Think about it. Here’s how San Diego played itself out like a bad episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Remember how Gomer Pyle (Mayor Dick Murphy), Barney Fife (County Supervisor Ron Roberts) and Aunt Bea (Councilmember Donna Frye) all offhandedly ran for mayor of San Diego? First, Gomer said, go-o-o-lly, he wasn’t going to run for reelection. Two weeks later he changed his mind and threw his beanie back in the ring. Then, Barney waited until the last minute—after the volunteer fire department and the 4-H Club had already endorsed Gomer—to swagger into the race. Finally, five weeks before the election, Aunt Bea—after consulting a gypsy in a traveling carnival—also flipped her bonnet into the ring.
The town had already printed election ballots with Gomer and Barney on them. But it was decided a write-in space would be allowed. Ink in a circle, write “Aunt Bea” next to it, and you could vote for Aunt Bea. This was lucky for Aunt Bea. Some cities use voting machines—but not here in Mayberry-by-the-Sea. Here, we lean up against a private voting “booth” made of partially corrugated cardboard and fill out a ballot with a Bic. Then it gets dropped in a cardboard box with a hole cut in the top.
So we held a civilized election. But because of the write-in line—not to mention waves down at the beach have been killer!—counting the ballots took longer than expected. As some of the votes came in, it became clear—at least to Howard Sprague (City Club lawyer John Howard)—that Aunt Bea might win. And that would be bad. Why, Aunt Bea would probably let tree-huggers and rural business interests have a voice in city affairs. That would be so inclusive. Ba-a-ad.
Howard—who was a Barney backer— was also a leading proponent of Proposition F. That’s the Mayberry-by-the-Sea ballot issue that gave the mayor more power to hire and fire staff, as well as limited veto power. In an irony more delicious than one of Helen Crump’s homemade pies, Aunt Bea had been strongly opposed to this “strong-mayor” initiative, which passed.
Howard filed a lawsuit. He did some checking. The Mayberry-by-the-Sea city charter says write-in votes aren’t allowed in general elections. The charter also says the Mayberry-by-the-Sea mayor must win by a majority vote—not a plurality. Days after the election, as votes were being counted, Aunt Bea still seemed to be in the lead, but only with a 35 percent mandate. Oh, nooooo. Howard wanted the votecounting stopped. He demanded a runoff vote—just between Gomer and Barney.
But wait! There’s a Mayberry-by-the-Sea municipal code that does allow for write-in votes. It’s been in force for decades. Hey, shouldn’t Goober (city attorney Casey Gwynn) have taken care of those contradicting mandates?
Okay, it’s hard to find Goober these days. Our city attorney is termed out of office. Clara Edwards (Leslie Devaney) and Floyd “The Barber” Lawson (Mike Aguirre) both want to be the new city attorney.
But even with no writeins, determining the winner in their race, too, went slower than a one-legged mule.
Well, turns out special guest star Groucho Marx (city clerk Chuck Abdelnour) was the one who gave the nod to putting a write-in space on the ballot for Aunt Bea. Groucho says he asked Goober’s office for advice and that Goober’s people okayed the legality of the write-in.
Tarnation! Goober says no one in his office wrote an opinion backing Groucho’s decision. Goober admits his office did, at one point, look into the whole situation. Asked why he didn’t make a public statement —or something!—on the matter, Goober had a logical, Mayberry-by-the- Sea answer: Nobody asked for one.
A WEEK AFTER THE NOVEMBER 2 election, Mayberry-by-the-Sea still couldn’t figure out whether the likable Gomer or the straight-talkin’ Aunt Bea got more votes. Confusing times. Barney had already gone before the cameras, declaring his love for Mayberry-by-the-Sea and sniffling that it was time to let go of the dream to be mayor.
When Howard came forward with his lawsuit, Aunt Bea claimed sour grapes. Gomer said, shucks, whatever the voters say is okay with him, y’know? And Barney seemed to have forgotten about his teary concession, wondering if maybe the dream was still alive.
And since every judge in town had gone fly fishin’ with Gomer, we had to look to another county for a judge to hear Howard’s lawsuit. That wise out-of-towner threw out Howard’s lawsuit.
Meanwhile, as national newspapers and TV news programs took an interest in our drama, city business slogged along. In a bit of international irony, Gomer got to meet, for the first time, the mayor of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, our newest sister city.
Worldly Mayberry-by-the-Sea actually has more than a dozen sister cities. These include Alcalá de Henares, Spain; Campinas, Brazil; Cavite City, Philippines; Chonju, South Korea; Edinburgh, Scotland; León and Tijuana, Mexico; Perth, Australia; Taichung City and Yantai, China; Tema, Ghana; Vladivostak, Russia; and the province of Warsaw, Poland.
Anyway, it was pretty historic for Jalalabad mayor Razzaq Arsalai to visit Mayberry- by-the-Sea. Afghanistan had also just gone through an election process that got a fair amount of ink.
After their country was invaded by the United States and essentially restabilized by our armed forces, the election there was a message to the world. It was to signify the fledgling growth of democracy. Widespread violence at the ballot box—threatened by the Taliban—did not occur.
Sure, there were some hitches. U.S.- backed interim President Hamid Karzai apparently won. But many of Karzai’s opponents refused to accept the outcome, claiming “ink marks” used to prevent multiple voting were flawed. And boxes of ballots from the election, some arriving by mule, took a couple of days to reach counting centers.
After all that, it was nice Mayor Arsalai was able to spend a week here in Mayberry- by-the-Sea. It was a great way to get face-to-face feedback on styles of governance and to garner some tips on smoothing out an election operation. Policymakers here in Mayberry-by-the-Sea should have been grateful for any advice Mayor Arsalai was able to share. And maybe four years from now, he’ll lend us some of those ballotbox –carrying mules. They only took days to arrive.
Enjoy a Happy Hour on San Diego Bay
San Diego Museum of Natural History March 9, 2013
Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina March 8, 2013
La Jolla Playhouse March 9, 2013