When we awoke this morning – for the first time in history – Bob Filner is the mayor of San Diego, the eighth largest city in America. Yesterday, Monday, December 3rd, was his official inauguration. (Please see Annie Lane’s wonderful photo spread of the event.)
Representing progressive media in town, I accompanied my good friend Doug Porter to the Balboa Club in Balboa Park to be witnesses to this historic event. Filner is only the second Democratic mayor in the last forty years in this town – and decidedly it’s most liberal. And Filner wasn’t the only politician being inaugurated, as there was an entire shelf of them waiting around when we arrived at the Balboa Club – all those veterans who had been elected, selected and rejected by the voters were going to be there.
As we approached the bustling Balboa Club – usually as busy and quiet as a museum – traffic was being rerouted by people in blue, men in suits were everywhere, and you could feel the excitement building. I glanced over to my right, and there was Tony Krvaric – the head of the local Republican Party – standing by himself on a corner – looking lonesome.
We joined the line entering the building – and even though we were early – the entrance was brimming with human bodies wedging into the doors. And as we glided into the entryway of the great hall, we brushed up against some senior police officials and immediately to my left I saw Police Chief Lansdowne along side me. I mumbled to Porter that Filner had kept the chief as part of his new administration, even though Lansdowne and his uniforms had severely crushed the Occupy San Diego movement just a year ago under Mayor Sanders. Doug whispered back to me that the POA – the Police Officers Association – the union for cops – liked Lansdowne. Hmmm, I replied.
Once in the main part of the building, it was clear that this was THE place to be this Monday morning. It was already packed, most of the good seats were taken or were reserved, and we had to scurry around for empty chairs. It was time for fun and gloating at the inauguration of San Diego’s new liberal mayor.
Once Doug and I found chairs in the “poor” section over to the far side of the stage – the seats were wood and hard – I headed out for some of the ‘fun’ – mainly coffee and cake over at the long serving table. But I was told that they were for “later” – and that they would save me a piece. Slightly disappointed as I needed another cup of joe, I found my seat and Porter and gazed over the bustling room. There must have been a thousand people there.
While Doug was busy tweeting with Dave Mass, Matt Hall, and other followers, I got up to move around the massive building – which was becoming very warm with all the bodies pouring into the space. I began seeing liberals and progressives that I have known over the years. Bob was really our guy – and for the first time in a long time, progressives felt welcome at City Hall. Progressives had joined working families, independents and centrist Republicans to defeat reactionary Carl DeMaio. But I really wasn’t there to “gloat” – just needed something to sound like “fear and loathing” so I picked “fun and gloating”.
I also wanted to see how many names I could drop into this post once it was written. I had brought a notepad and camera – but didn’t use either – as I tried to hob-bob with San Diego’s great.
Man, every politico who was anybody in town was there. It was to be an official City Council meeting as well and the stage was full of empty chairs at this point. All of San Diego’s prim and proper were there – all dressed up. But as I made my rounds I could tell this was indeed a different kind of political gathering, as I saw union activists in hard hats, community activists with pro-Filner signs, and despite the overarching presence of the city’s officialdom, not everyone was in suits. There were a lot of just ordinary folks of different colors and ethnicities – out to see their man take his oath.
There was Lorena Gonzalez and some of her folks – she and her trade union pals had ensured Filner’s victory by their tremendous work – especially in those parts of San Diego south of I-8. Filner was surrounded by well-wishers and important staffers to be and gad-flies. I walked right past DeMaio – who was at his last official appearance as an elected official, past Todd Gloria – about to be elected as the new City Council President – and past Mayor Sanders – about to give his final speech.
I walked up to Kevin Faulconer – Councilmember for Ocean Beach – and extended my hand in a warm greeting. Kevin’s always has a smile for me and even though we’re on opposite sides of the aisle, we’re on first-name basis and his office has always been accessible. He offered to get together for a beer or coffee to discuss the OB Rag and I mentioned I wanted him to write a monthly column, like he does for the Beacon. He agreed to right on the spot.
Moving on, I gave a huge hug to Marjorie Cohn – my former law school professor – who writes her own blog and is a severe critic of torture and other abuses to prisoners at Guantanamo. And then in hobbled Jim Miller – one of our bloggers and a lit prof at City College on crutches – he had a torn Achilles and was searching for some disabled seating. Finding none, he sat down off to the side.
I walked past Tom Shepard and then I whirled around and gave him my hand. He shook it and was very friendly. San Diego’s “King Maker” thanked me for our endorsements of Filner and I thanked him for his hard work on Filner’s behalf – Shepard – a Republican – had been his campaign manager. Shepard and I were in the same graduating class at UCSD in 1970. He had been student body president then and I had been a militant anti-Vietnam War activist on campus at the same time.
Bryan Pease was off by himself but I shook his hand also. He had been active in the latter days of the Occupy movement, was a lawyer who had run in the Primary for City Council District 1 seat. Bryan was still fighting on behalf of the seals in La Jolla and had a piece just published in the op-ed page at the U-T. He told me he’s thinking of running for council again but from a different district. “Call me,” I offered, as I walked off to my next glad handing.
I visited briefly with Angela Landsberg, executive director of the North Park Mainstreet Association – and also the sister of my daughter Michelle. Angie has a nose for history and was present to be a witness. I turned to see DA Bonnie Dumanis limp into the front section of the seating.
It was around this point, that the City Clerk began exhorting people to take their seats or clear the room. Fire department honchos with official uniforms and lots of yellow stripes on their sleeves were circulating around the room, and at one point, they seemed to be the only people still standing as the clerk began getting exasperated in her calls for the room to settle down. Porter tweeted that a lot of very important people were being told to sit down. New and past Councilmembers took their seats on the stage.
Nicole Murray-Ramirez was sitting down the line in our column of chairs and I reminded Porter of just how important an early activist in the gay community he had been and had deserved all his merits.
Finally, Tony Young welcomed the huge crowd, and thanked the Marine Corps band and the student musicians from the School of Performing Arts who had warmed up the room with music. Faulconer led us in the pledge and the speeches began. Young then went through a whole litany of other politicos in the room – Scott Peters, Nathan Fletcher – and reps from the Mexico cities of Tijuana, Ensenada, and Tecate.
Every politico who was introduced received a smattering of polite applause. The loudest was reserved for Filner – we all stood for his ovation – and the room also was rocked when Donna Frye was announced. She is tremendously popular with those in the room.
Out-going Jerry Sanders gave a short speech, thank god, and then the oaths began. When Bob Filner took the podium for his speech – once he had been sworn in – he sounded off-the-cuff at first, thanking his family, his staff, his supporters, and then he launched into his inaugural address – and it was great.
Not one to take copious notes while politicos speak, I noted several things that did stand out in Filner’s speech. Notably was his emphasis on the neighborhoods, on his effort to build ties with Tijuana and Mexico – Bob spoke a few words in Spanish – and on the method in which decisions will be made during his administration. He pledged that ordinary people would have as much say as those in the traditional wings of downtown power. He also announced that city workers would no longer be vilified. Filner is a true populist – and San Diego hasn’t had anybody like him for a long time, if ever.
It seemed a little strange, that the two people who probably most helped Bob win – Lorena Gonzalez and Tom Shepard – were not at the podium with him.
After Filner came Sheri Lightner and her lukewarm speech (she needs new speech writers) but she did remind the crowd that she won “resoundingly” over her opponent. And then recently re-elected Jan Goldsmith – the City Attorney who had no opponents – got up for his speech. This is when I headed for the outside door.
The foyer was filled with those who got here too late to get in. Television sets were on so one couldn’t get away from Goldsmith’s droning. So I kept going and made it outside – only to get hugs from long-time peace activist Carol Jahnkow and OB Greenstore operator Colleen Dietzel, both waiting under gray skies outside the Balboa Club.
Making my way back inside, Porter was still tweeting. I forget who at that point was at the podium, but I feigned a snore to Porter who asked if I wanted to get some lunch. Forgetting the multitudes of virgin cakes, I jumped at the chance to feed my gut. We left during the applause.
Progressives own this election. Filner is our man – and now he is the man for everyone in this city – a city that is entering a New Era of Progressivism with his election. But I wondered as we departed Balboa Park whether Jerry Sanders was correct – that he had his happiest day because it was his last day as mayor and he was happier than the new guy – Bob Filner – who has just inherited this city of San Diego and all of its attributes and problems.
So, all we can say at this point is : Go Bob!