But the weather’s great!
I am going to go out on a limb here and say that San Diego is the most muralized city ever. When I arrived in April 1993, the first mural I saw was this one:
That mural is on the building at 1111 Sixth Avenue, a six-story building.
As I entered downtown San Diego each day, the top of the mural, reading “America’s Finest City,” was at eye level because I was at the top of a hill heading down into the heart of the City.
The mural was painted in 1989 by artists Kathleen King and Paul Naton. It’s an “America’s Finest City” newspaper with a date of Monday, March 27, 2050. If you take your computer’s calendar to 2050, you’ll find that March 27 is a Sunday. I guess they didn’t have computer calendars in 1989. March 27, 2050, will be the bicentennial of San Diego’s incorporation as a city.
The unfinished man in the mural looks like Burt Lancaster but is actually Matthew Tighe, a San Diego model who was picked for being the classic “American” to commingle with fourteen ethnic groups which were at the lower area in the mural but are now covered by the newer adjacent building. Racial tension and multiculturalism were common topics of the late 1980s and early 1990s, still hot topics 20+ years later.
“America’s Finest City” is a nickname that then-San Diego mayor Pete Wilson gave to the City back in 1972 when the Republican National Convention was supposed to be here. San Diego’s mayor a year earlier, Frank Curran (1912-1992), a Democrat, was against hosting the convention, and San Diego did not even bid for the convention anyway. The prevailing thought at the time was that then-President Richard Nixon wanted the convention here. As far as I can determine from my research, no one knows why San Diego was originally awarded the convention.
In March 1972, with convention preparations well underway, a $400,000 donation to the event by ITT became a major political scandal with national implications. Said to be concerned about the lack of hotel rooms and about the readiness of the San Diego Sports Arena as the convention site, the Republican National Committee (RNC) voted, in May 1972, to move the convention to Miami. The truth, though, emerged years later when federal documents were declassified: President Nixon wanted the convention moved because of his concern about massive protests in San Diego. The physical layout of the Miami Beach location was superior to San Diego for limiting access to the convention area.
By the time the RNC voted to move the convention, millions of dollars had been raised to support the convention, and hotels throughout the area had cleared rooms in mid-August which was, and still is, the most lucrative tourist month here. Planning for security, transportation, events, media accommodations, and modification of the Sports Arena, the convention site, were well under way.
San Diego had elected a new mayor in November 1971, Pete Wilson (b. 1933), a Republican, who was quite unhappy with the RNC’s decision. Wilson thereby proclaimed the week of the convention as “America’s Finest City Week,” giving rise to the city’s unofficial slogan as “America’s Finest City.” A week of multicultural festivities was planned to showcase San Diego at the same time that the nation would be tuned in to the convention in Miami.
When convention week came in August, hundreds of civic, business, military, ethnic, and neighborhood organizations sponsored a great variety of events, including a giant parade, an “America’s Finest City” half-marathon, and an All States Picnic in Balboa Park where San Diegans from different states could mingle with other like-minded citizens who had chosen to leave their home states for San Diego. Some of the events survive to today, 40+ years later.
According to Kathleen King, one of the artists, the message of the mural is that, if San Diego is really going to live up to the title of “finest,” the city has to embrace art as an element of public life. The only way to make a city great is to focus on improving the lives of the people who live there—public art is a big part of that quality of life. A great city must have great art.
But is America’s Finest City living up to a reputation as finest? Hint: The slogan was deleted from the City of San Diego’s web site in August 2005. My answer is, “Not lately.” To wit:
Randy “Duke” Cunningham (Republican), a decorated war veteran, is serving time in prison for taking $2.4 million in bribes to pay for a Rolls Royce, a yacht, and antique furniture.
The FBI investigated City Hall which resulted in Mayor Dick Murphy (Republican) resigning.
A $1.37 billion pension shortfall damaged the city’s credit rating.
Two City Councilmen, Michael Zucchet (Acting Mayor at the time) and Ralph Inzunza, both Democrats, were convicted of taking bribes from a strip club owner.
- Bob Filner (Democrat), elected mayor in November 2012 and taking office in January 2013, resigned in August 2013 because of sexual harassment allegations from, not one, not two, not even three, but a total of nineteen (19!) women.
All since 2005.
But the weather’s great!
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Posted on October 13, 2013, in Halls of History, History, Manmade, Out & About, Photos and tagged america's finest city, arte building, burt lancaster, Dick Murphy, Frank Curran, itt scandal san diego, kathleen king, matthew tighe, Michael Zucchet, mural at 1111 sixth avenue san diego, paul naton, Pete Wilson, ralph inzunza, randy duke cunningham, richard nixon, san diego california. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.