Friday, November 6, 2009

Where's the Beef?

Without skipping a beat, the Sacramento Bee editorial board has gone from November 5th's Editorial: Mayoral arrogance hampers progress to November 6th's Editorial: A step forward on homelessness. Mayor Johnson is damned because "his arrogant go-it-alone style hurts the very goals he's trying to achieve" and then, the next day, praised because "…[b]eyond housing, he wants accountability, a way to continuously evaluate and optimize housing and services."

Mayor Johnson is all things such that on the whole, in the Bee's board's appraisal, he has no solid features of governance that last beyond twenty-four hours.

But, actually, the good-hearted mayor IS consistant (and I don't mean consistantly inconsistant). He's consistant thus: He likes hoopla and being a visionary, but muffs the details. "The devil is in the details," it's said, as if tiny little details muck up everything. But, in scrutinizing the mayor's performance, the details are everything. They are everything that is missing. And they being missing means there's not much there, if anything.

Unconscionably, the mayor is getting high praise for his promise to bring 2400 units of housing to conquer homelessness, but brings only his pie-in-the-sky proposal, and no pathway to show how it can happen. It is also, to my mind, NOT the way to go in the first place, and foolish because there is no route for pulling together a constituancy for such a mamouth and expensive scheme to make it achievable. Politics is the art of the POSSIBLE. The impossible doesn't happen.

A quarter century ago, the phrase "Where's the beef?" came into political parlance when Walter Mondale said to an opponent in a primary, "When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that [Wendy's Restaurant television] commercial, 'Where's the beef?'" The meaning was that the opponent had platitudes, but no substance.

THAT may be what's consistent about Johnson. On the the 5th, the Bee damned his non-substance. On the 6th, the Bee praised his platitudes. Unfortunately for the mayor, for the homeless, and for the city it is SUBSTANCE that matters, overriding all the claptrap.

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