Why Mayor Bob Filner Isn’t Going Anywhere

by on July 19, 2013 · 23 comments

in Columns, Government, Politics, The Starting Line

This leads me to wonder if we’ll get to see Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Carl DeMaio side-by-side in a shopping center somewhere collecting signatures.

startinglinelogoBy Doug Porter

We’re into week two of the outrage centered on allegations of sexual harassment by San Diego’s Mayor and so far the score is Bob Filner 1, Accusers 0, Power Brokers 0.

Despite the calls for resignation, the certainty in the media that these charges bode ill for the city and the rumble of a recall election, Mayor Bob Filner remains firmly ensconced at City Hall.

Those hoping to shame hizzoner with sordid details and finger wagging have failed to comprehend his obstinacy.

It’s as if downtown is surreal rerun of the old TV game show Family Feud, with UT-SD hit man Trent Seibert filling in for Richard Dawson.  “Survey Says”, he proclaims loudly, “Resign!”  The lights and bells go off, the contestants jump up and down… and nothing happens.

Should We Hang Him First and Then Have a Trial?

gallows11The arguments about the Mayor’s continued tenure are passionate.  The mere mention of the name “Filner” in the Twitter-verse sparks accusations, anger and angst.

Consider the prepared statement from Run Women Run, a San Diego political action committee with about 300 members.

“Any indication of intimidation or inappropriate behavior toward women in the workplace impedes the progress of all women and cannot be tolerated.”

Speaking at a downtown press conference, activist Enrique Morones provided the counterpoint:

“We will not endorse a public execution.  Bob Filner, you deserve due process — you have earned it more than most.”

Then there’s Erik Bruvold, president of the National University System Institute for Policy Research, warning of impending doom in a UT-SD article yesterday:

“We could be in this for a half a year or year, and such a long time of uncertainty and turmoil is problematic and could really impact the city’s economy,” he said.

That could include cancellations of conventions and lead to businesses reluctant to locate here because of perceived upheaval at City Hall, Bruvold said.

And Congressman Scott Peters, fighting back against claims by his coming opponent (and failed Mayoral candidate) Carl DeMaio that he was slow to call for Filner’s resignation, via NPR:

“If he’s distracted or not credible because of these recent events, that will get in the way and we’ll see lost opportunities,” says Rep. Scott Peters, who represents San Diego and has called on Filner to resign.

The Faux Power of Revelations

dollarTake a spin through all San Diego’s respectable media over the past week and the conclusion that Filner’s gonna fall seems damned near unanimous. The ‘power of the revelations’ would seem to promise a moral outrage that would sweep him from office.

Only that’s not what’s happening.

I’m reminded of a young and naïve political activist (that would be me, back when typewriters were in vogue) who believed the 1970’s revelations of Watergate and abuses of power by this nation’s law enforcement/national security agencies would herald a new era of transparent and fair minded government.

The thinking was that the public outrage over abuses of power would force the system to reform itself. Looking back over the past 40 years, it’s pretty obvious the Congressional hearings, criminal court cases and newspaper editorials all added up to little more than window dressing.

I think this is a better historical analogy than talking about the consensual sex scandals of Bill Clinton, Elliot Spitzer or even diaper-boy Senator David Vitter.

Back to the present… Press conferences and anonymous allegations will not force Bob Filner from office.  Even formal charges and lawsuits won’t work. The man is as stubborn as a jackass climbing a steep mountain trail. All the lawyers and former friends in the world won’t change that.  Push and he’ll push back harder.

And he’s got the law on his side.

The Recall Scenario

dems logoAs outraged as assorted Democrats claim to be about the Mayor’s alleged behavior, they’ve been unable to achieve a political consensus about actually doing anything to remove him from office.

The County’s Democratic Central Committee and the San Diego Imperial Labor Council aren’t going to be mobilizing their troops for any recall campaign. A three hour meeting in Kearny Mesa last night ended with a tie vote on whether or not the Mayor should resign. There will be no Union Thugs, as the Daily Fishwrap likes to call them, gathering signatures for a recall. And some local wags are saying the tie vote, which came despite Filner’s refusal to attend the meeting, signals that the tide is turning in his favor.

Many local Republican activists seem to prefer that Filner remains in office, the thinking being that death by a thousand cuts (i.e., continuing to scandal monger) will do more damage to the Democratic brand in the long run.

They also may have the problem of not having an electable candidate should the Mayor be ousted. A SurveyUSA/10News poll shows only Jan Goldsmith among Republicans with a strong net favorable rating among voters. Democrats Nathan Fletcher, Christine Kehoe and Donna Frye all sit at the top of approval (like minus dislike) ratings.

Carl Demaio (-3) and Bob Filner (-24) hold the bottom spots in this survey.

This leaves the recall in the hands of activist Michael Pallamary, who led a successful recall drive against City Councilwoman Linda Bernhardt more than two decades ago. That effort was triggered by voter anger at ham handed redistricting efforts (some say orchestrated by Bob Filner) and limited to voters in a single City Council district.

So at present the business of recall is outside the realm of local political parties and in the hands of outraged citizens from both sides of the aisle.

This leads me to wonder if we’ll get to see Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Carl DeMaio side-by-side in a shopping center somewhere collecting signatures.

The Recall Quagmire

Sign-Petition-300x226The mechanics of a recall are difficult at best and will require substantial financial resources, monies that have yet to materialize.

This Voice of San Diego article does an excellent job of describing the difficulties in pulling off a recall. Collecting nearly 102,000 verifiable signatures of registered voters in the City of San Diego in 39 days is just the start.

Then there’s the whole question of whether or not San Diego’s legal framework for a recall election could stand a constitutional challenge.VOSD’s Zachary Warma explored this issue back in May, when the idea of a recall was a mere glimmer in Doug Manchester’s eye, and strongly suggested the answer was no.

The Legal Case and “Due Process”

Supporters of the Mayor want him to be able to face his accusers. And he certainly has that right should any civil or criminal charges be filed. That’s a legal issue and nobody has suggested Bob Filner wouldn’t get a day in court if that’s what he wants.

Even if criminal charges are filed, there exists no mechanism in the San Diego Charter to remove the Mayor from office. A misdemeanor conviction (which Filner already has, stemming from his 2007 airport altercation) does not rise to the standard needed to disqualify him, from serving. So prosecutors would have to hope for a felony conviction in a sexual battery case (based upon what we’ve heard so far).

What we have going on in San Diego is a course of action that is NOT legal (yet). It’s political. And there is no Constitutional requirement for due process in a ‘trial by press conference situation’.

think Filner’s done serious wrong. But I’m not equating that thought with believing his resignation will equal justice for the women who have been violated. Right now what we have is just another chapter in the long history of mob rule in San Diego.

I know that saying he shouldn’t resign will get me called misogynist and worse. The fact of life is the Mayor’s staying put. Calling me names won’t change that.

The National “Embarassment”

sdgln photoBob Filner’s troubles may have made national headlines over the past week, but equally troubling is the difficulty the news media has in getting the simple facts straight.  Alex Corey and Lisa Halverstadt have already covered some of the bases, so I’ll focus on Rachel Maddow’s mischaracterizations on her MSNBC show.

I guess I can forgive her lack of nuance about San Diego’s political history, i.e., the city didn’t turn Democratic overnight. But the choice of the UT-San Diego’s pitbull as a reporter to tell the Filner story was Just. Not. Right.

I’ll let commenter (DotLee) say it for me. I sent Maddow the links about this clown and I know others complained. So far, no response.

I am angry, as well as “dazed and confused”, by Rachel’s lack of research and homework on Trent Seibert and his past connections. Or maybe you didn’t do the research, Steve Benen and Bill Wolff. Why would you and Rachel provide a voice for an individual introduced as an “investigative reporter” without understanding that he was funded by the Koch brothers during his Texas Watchdog days. He is now the “watchdog” attack guy for Doug Manchester, developer owner of the local right-wing UT newspaper in San Diego.

Doug Manchester (aka Papa Doc) was a huge money backer for Prop. 8 and his recent hire Trent Seibert is a teabagger, plain and simple. Seibert also loves Dumb and Dumber SNL skits produced for his local UT TV station - http://www.utsandiego.com/video/play/58171/ Why on earth would you want this character on your show, Rachel?

Google Seibert (or Siebert misspelled) to find out what he was up to in Colorado, Tennessee, and Texas before he turned up in San Diego a few months ago. Google Manchester and Lynch if you don’t mind feeling dirty.

The ‘Sky is Falling’ Scenario

Confronted with seemingly implausible public disinterest, the argument is being made about how the instability and chaos at city hall will damage San Diego.

That’s the narrative being pitched by Alan Greenblatt at NPR. He quotes Mark Cafferty, president of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Authority:

“It will not keep us from being able to do our work, but it’s a huge distraction and one that gives San Diego the image again of being a place mired in problems, after a series of years where we dug ourselves out of that.”

I love how San Diego’s economy somehow gets detached from the nation and the rest of the world when the downtown types are pitching their schemes.  Outside of politically active circles, people aren’t chomping at the bit to dethrone Filner, even when they think he’s wrong. In some neighborhoods they are, gasp, defending him.

So that’s why it’s time to drag out the fear card.  Get rid of Filner or your family will suffer is the motif. You’ll lose your job… your children will have no future (at those minimum wage jobs we love to create).

Remember the doom and gloom forecast for this summer back in the days of the Tourism Market District crisis?

As it turns out the big corporations that own hotels in San Diego have lost interest in funding tourism advertising now that they’re on the hook for any losses to the tax payers incurred various the lawsuits challenging the legality of their “No, it’s not a tax” collection scheme. From the UT-San Diego:

Currently, just 23 waiver pacts have been turned in out of more than 220 requested. Those that have been signed account for only 12 percent of the expected $28.5 million in revenues that were forecast for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Noticeably absent from the coverage is any mention whether UT-San Diego publisher Doug Manchester has signed off for his flagship resort, the five star Grand Del Mar for any taxpayer protection waivers. I’ll bet he didn’t, since he hasn’t bothered to comply with rules concerning six years of construction permits.

Just think about how many jobs in San Diego could be created if he would only sign a piece of paper guaranteeing no loss to the taxpayer.

Manchester’s actions and attitude should be cast as Exhibit A in any investigation as to whether these downtown types really give a rats’ ass about ordinary people in San Diego. Phht.

You want to improve San Diego’s economy? Tell Darrell Issa and his teabagging friends to end the logjam in congress.

Meanwhile, Filner’s stacked his team with people that know how to make things work in government.

Why Would Somebody Actually Support Filner?

Courtesy CPI

Courtesy CPI

Virtually nobody is publicly defending the behaviors Mayor Filner is accused of. To my knowledge there is no “We like to grope and we’re proud” lobby. Although it is kind of weird seeing just how ardent GOP top dog Tony Krvarik has been on Twitter in defending women.  One could only wish that passion would extend to the Republican positions on a variety of other issues concerning that gender.

Still, it made me feel kind of unclean, appearing to dismiss Bob Filner’s aberrant conduct.  How could I NOT want him gone?

Then I had an epiphany yesterday at the “Due Process for Filner” press conference.

As I looked over the crowd I was struck by the number of people I recognized who’d been involved in grass roots community organizing and civil rights struggles in some of San Diego’s poorest neighborhoods.  Some of them I remembered from four decades back.  They hailed from Black, Brown, Filipino constituencies.

These were people who’ve spent their whole life fighting for racial and economic justice. These were the people who have traditionally been given crumbs from the table of plenty dished up to the downtown development (often) funded via the public treasury.

Bob Filner may be all those things that his accusers say he his. But these folks don’t see anybody else on the horizon that will give them a fighting chance at a fair shake for their communities.

They don’t have to be told about the kingmaker meetings at Congressman Juan Varga’s house. Or the behind-the-scenes big money effort to draft Nathan Fletcher. They know it’s likely none of the schemes include their interests.

That’s why they’re supporting Bob Filner. Successfully make the argument that his policies will continue without him and the game could change. And that ain’t gonna happen.

On This Day1954 - Elvis Presley’s first single was released by Sun Records. It was “That’s All Right” b/w “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”  1974 - The House Judiciary Committee recommended that U.S. President Richard Nixon should stand trial in the Senate for any of the five impeachment charges against him.  1984 - Geraldine Ferraro was nominated by the Democratic Party to become the first woman from a major political party to run for the office of U.S. Vice-President.

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 

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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 received a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial in 2013. He is a cancer survivor and lives in North Park.
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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Joe B. July 19, 2013 at 11:38 am

This is the best piece I’ve read on this yet. Certainly better reporting than we’re getting from the traffic reporter at News 10, who seems to think running after the Mayor with a mic is a good idea.

I’d love someone to look for closely at Frye, Briggs and the Gonzalezes. The nerve of them trying to hijack this process. I’m sure they’re sorry for supporting this guy in the general election after hearing all this but they have to live with that and also live with the process the city has for investigating these things. If that process is broken it needs to be fixed. That’s where these four Democrats should focus if they “want in.”

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avatar Dickie July 19, 2013 at 11:48 am

Thank you, Doug . . . your article sure helped me get a little perspective on who supports Mayor Filner and why. It has been pretty embarrassing learning of his obnoxious behavior . . . beyond simple personal behavior since it seems to have affected his workplace and hence implementation of his good policy. Not OK at all. . . . and maybe illegal. But you really got me at:
“These were people who’ve spent their whole life fighting for racial and economic justice. These were the people who have traditionally been given crumbs from the table of plenty dished up to the downtown development (often) funded via the public treasury.
Bob Filner may be all those things that his accusers say he his. But these folks don’t see anybody else on the horizon that will give them a fighting chance at a fair shake for their communities.”

I know enough about San Diego to know this is true.These are the communities I have always supported and any progressive worth his or her salt will take into account thoughts and feelings among them, notwithstanding mainstream media and opportunistic pols.

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avatar Frank Gormlie July 19, 2013 at 11:53 am

Thanks Doug. I’m glad I wasn’t watching Rachel that night! Damn!

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avatar Lorraine July 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Here’s the segment on Maddow:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Mayor Filner spoke briefly last night (Thursday) and answered members’ questions at the Black Mountain Democratic Club meeting, scheduled six weeks earlier. While not addressing or responding directly to recent public accusations, the mayor apologized for disappointing his supporters in a calm, controlled manner. He mentioned that a process for dealing with such accusations is in place and is expected to be followed after formal complaints have been filed. As of last evening, no complaints or charges have been filed. Curiously, he remarked that he’d “faced lynch mob(s) in the past” and he expects to be “vindicated”. Nor is he planning to resign.

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avatar judi July 19, 2013 at 12:17 pm

So many people have quoted the Maddow show to me in the past few days. Thank you for setting the record straight.

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avatar Andy Cohen July 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Doug makes the point that I (apparently unsuccessfully) tried to make in my piece earlier this week: That there is no one waiting in the wings to carry on the policies and principles, centered on neighborhood development focused on the largely under-served communities of San Diego, that Filner has brought to City Hall. Unlike our counterparts at City Beat, I’m not ready to call for Filner’s resignation until we have more FACTS about what really went down. Accusations are just that: Accusations. Nothing we’ve heard to this point approaches concrete evidence of actionable wrongdoing, and that includes the mayor’s statement released last week.

So many–including those in the media, particularly the right-wing media–have characterized the mayor’s statement as an admission of guilt. It is not. What he admitted to was not “respecting women” enough, which is problematic, but something that should be easily correctable.

If Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell can’t be forced to resign for what amounts to accepting bribes (and there is actual proof of that happening), then mere allegations of sexual assault are not enough to force Filner out. (And, not coincidentally, Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, it turns out, has accepted similar bribes from the same sources, which you would think would disqualify him as a candidate for Virginia’s highest political office). I don’t condone Filner’s behavior in any way, shape, or form, but until we know more, until we have actual PROOF of serious wrongdoing, then we need to let this play out.

One suspects that if Filner were a Republican then this would all be water under the bridge. But the Republican double standard apparently applies.

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avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman July 20, 2013 at 2:22 am

Come on, Andy. “Doug makes the point that I …tried to make in my piece earlier this week….” Not really. Earlier this week you described Mayor Filner as washed up and moved on to speculate that Nathan Fletcher would make a best-of-the-lot replacement. Why not just say sorry?

Even today, you say we “need to let this play out,” but it’s over: Filner is not resigning. And I have no idea why you are dragging Jefferson’s home state of Virginia into this conversation.

You might appreciate the recent VOSD Scott Lewis’ spin on this strange scandal as it subsides in the face of Mayor Filner’s resolve to keep doing his job. Lewis now claims “due process” is reserved for courtroom proceedings and that people get to say whatever they want because it’s a free country.

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avatar Bruce Coons July 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Thanks Doug, the best reporting and most pragmatic view yet.

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avatar Tom Hunter July 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I too am interested in who put Donna Frye with those douche bag lawyers. I’ve heard of strange bedfellows, but that really tops it for me.

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avatar Norma Damashek July 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Let me add my thank you, Doug, for a superbly written and well-balanced analysis of the Filner story. You don’t cease to amaze me.

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avatar Bruce Coons July 19, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Norma,
Thank you very much for your article, which put into words my thoughts and my feelings regarding the actions of some of my/our dear, cherished, friends whom, I respect very much, friends that I believe act according to their conscience. All of which made this very hard. I personally told one of them yesterday, “I have to agree with Norma” and part with them on this.

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avatar rak July 19, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Due process, due process, due process.
And even should there be substance to some of the allegations, is resignation/recall the answer? Although the parallels aren’t perfect, for a perspective on calls for resignation, I consider the national scene. Do I call for Obama to resign or be impeached, given that he authorizes/condones: drone strikes that kill innocent civilians, spying wholesale on the citizenry, breaking up of families by ramping up deportations, (pick your moral outrage …)? Or, given the fact that he has also overseen the abolition of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the overturning of DOMA, the creation of a framework for recognizing immigrant “Dreamers”, the passage of legislation that affirms the right of “Equal pay for equal work”, (and a host of other progressive policies), do I refrain from calling for resignation, but continue to press for changes to those policies that are abhorrent? I’m not calling for any resignations yet.

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avatar A Shur July 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Thank you for the great article! ‘trial by press conference situation’ means Kangaroo Court by any other name! Having seen some of the dirtiest politics anywhere in the USA in San Diego, “due process” is DUE Filner!!!!!

I wonder when the next “press conference” will be STAGED and I wonder which local corporate media will run it up the flag pole….over….&….. over….. %….. over again!

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avatar Janice Dempsey July 19, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Bravo, Doug! Great article!!! I agree with your analysis of the “situation” and while Filner may be a skin-crawling creepo, I’d still rather he be mayor than anyone else. Yes, shame on him, etc. Hang in there, hang your head in shame, Mayor Filner, but don’t quit, at least not yet. BTW, I’d have punched him out if he’d tried any of his moves on me.

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avatar Wren Osborn July 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I live in the county but I would would hate to lose Bob Filner as mayor of San Diego. He is making progress against the rule of the good old boys, against the neck lock that developers have had on San Diego forever, and in bringing justice to the ordinary citizen. He has tons more to do. Tenacious in this case is good. He’s already proven he can make the big boys, with their high and mighty belief in their omnipotence, back down. I want him to keep fighting for the ordinary citizen, which means first fighting for his rights. That does not mean I will condone any illegal or demeaning actions that may have taken place. But those who are calling for his resignation need to act like reasonable human beings not a bloodthirsty lynch party.

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avatar michael-leonard July 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Regarding Filner breaking the development neck-lock, I say the score is tied one-to-one. He did a great thing against the hoteliers/tourist marketing district but fell way short on the Sunroad development.

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avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman July 20, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Oh, flog the guy with a wet noodle: he returned the money. You can be sure he won’t repeat that gaffe, especially now that his land use guy Allen Jones is gone.

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avatar La Playa Heritage July 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Hi Micheal-Leonard.

Not correct on Sunroad. The issue is complicated in that Lori Zafp, Council President Todd Gloria, City Attorney Goldsmith, with reports and wording provided Sunroad’s Tom Story, Gifted Sunroad Two 9 foot easements on Dedicated Public Parks without due compensation or normal analysis as required under law, let alone City Council Policy.

By Gifting Sunroad two Free Easements, the City Council and Goldsmith violated our City Charter, Municipal Code, the Master Plan. Everything.

http://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/article-11948-a-broader-view-of-filners-‘shakedown-of-sunroad.html

http://tinyurl.com/20101206

Back in 2010, we recommended that Sunroad’s Substantial Conformance Review (SCR) for Kearny Mesa be denied for ongoing violations of the Municipal Code, New Century Master Plan, Community Plan, and associated EIR and CEQA documents. At that time City Council Members Donna Frye, Carl DeMaio, and Scott Peters ignored our solution which is to following normal CEQA laws, and require Sunroad to potentially pay the City multi-millions for mitigation yet to be analyzed. Instead EVERYONE let the ongoing Violations slide.

Mr. Briggs’ Sunroad lawsuit will bring all these outstanding planning, Land Use, Mitigation, Financial issues to conclusion. Planned mitigation that was never implemented include Sunroad setting up a free tram system for the Kearny Mesa area to encourage pedestrian uses.

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avatar Bruce Fett July 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Asking the UT Mouth Breather for reassurances that she got everything right, and, then watching him wretch and spew his approval all over her screen, ranked as the most astonishingly bad moment I have ever witnessed on TRMS, a muck-up of almost Geraldo Rivera-like proportions…

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avatar Judith Wesling July 19, 2013 at 5:36 pm

A friend said to me that what was sauce for the goose (Clarence Thomas) was sauce for the gander (Bob Filner). Not a good analogy, since Thomas got to face his (brave) accuser, got his due process and got the appointment anyway. So no comparison there. I too wonder greatly at what happened to Donna Frye. As a pioneering woman in politics she must have gotten disrespected a lot and so she is feeling empathy for these women who are now complaining? But again, these women need to stop hiding behind the skirts of the UT, KOGO and channel 10, and make their case publicly. Until a due process shows some culpability, Bob Filner is my mayor.

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avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman July 19, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Great work here, Doug, telling it like it is, telling how it will continue to be.
Filner for Mayor! Wait, Filner IS Mayor and I am glad.
Filner would not dream of resigning and I am glad for that too.
When I was a Catholic kid, I was taught to hate the sin, love the sinner. It’s a great idea. All offended feminist protectors of suffering silent women might take note.

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avatar Jo July 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Thank you for your story! Well written. Appreciate your thoughts. All I keep thinking is this is all very Kafkaesque.

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avatar daniel smiechowski July 20, 2013 at 11:21 am

I will bet the farm that in one hundred years, we all will be seen as fools! The absolute idiocy of a sick and pious society..and please spare me that Mr. Filner abused a few beautiful women..yes, I agree that this is the end of the world!

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