She said she'd do it and she did. Mayor Maureen O'Connor listened to the people of San Diego Saturday. And listened, and listened and listened.
From 10 a.m. to shortly before 4 p.m., O'Connor was serenaded with three-minute synopses of what's bugging the average San Diegan and what he or she wants done about it.
A few people who signed up for the first "Meet the Mayor" Saturday wanted no more than to say howdy, take a look at the spacious 11th-floor offices of the chief city executive, and perhaps have their pictures taken with O'Connor and City Manager Sy Murray, a surprise participant in the meetings.
A slightly glassy-eyed mayor maintained her aplomb to the conclusion of the non-stop parade of constituents long after the reporters and television cameras that accompanied the first few citizens had disappeared. What's more, she vowed to continue the face-to-face meetings on a twice-a-month schedule as long as she's mayor and there are citizens out there who want to have a chat with her.
"It was actually enjoyable, a lot more pleasant than I had anticipated," O'Connor said. "I'm surprised at the range of topics--everything from forming a youth basketball league to combat drug abuse to forming a company to provide the city with water at a fraction of the cost."
The No. 1 visitor, Tom Prantil, brought a plastic bag of leaves and debris to drive home his point: that city street maintenance crews were shirking their duties in his neighborhood. Another citizen, Maria Blakely, brought flowers. Of the 57 appointments scheduled during the six-hour session, about 50 showed up, "and most of the no-shows called in with regrets at canceling out," Paul Downey, O'Connor's press secretary, reported.
No unruly behavior was reported, nor did any of the guests overstay their three-minute private audiences with the mayor, O'Connor aides reported. Even City Hall gadfly Rose Lynne, one of the also-rans in the February mayoral primary, delivered her message on "ombudscast" within the time limit.
Unadvertised participants in the daylong mayoral meetings were City Manager Murray and Assistant Manager John Lockwood, who joined the mayor in taking notes and asking questions of the visiting residents.
O'Connor apologized to visitors for the slightly stuffy executive offices, explaining that air-conditioning equipment doesn't operate in City Hall on Saturday, normally a day off for city workers.
O'Connor's 10-member staff was kept busy greeting arriving guests, interviewing them and ushering them from the lobby waiting area to mayor's inner sanctum.
James C. Moore expressed "complete satisfaction" with his mayoral interview in which he adroitly covered three topics--more efficient recycling, protection of downtown bayfront views and use of university student talents by the city.
Dave Dubach, spokesman for a 10-member delegation seeking to retain Balboa Park's Conference Building for square dancing and other "people activities," said his group didn't gain a commitment from the mayor that the building would not be turned into a museum. "But we got to have our say, and she listened to every word," he said.
It's people like Dubach and Moore that O'Connor said she had hoped would be attracted to the Saturday get-togethers, even though the citizen audiences stretch her workweek, and that of her staff, to six days.
Downey said that O'Connor also plans to schedule meetings with community groups, visiting one of the eight council districts monthly to gain more insight into local problems.
O'Connor's next citizens session has been moved up to Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. because the mayor is planning to attend the California League of Cities convention next Saturday, Downey said. Anyone who wants a word with the mayor should call O'Connor's office Monday for an appointment, he said.