure on the state ballot for voter consideration; or their pandering to the ultra-wealthy and their willful obstructionism on the national level—the GOP has regularly found itself in our cross hairs.