With the election of Congressman Bob Filner to fill San Diego’s mayoral seat, coupled with a now 5 to 4 Democratic majority on the city’s Council as Sheri Lightner has defeated Ray Ellis – we can now claim the dawning of San Diego’s New Progressive Era.
Filner’s victory reflects President Obama’s re-election on the national level, perhaps a new dawn of a similar era across the country. Indeed, San Diego voters across the County went for President Obama over Mitt Romney, 51% to 47%.
At least in San Diego, Tuesdays election results reflect changes in our local demographics and subsequent changes in local politics.
These changes and the voter turnout have ushered in the most liberal administration in San Diego’s history, the first Democratic mayor in over 30 years – the last one being Maureen O’Connor in the early Eighties. Filner – already easily one of the most liberal members of Congress – had made his marks here in our town over the years, being the liberal on the San Diego school board while he was on it, and being the liberal on the San Diego City Council back in the Nineties.
Carl Luna, the political science prof at Mesa College, who is often quoted by the U-T, called it: “… the dawning of the age of blue in San Diego.”
Already Mayor-elect Filner has signaled his changes: he has appointed former City Councilmember Donna Frye as the head of a new city department on open government – an issue she championed during her stint on the council. We can look forward also, in this new era of openness with a renewed sense of access for the communities across San Diego that have been often ignored by the power structure. This was indeed symbolized on Wednesday, when Filner held his first press conference as the newly-elect at the Old Trolley Barn Park in University Heights.
With the new Filner administration in City Hall, the citizens in San Diego are likely to see a renewed focus on not only on those forgotten communities, but on social and city services, infrastructure needs, and issues like public transportation. With Filner’s track-record with minorities – he was arrested during the Civil Rights days in efforts to desegregate buses – and in representing southwest portions of the American west, there will importantly be a ready access by Mexican-American, African-American, and other minority communities to the Mayor’s Office.
At his victory speech, Filner said:
I want to make clear that I don’t think the people who elected me elected a status quo administration. They elected an administration that’s going to change things. We have a diversity in this city that has simply not been tapped by those who have had control and power.
Whether it’s people of color, whether it’s neighborhoods that have been neglected in terms of their infrastructure, whether it’s women, whether it’s those who care about educations, whether it’s those who care about arts, whether it’s those who care about affordable housing and public transportation, they have not been asked to participate in the political and economic decisions of this city. We’re going to ask them.”
His inauguration is set for December 3rd.
San Diego’s New Progressive Era
Across the County, gains were made by Democrats and progressives that signify this new era of progressiveism. And what is clear is that the conservatives and Radical Rightists did celebrate way too early back right after the June Primary. We tried to warn them, but our advice was ignored.
The New Progressive Era is symbolized by the strength, power, and influence of the electoral work performed by our San Diego and Imperial Count Labor Council and its head Lorena Gonzalez. Their efforts certainly helped Filner in the winning of his new seat – especially south of I-8. The Labor Council’s work was also seen in the defeat of Prop 32 and the victories of Prop 30 and 39.
The fact that even Romney couldn’t get elected in San Diego County displays the changes in a region and city that were heralded by right-wingers Ronald Reagan and Dick Nixon; both considered San Diego their favorite or lucky cities.
The closeness of the Scott Peters and Bilbray race is an example of the new era.
- San Diego just sent the first African-American woman to the California State Assembly with the election of Dr. Shirley Weber in the 79th District.
- Gregg Robinson – a leftist and union-backed sociology professor – was elected to the San Diego County Board of Education.
- Dave Roberts, a Democrat, getting ready to take a seat on the County Board of Supervisors – the first Democrat in nearly two decades.
- The victories of progressive and liberals on the San Diego Unified School Board, John Lee Evans, Richard Barrera, and Marne Foster.
- The passage of Prop Z, allowing schools to have additional funding.
- The elections of progressive Democrats in the East County city of Lemon Grove: Racquel Vasquez and George Gastil.
- The defeat of tea party candidate for Superior Court Judge, Jim Miller.
There were some countervailing tendencies evidenced as well on Tuesday. The defeat of all four of the attempts around the County to get medical marijuana dispensaries approved – in Lemon Grove, Imperial Beach, Solana Beach and Del Mar.
Overall, however, the results portend a new period of governmental openness and citizen involvement and participation in their local governments. There is a new hope in town, a hope that at long last, the citizens and residents of the city will mean more to the power structure than developers, major-team owners, hoteliers, conventioneers, tourists, and billionaires with their own plans for our public space.
With the new Filner administration in City Hall, there will be a sense of the people taking over their city government, and that will be the sign of the New Progressive Era in San Diego.