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EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK—Warden’s Resignation a Disappointment

Like most everyone else, I was caught off-guard when San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Warden abruptly resigned from her 5th District seat. Her announcement Aug. 11 must come as a bit of a shock to constituents as well. Shock, and probably disappointment.

Warden had a firm grasp on the 5th District from the outset of her first term. When she was elected in 1993, the sprawling district was begging for some type , any type , of political leadership. The 5th District encompasses much on the I-15 corridor, stretching from MCAS Miramar to Lake Hodges, and at the time was beset by runaway growth and poor relations with neighboring jurisdictions.

From ex-councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer , it was the 1st District back then , to Linda Bernhardt to Tom Behr, the northeast corner of the city had been poorly represented for several years. Remember Wolfsheimer’s re-election battle cry of “56 by ’96,” actually deluding voters into thinking Highway 56 would be built by 1996? Then an absolutely inept Bernhardt was virtually run out of the district, and Behr was just a body that kept the seat warm until the ’93 election.

Warden immediately restored a sense of dignity and respect to the 5th District. Though she was a non-politico during her days as publisher of the highly successful weekly newspaper the Bernardo News, it was hardly surprising she won an election. She had the solid backing of Rancho Bernardo, a community that historically turns out in force at election time.

For the previous two decades, Warden had left the politics to editor and Bernardo News co-founder Eileen Haag while she handled the business side. Their newspaper was the community’s voice, often rallying residents to board buses and head to City Hall en masse to protest one thing or another.

Though a political greenhorn in 1993, Warden nonetheless knew her community. More importantly, the community knew and trusted her. This might be romanticizing the story a bit, but Warden and Haag basically started the Bernardo News in 1972 in their garages with a couple of typewriters and a mimeograph machine.

As Rancho Bernardo grew, so did their newspaper. The community was fiercely loyal to Haag and Warden, and by the time I started editing the competing Rancho Bernardo Journal in 1986, all we could do was try to keep up.

Mainly because of Warden’s presence, the Bernardo News’ reputation remained even after Haag left to edit a chain of weekly newspapers in southwest Riverside County. When Warden determined her future was in politics and not ink, the Bernardo News was sold to the competing Pomerado Newspaper Group, which merged the News with its own Rancho Bernardo Journal.

You’d think after this much time in office, with so much of her past embedded in the community, Warden would have stuck out the final four months. Warden has quit on her city. Worse, she quit on her district.

It says something about loyalty in this day and age. That’s certainly not the way it was when she ran the Bernardo News.

Leaving office to devote more time to family and health issues is understandable, but Warden stepped down to pursue business interests. Late last week she announced where she was headed , a fledgling Denver-based cable firm that received its operations approval from the City Council in June.

In reading between the lines here, Warden’s obviously tired of what has become politics as usual at 202 C St. Frankly, you can’t blame her. Her resignation also may signal that she’s getting out of the kitchen while there’s still only smoke.

City Hall is embroiled in the expanding scandal over Councilwoman Valerie Stallings’ alleged conflict-of-interest dealings with Padres’ owner John Moores. The FBI investigation adds a seedy new dimension to the already-troubled Padres ballpark project.

The way things are going, a full-fledged fire could erupt by the time voters cast their ballots Nov. 7. Perhaps Warden knows it will get much worse before it gets better and merely wants to avoid the shrapnel.

She’s tired of the whole ballpark circus. Who isn’t?

It’s not a stretch either to say Warden’s resignation symbolizes her disdain for Stallings’ apparent dealings with Moores. Or possibly since there is very little Warden can affect in her short time left, she wanted to start her retirement from public office four months early.

Whatever her reason, Warden is letting down thousands of voters in the 5th District. Her record is not impeccable, but Warden nonetheless has faithfully served her community.

Unfortunately, her abrupt departure is a disappointing end to what was an otherwise successful career as a city councilwoman.

Bell is managing editor of the San Diego Business Journal.

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