Donna Frye for Mayor

Long the sole shiner in San Diego’s troubled city government, City Councilwoman Donna Frye is the best choice for a mayor that must lead the city out of its current malaise. From her earliest elected days, the activist-turned-councilmember, who refused to participate in closed-session meetings and perpetuate the status quo, has shown that she has the strength to institute a new culture at City Hall, one it badly needs.

Frye’s opponent Jerry Sanders is what you might call the old San Diego’s default candidate. His supporters include the downtown business interests that encouraged the corrupt combination of apathy and greed that led to the current mess. These interests have donated titanic sums to defeat Frye, whom they fear for her environmentalism at least as much as for her emphasis on social justice — two crucial reasons she earns the support of this paper.

But in addition to her progressive outlook on classic liberal issues like these, Frye comes with a hard-numbers take on reality that drives the pragmatic approach of her plan for financial recovery. While too much attention in this race has gone to the elusive numerical details of the two candidates’ agendas, Frye’s partnership with expert attorney Pat Shea and her experience with the ugly day-to-day battles of the city as it is now gives her positions far more credibility than those of outsider Sanders. Her plan relies on the council handing her significant powers to reform city practices herself, holding the threat of bankruptcy over the heads of uncooperatives. While it does rely on the fickle City Council, its likely that it would feel pressure to act following the mandate of her election. And Sanders’ plan seems to rely more on his own personal likeability than hard-nosed reform.

San Diego needs a leader who will finally run it the way California’s second-largest metropolis should be. While Frye’s appealing frankness and idealism have gone largely unadvertised recently, they’re still as reassuring and unusual as last year, when she almost won the post. Frye’s years of experience have shaped her into the kind of visionary, pragmatic leader this troubled town desperately needs.