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A memo to the mayor

I returned from Atlanta, deep in the heart of the new Dixie, where I walked through several redeveloped buildings, both historical and funny looking. The buildings had been built as a high school, several warehouses and factories, and various other uses, besides residential. They were bought by a builder who happens to be great at rethinking these artifacts that gather dust in most cities. But Bob Silverman is a fellow iconoclast, who seeks strategic buildings that have fulfilled their original designation, and were standing ready for ingenuity to reach them.

Bob is the head of Winter Development, originally a "New Yawker" that left the East, married a Canadian and became a Southerner, imbued with the hospitality that earned the South a lasting warmth -- more so than its weather.

He didn't take the easy way out; he thought of housing as a matter of conscience and business. He felt he could make it his profession and has succeeded. He is a fine, happy family guy with a sense of humor along with purpose. I'd love you to take a field trip to visit Atlanta and see what San Diego could also nourish and welcome. There are examples elsewhere and possibilities here.

Dick, San Diego has the climate to have become a great escape destination for stressed-out people. It also has the brainpower to solve a lot of America's housing problems.

We have the New School of Architecture as well as Woodbury, and some great universities and organizations that have true expertise in this field. Nationally, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) has been making inroads into infill housing -- one of the solutions I mentioned. The ULI's recent book, "Successful Infill Housing" is a wonderful place to begin the exploration of living demonstration. The ULI can be of important assistance to you.

What I am suggesting, now that you will be seeking re-election, is that you, the mayor, call for a summit meeting on housing solutions.

The San Diego Council of Design Professionals, representing all of the major professional organizations, will be happy to partner this call.

It should be a gathering of the combined wisdom and creativity necessary to cause an event to be unforgettable. The one rule would be that it has to be positive. It would have one goal, to identify solutions proven in all parts of the country. It would also contain an implied value, that bureaucratic rules would be examined to see which exceptional ideas could become exceptions to the huge number of rules so that experiments might be demonstrated. This doesn't call for new inventions, just new attitudes, a proven miracle worker.

I've visited many cities and met leaders who made "impossible" things happen, who brought the prosperity of visionary ideas into the climate of their city. Men, like the past mayors of Indianapolis and Charleston, made history while accomplishing visionary examples.

A president of a country has to understand the power for good and bad; and that power makes possible. A mayor is closer to the people and has to remind himself that getting re-elected is secondary to being an effective leader of all the people.

When I first met you, I learned about your sense of humor, which is good to keep perspective. But you have not become the leader we desperately needed. You have the intelligence for it, but that is not enough.

You are unique in that you have served both the judiciary and the executive branches of government and that makes you especially gifted to accomplish what others cannot. The judiciary is our only hope for justice and the executive must lead us toward it.

Thanks, your honor, for sharing some of your precious time.

I write on real estate and economics. I have seen the miracles that perseverance can manufacture, taking a high school and making it into habitat for people who are raising new students in their homes.

To be a great society, we must be capable of learning the lessons that exist everywhere; we must manufacture the time necessary to understand how to make it work; we must build staffs of competency whose passion allows it to happen; and we must bring forces together to understand how good most people are, rather than what media shows as our supposed reflection of human nature at its worse.

We are one city in a country powerful enough to defeat any enemy. But we need local leaders in whom we can have faith and trust and who can guide us to greater purposes. We are the sum total of what our leaders inspire us to become and what our fears subtract from that potential.

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