The Starting Line – Mayor Bob ‘Teflon’ Filner’s Awesome Adventures

AnnieLane - BobFilner-Inauguration 084

By Doug Porter

One month into his term, San Diego’s newly elected Mayor was seemingly up sh*t’s creek without a paddle.

The local press was hounding him. He’d failed to cough up a list of administration appointees on demand, technically violating California’s Public Records Act.  A dust up between Filner and City Council President Todd Gloria lead to a UT-San Diego editorial calling the Mayor a bully. And an appearance before a group supporting access for medical marijuana patients had the twitterati convinced that he’d committed a grave political sin.

Here it is a week later and it’s all coming up roses for Mayor Bob. Talk about your political Teflon.

According to Filner, the Sandy Hook shooting led to the cancellation of a December 14th press conference that would have included an introduction of his staff. Then the holidays barred a further announcement. Ultimately it turned out the reason for the delay was hizzoner’s sense of showmanship.

“I could have said at any point who we hired and what,” the mayor said at the presser introducing his staff, “but I wanted to give the full team, as you saw today, so you have a picture of what I’m trying to do as mayor. That was my only intent in delaying it.”

Then there was the kerfluffle between Mayor Filner and Council President Gloria over who was in charge of appointments to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG ). These appointments are a big deal in that SANDAG has a say in how federal and state monies get allocated for regional projects, like transportation. Having a say in handing out funding is a big deal for any politician, and both leaders in this situation were hoping to use these appointments to their political advantage.

In the end (I’d say that) Gloria won the battle, as his choices fared better with the final list, but lost the war in that Filner prevailed (quietly) over who has the final authority when it comes to making these appointments. This public tiff between the two was ultimately a “growing pain” resulting from San Diego’s adoption of a strong mayor form of government.

‘A Rock-star Reception from a Packed House’

where_is_safe_access_.aThe most politically perilous situation involved Mayor Filner’s appearance before the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access last Tuesday. From Dave Maass over at SD CityBeat:

Filner was on fire at the La Jolla Brew House, where he met with medical-marijuana activists for the first time since taking office. He couldn’t have been more incendiary if he’d come equipped with a flamethrower and swished to and fro, lighting pipes and bongs while crying out, “Toke deep, my friends, Ras Bobby is here!”

That’s a stretched simile, sure, but not wholly hyperbolic. Filner fired out promises more rapidly than the medical-marijuana patients could process them.

It had been a long, dramatic afternoon and evening for the new, liberal mayor. Earlier, during the council session, he’d engaged in a public spat with City Council President Todd Gloria over SANDAG appointments. Then he appeared at a meeting of the Hillcrest Town Council, where he discussed Uptowny issues. After that, he booked it north to La Jolla, where he received a rock-star reception from a packed house. Or at least that’s how it looked and sounded from the three streaming cameras.

Filner’s promises to the ASA included getting a City ordinance drawn up setting down terms and conditions for pot collectives to operate, confronting City Attorney Jan Goldsmith on his involvement with shuttering collectives and personally appealing to the Feds to address the issue of medical marijuana.

Goldsmith fired back at the Mayor the following day, writing “Rather than pursue the drama last night and call for a demonstration, you could have achieved your goal in less than 30 seconds” with a phone call.

Filner took him up on his offer, issuing memos last week to the San Diego Police Department and code compliance officers ordering “targeted code enforcement” against marijuana dispensaries end “immediately.”

In years past, one might have expected a storm of protest from more conservative quarters of the local punditry.  But it didn’t happen.  The mayor’s move, coming on the heels of two states essentially legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, dovetailed nicely with an emerging national conversation that was more focused on settling the issue than allowing it to fester.

Stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post this weekend discussed dysfunctional government policies towards marijuana.   News emerged on a growing consensus in another state (Hawaii) that may lead to legalization.

A Federal judge ruled in favor of an Oakland marijuana dispensary last week that was facing closure under pressure from Federal authorities. According to the LA Times, the court’s position “sets the stage for what could be a precedent-setting battle over clashing federal and state marijuana laws.

So all of a sudden what could have been a political minefield for Mayor Filner has turned into a kumbaya experience.  The LA Times trumpeted the news in its Sunday edition. The LA Weekly went even further:

While L.A.’s own liberal City Hall often ends up being a lot more conservative than it advertises — some of our leaders turned on the Occupy movement and Mayor Antonio Villaraiogsa pot shops should be banned — the once right-wing city of San Diego is turning out to be a beacon for progressives.

And to top it all off, UT-San Diego published an editorial telling the Mayor just how he should approach the issue. Their advice includes suggestions that go way beyond what any local official in California could legally do since medicinal pot is governed (or not – the law is very vague) by State rules. You have to wonder just what they are smoking in Mission Valley these days. I find it humorous that they actually believe Filner gives a damn about what the editorial board thinks.

“They’re Just Used to Getting Their Way”

Speaking of the UT-San Diego, I would be remiss not to mention the most excellent coverage last week in the SDCityBeat, where columnist John Lamb passed along a story the Mayor Filner shared with his audience at the Hillcrest Town Council.  It seems as though the UT’s Publisher and CEO tried to meet with Filner to ask him to call off the City’s lawsuit filed against Doug Manchester’s Grand Del Mar resort over code-compliance violations. Money quote:

Here’s why he wanted to meet with me. These are the guys who have opposed me for, what, 30 years? These are the guys who think they run the city. He has, in about three or four real big cases, violated zoning and code stuff. He put a heliport on one of his hotels. They did a few things which code enforcement found out and is trying to report. And up at his Del Mar place, he put in stables and horse stuff without any permits. That’s what they’re used to doing. So somehow code enforcement found out about the stables up there, and they ordered him to stop operations. He didn’t stop. He waited for the election, he calls me up, but when they come and see me, here’s what they want to do. They want me to intervene and stop the code enforcement. They did not close up their operation. They just assumed that they could keep going. 

Now I wouldn’t interfere with code enforcement for a friend, let alone the U-T. But the incredible arrogance that they just have to call up the mayor, and they’re going to stop enforcement of a law which everybody has to abide by, therefore health and safety—I mean they violated all kinds of health and safety codes. Oh, and here’s the reason they gave that I should intervene—the lady who is running the stables is a Hispanic woman who has no other job. So I’m supposed to intervene. Not only do they have billions of dollars that they can give her a job—so find her a place to do something—but why are you using that on me? So we called code enforcement and said go to work faster.

It’s just a little sliver of the way… that they’re used to around here. They call people up and expect favors. It’s little things, it’s big things, it’s major things, it’s minor things. They’re just used to getting their way.

There Goes the Neighborhood (North Park Edition)

northparkIt was bad enough that Forbes magazine added North Park to their list of America’s Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods in September. Now the LA Times has followed up with a travel section article suggesting that North Park is worthy of a weekend for Angelenos.

North Park has all the ingredients for the cool school: It’s culturally diverse and has art galleries, boutiques, trendy bars with handcrafted cocktails and local brews, and foodie-approved eateries. If you’re hip to this scene, check it out.

But all of this wonderfulness didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it almost didn’t happen at all.  Tom Shess’ blog has an excellent article up this morning on the story behind the story, chock full o’ history about my (yes, I live in North Park) hood.

There you have it.  North Park, one of San Diego’s first major suburban nodes is officially hip.  What’s not to like about a neighborhood that was heretofore known for the USA’s largest surviving collection of craftsman bungalows?

North Park is home to a lengthy list of restaurants and bars catering to aficionados of the craft beer revolution.  After all, San DiegoCounty is the national hot spot for boutique breweries.  North Park in 1990 had two non-chain restaurant (Peking Café/Paesano’s).  Now the eatery number is huge: (Linkery, El Take it Easy, Carnitas Snack Shack, Smoking Goat, Il Postino,  Jaynes Gastropub, Wang’s Ritual Tavern, Urban Solace, Urbn Pizza, Heaven Sent, Alexander’s, Sea Rocket, Rancho’s, Casa Luz and others).

Hip is cool, but this blog believes the bigger story is what factors led to North Park becoming cool and trendy.  A generation ago, as urban historians will remind, was eligible for federal aid as a blighted area as recently as the early 1990s.

The Push for Immigration Reform IS Happening

The New York Times this weekend rolled out reportage on what appears to be the Obama administration’s game plan for immigration reform. Rather than address these issues in a piecemeal fashion, as some Republican are urging, the administration has decided to go for the whole enchilada—one comprehensive bill. The story makes it pretty clear that Obama’s going to oppose any legislation or amendments that do not allow immigrants who gain legal status to eventually become US citizens.

Even while Mr. Obama has been focused on fiscal negotiations and gun control, overhauling immigration remains a priority for him this year, White House officials said. Top officials there have been quietly working on a broad proposal. Mr. Obama and lawmakers from both parties believe that the early months of his second term offer the best prospects for passing substantial legislation on the issue.

Mr. Obama is expected to lay out his plan in the coming weeks, perhaps in his State of the Union address early next month, administration officials said. The White House will argue that its solution for illegal immigrants is not an amnesty, as many critics insist, because it would include fines, the payment of back taxes and other hurdles for illegal immigrants who would obtain legal status, the officials said.

The president’s plan would also impose nationwide verification of legal status for all newly hired workers; add visas to relieve backlogs and allow highly skilled immigrants to stay; and create some form of guest-worker program to bring in low-wage immigrants in the future.

Government Health Plans Care Not-So-Bad, Maybe

primary-health-careThe fight against ObamaCare has been at the center of conservative organizing over the past four years, and nobody has been vocal in his opposition that Jim DeMint, who left the Senate recently so he could be a more effective fighter for ‘the cause’.  From ThinkProgress:

Former Senator Jim DeMint, the new president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, has decried Obamacare as “a cancer” that is “is fundamentally inconsistent with liberty.” During the Senate Obamacare fight, DeMint famously declared “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”

But a new report from DeMint’s own organization suggests that, far from being incompatible with freedom, countries with health care systems with as much or significantly more government control over healthcare are the freest countries in the world.

The report in question is Heritage’s Economic Freedom Index, released annually since 1997. The report defines the concept of “economic freedom” in misleading right-wing terms, but even by those standards, it appears that universal health care systems far more expansive than Obamacare aren’t “fundamentally inconsistent with liberty.” In fact, the ten “freest” economies in 2013 by Heritage’s lights range from mandating individuals save a certain amount of money for health care to almost the entire health care system, including hospitals, being owned and operated by the government…

Court Decision Could Expand Corporate “Personhood”

The San Francisco Chronicle reported this weekend on the progress of lawsuits headed for the Supreme Court challenging another aspect of ObamaCare. Now we may get to find out if religious freedom applies to corporations:

So far, 42 suits have been filed in the nation’s courts challenging the law’s requirement that workplace health insurance plans cover birth-control pills, IUDs and other female contraceptives, without co-payments.

In the most important ruling to date, a federal appeals court in Chicago has blocked enforcement of the mandate against an employer – not a church or a church-affiliated hospital or university, but an Illinois construction company whose principal owners, a married couple, are devout Catholics.

The owners, Cyril and Jane Korte, “would have to violate their religious beliefs to operate their company in compliance” with the requirement to provide contraception coverage, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 ruling Dec. 28.

Religious freedom is a First Amendment right that applies to corporations, the court said, citing the Supreme Court’s January 2010 ruling declaring corporations’ constitutional right to make unlimited political contributions from their treasuries. And the owners’ rights may be violated by “coerced coverage of contraception,” the appeals court said, even though insurers provide the coverage and employees make the final decisions.

beijing_pollutionTweet of the Day:

#China has built an incredible theme park which simulates breathing air through the lungs of Keith Richards. It’s called “Beijing”

— Karim Sadjadpour (@ksadjadpour) January 13, 2013

On This Day: 1954 – Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were married. The marriage only lasted nine months.  1966 – David Jones changed his last name to Bowie to avoid confusion with Davy Jones from the Monkees. 1994 – U.S. President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed Kremlin accords to stop aiming missiles at any nation and to dismantle the nuclear arsenal of Ukraine.

On This Day: Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Escondido (Welk Resort 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive) 1pm –Sunset

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!

I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org    Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.


Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He's won awards for 'Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial' from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.
Subscribe to "The Starting Line" and get an email every time a new article is posted!


  1. avatarmicaela shafer porte says

    great commentary as always…
    fresh look at the world of old politics…
    good luck on “being hip” in north park… thanks for taking all those trendy partying folks away from the beach!