San Diego Business Journal

There are signs the country is returning to normal , as normal as can be expected considering the uncertainty of what our country will do to bring the terrorists to justice. There is a feeling that when we begin the task of rooting out the criminals we seek, that the terrorists will deliver another round of attacks. To coin an East Coast phrase, "Forget about it!"

Get on with your life.

Terrorists have always lived among us and they probably always will. If we all buckle under and let them put fear in our hearts then they have won. I trust our national leadership and our allies together will serve up justice in major proportions when the time is right.

I am inspired by what has happened to our country since Sept 11. The renewed patriotism and national pride is incredible.

With so many different philosophies, religions and nationalities in the country, it is gratifying to see the true American spirit in nearly every car, on every home and on the T-shirts and lapels of working Americans. With my birthday falling on Flag Day, June 14, I have always worn a flag lapel pin or flag-adorned cufflinks every day.

What I hope happens is that after the terrorist threat in the world has been dramatically curtailed, the patriotic fever continues in each of us. There is nothing more motivational to me than an American flag flying at a ball game, luncheon, dinner, on a boat or car or in front of a building.

If you want to feel the power of our nation, stop and look up at the flag unfurled on a pole and just watch it wave in the wind. It always snaps vigorously and always waves with pride.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a national address Oct. 2, gave an impassioned speech on why his country is so closely aligned with ours and why our two countries always stand side by side in fighting tyranny and aggression.

He said, "We have to defeat terrorism or be defeated by it. Defeat it we must." He is right on target.

President George W. Bush is taking time to rally NATO and the United Nations to our side, and deploy the forces and equipment needed to support our attack on worldwide terrorism. Most of us would have been delighted to see missiles flying Sept. 12, but that would have been a mistake. President Bush is putting together the best plan to bring the villains to justice.

It is gratifying to see the airlines nearly back to normal schedules; security is beefed up and needs to stay that way. Our fear of a weakened economy has been slammed with another kind of fear: that of a continuing feeling of what the bad guys might do next.

I have always said the economy is not as bad as the media tends to portray it and I still believe that. We need to hitch up our pants, take a deep breath and begin living again and not worry what the villains may or may not do next.

Lastly, we need to take a little time each day during this crisis to reflect on our coming together as a nation. By that, I mean take into consideration all Americans regardless of race, religion or nationality have the same love for our freedoms.

Our way of life is the envy of people throughout the world and that freedom is really what the Osama bin Ladens of the world attacked. They will never understand the kindness, camaraderie, sense of community, national pride and the American spirit. All they know is that they don't have it, money cannot buy it and terrorism will never break it. Regardless of what we look like, remember the real difference between them and us is we truly believe in our way of life and will defend it to the death if necessary.

The passengers on the Sept. 11 flight that crashed in Pennsylvania reflect American pride and determination. They knew they would have to die to protect what each of us lives for each day. They are heroes in every sense of the word, but just as important, they were Americans and they were prepared to fight for the right to be an American. The terrorists who died did so trying to wrest from us the freedoms we possess, but they died in vain; they and their comrades will never prevail.

President John F. Kennedy, in his inauguration address, said, "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

Try to live each day with pride and self-confidence, smile when around others, pray for the victims and their families from the Sept. 11 attack, and keep special thoughts for our military men and women as they prepare to enter into harm's way to eradicate terrorism in the world. God bless them and God bless America.

To the balance sheet: Debit:

To San Diego city firefighters Local 145 for thinking now is the right time to put together an increase in our local Transient Occupancy Tax to buy new fire equipment and do repairs to fire stations. Let me be clear about this: My debit is to the union leadership, not the firefighters themselves. I admit we need the best equipment and facilities, but not at the cost of injuring our third-largest local industry. The San Diego City Council has already increased the current budget by $7 million for firefighters and lifeguards. To go after the TOT funding is tantamount to stupidity. To begin with, the tax was created to market the city of San Diego's tourism industry with all the funds collected. Today the fund is well over $100 million, and less than 15 percent goes to the industry it was created for. Add to that the devastation that Sept. 11 had on the tourism industry nationwide and the timing could not be worse. Hotel room occupancy is at a record low, the newly expanded convention center is getting far too many cancellations and the projection for the remainder of the calendar year is not bright. The firefighters union is arrogant and thinks because they have political clout they can generally get their way. Raising the TOT from 10.5 percent to 13.5 percent is poor timing and a violation of the ordinance creating the fund. To raise the tax is to do nothing more than reduce the occupancy of our hotels. There is a limit to what a market will bear on taxes. A 13.5 percent tax on a $100 room is $13.50 cents, on a $200 room it is $27, and so on. The market will only grow by being competitive, and additional taxes don't work. If the firefighters need more money, they should go after funding with budgeting, bonds or other fund-raising means. The TOT is not the general fund or the treasury of the firefighters union. I will add a post-script:

Debit:

To the mayor of San Diego, Dick Murphy, for allowing the City Council's Rules Committee to take up the issue of the TOT increase without even notifying industry leaders, which would have allowed them to attend and testify to the stupidity of the measure. A deliberate obscuring of the issue by the committee chaired by the mayor smacks of smoked-filled backroom politics.

Credit:

To the San Diego Blood Bank Foundation board members who had arrived for their regular meeting Sept. 11, which then was interrupted by the terrorist attacks. Instead of holding the meeting, board President Susie Spanos and board members Janine Mason Barone, Anne Dick and Art Roswell spent the rest of the day helping direct blood donors, serving food and when refreshments ran low, began contacting local restaurants and businesses for donations.

Board member Dr. Carla Stayboldt volunteered to spend the day preparing donors for giving blood and answering phones and medical questions. The lines to donate soon were out the door and around the building as San Diegans rolled up their sleeves and donated extra blood to be sent to the disaster scenes back East.

The call for food and water donations were answered with a resounding, "Yes, we will give" calls by all those businesses contacted. This little story exemplifies the true American spirit of giving and volunteerism. Congratulations on a job well done go out to Susie and her team and all those donors who jumped at the chance to give a life-saving pint of blood that day. Donors are still giving and the need has not diminished.

Keep giving, San Diego, and thanks for thinking of others. Remember, "Someone lives when someone gives."