If the stadium were being expanded, the city would doubtless need to expand the stadium restaurant, she reasoned. Addressing then-mayor Pete Wilson, Rose disclosed how she had learned that sprouts are "absolutely essential as fiber to prevent cancer and high blood pressure." She then asked Wilson to appoint a task force to meet with her for two hours and discuss how the stadium food might be made healthier.
She recalls that Wilson responded, "'You sold me .... I give you Councilman Cleator and Councilman Mitchell, and I put Mr. Mitrovich in charge.' A laugh goes up. Why are they laughing?" she says she asked herself. When she called George Mitrovich (then a member of the stadium authority board of directors) the next day, she got an answer. "He said the mayor was joking!" She still sounds appalled at the memory. "And I said, 'If it was a joke, I'm going to sue for $15 million for humiliation.' When she double-checked with Cleator and Mitchell, both avoided her, Rose recalls. "Cleator was in terror flight.... He doesn't know what I'm talking about! And that's the beginning of how I got mad. I went to city hall as a pussycat, and Wilson gave me a task force, and I turned into a lion."
Almost immediately, she conceived of a response that appealed to her even more than filing a lawsuit. "I determined that I was going to make them take that 120 minutes [Wilson's promised two hours] three minutes at a time!" (Three minutes is generally the length of time offered members of the public who wish to comment on council business.) A lifelong schoolteacher, Rose says her "inductive training" had taught her how to speak for short periods, then stop, then effortlessly continue her train of thought later. "That's their nemesis — that I know how to do this and be pertinent," she gloats.
She says initially she only planned to speak the forty times that would add up to the two hours, but events soon conspired to drag her deeper into city politics. Shortly after Rose's first council appearance, Wilson moved to Washington to begin his tenure as a U.S. senator and the race was on to elect a replacement for him. As Rose became acquainted with the many candidates in that election, she was disheartened to find that none of them seemed open to major innovations. "I never wanted to run for mayor!" she exclaims. Yet with teh stated goal of influencing candidates Hedgecock and Maureen O'Connor, she appeared on the March, 1983 primary ballot as "Rosalyn — Trainer of Great Mayors."
There is an explanation for why her name has varied over the years, though it irritates Rose when people concentrate on such picayune details, rather than bigger questions. She says her given name was Rose, but when she graduated from his school, she changed that to Rosalyn. She married a man named Switzen and thus was known as Rosalyn Switzen throughout virtually all her adult life, even though her marriage ended in divorce around 1949. But when she ran for mayor, she balked at the thought of her ex-husband's name appearing on the ballot. "I decided the smartest thing to do — and it was the worst mistake I ever made — was to go on the ballot with my first name only." This solidified the growing conviction in some quarters that she was a crackpot. 'Alison DaRosa I reporter for the San Diego TribuneJ actually insisted to me that I had no right to use a first name only!" Although this attitude outraged Rose, she changed her tactics when she later ran for mayor a second and third time (in 1984 and this year). "I had heard that the name Rose means 'love.' And I was being stressed and hated those people. And I mustn't hate people. So to remind me to love people. I decided to use Rose Lynne." That sounded like a more conventional name. and "every time I heard the word Rose. I would remind myself, 'Don't hate them. Don't hate them. Don't hate them. Love them."
Despite the stress of the campaign, by the time the 416 votes for Rose were counted, she had become thoroughly addicted to life at city hall. She says something else happened to make her feel this way. "The thing that happened was so shocking and classic that I was hooked — there was no way I could leave it." She says various city council members had begun to do "completely illegal stuff. They not only said I was not pertinent when I was pertinent, but they cut me off the microphone and they started threatening me with the police." Rose struck back. Not only did her attendance at city meetings grow even more habitual, but she also turned to outside forums, displaying a certain genius for wacky, attention-getting stunts. One time she handed out almost a thousand shiny new pennies to people passing by city hall. The pennies, she said, represented the one cent out of every dollar spent wisely by the council. Between meetings, she set up a sort of headquarters based around the staircase that leads up to the terrace-level conference rooms in the community concourse. She would paper the stairs, nearby columns, and other available surfaces with dozens of photocopied communiques she had prepared. She would eagerly explain her ideas to people who stopped by. "This was my polling place," she explained one day recently. "This was my research center. This was my newspaper. And it was very crude, but it was very big, and it was in color." Eventually city officials forbade her to use the concourse in this fashion more than six times a year. They cited a regulation Rose claims was passed specifically to muzzle her. (City officials say Rose was one of many people whose extraordinary use of the concourse prompted the change in regulation.)
On the twelfth floor above the concourse, in the city council chambers, things weren't going much better for Rose. Although she had run for mayor in order to "influence" Roger Hedgecock, she was bitterly disappointed when Hedgecock, newly installed in office, denied he had ever promised to take her two-hour "ombudscience" course (an intensive session in which she explains the development and alleged scientific basis for her major ideas). Today Hedgecock says not only did he never make such a promise, but by the end of his campaign, "I had determined I never wanted to talk to her ever again." Despite that attitude, Hedgecock says he later turned down an offer from City Attorney John Witt to seek an injunction that would legally bar Rose from city hall proceedings. Instead, "I just let her talk and then cut her off."