Comic-Con is, at its root, an escapist event for fans and obsessives of pop culture. This year it made room for public policy wonks as well.
While that sounds a bit like an uncomfortable intrusion of the real world in a weekend built on fantasy, it's also a tidy reflection of 2017 given the always-on state of politics. In a lively panel Saturday morning in room 29AB called "Who Cleans Up the Mess?" a collection of politicians and civil servants looked at how civic life would rebuild if the dazzling (but dangerous) superhero battles seen in blockbusters year after year came to life. And given the good-sized crowd it drew, fans were ready to listen.
"I can’t believe anyone showed up to this panel. That’s a good sign of who we are as people," said San Diego Councilman David Alvarez, who was one of six city and state officials weighing in on government's role in the aftermath of not-so-natural disasters.
Moderated by activist/blogger Rena Marrocco, the bulk of the conversation took place after watching clips of some particularly destructive superhero scenes, including Magneto relocating the Golden Gate Bridge in "X Men: The Last Stand," and the Avengers laying waste to a city center in the first installment of that franchise.
Former California State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher referenced his military training in first restoring communications, order and human needs in crisis areas. And California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones looked at the potential for a homeowner's recovery.
"The problem with this one is you have a government actor, right? Captain America. Insurance is not going to cover it," he said as laughter filled the room. "And then you've got a deity, Thor. There's an act of god exclusion. If this becomes the norm, we've got to change the law to stop insurance companies from putting these exclusions in there."
Portions of the panel focused on the real-world policy in place to address disasters closer to home. California State Treasurer (and gubernatorial candidate) John Chiang used the "X-Men" footage as a jumpingoff point to talk about the need for infrastructure repair, and a scene of Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man damaging high-rises while trying to stop a runaway train spurred talk of the need for more affordable housing. But the tone quickly turned more playful.
"Within minutes of this happening, Gov. Jerry Brown would say, 'This is why we need high speed rail,'" joked Fletcher, who sported a Wonder Woman T-shirt. "President Trump would have tweeted, he would’ve blamed Obama. The rest of us here we would’ve tried to figure out what to do."
Other topics included the limited capabilities of FEMA at least in the earliest moments after a disaster, and the levels of cooperation required among government agencies to rebuild. After talk of other recovery efforts after the San Francisco earthquake of 1989, Marrocco posed the question of who or what was the greatest real-world supervillain. The room erupted in laughter.
"Did you say who? Because that's a really easy one," replied Jones. But the conversation quickly turned to climate change with the response of Esther Sanchez, councilwoman from nearby Oceanside. Fletcher, who recently announced a run for supervisor in San Diego County, brought that idea into focus.
"The convention center you're in has pumps in the basement, to pump the water out from rising seawater," he said, and murmur of surprise ran through the crowd. In a blockbuster-worthy twist, the villain was with us all along.
Article as seen on SD Union Tribune