When I received my invitation to attend the “State of the City” address I was really jazzed. I had attended a fund raiser for Filner a few weeks before the election and enjoyed talking to him and having my picture taken with him. (I still think it is the best picture he has ever taken!) I met Bob Filner many years ago – many times – when I was a teacher, an administrator and an assistant professor. I was always impressed with him, even though at times I thought he was gruff.
When I called my publisher today and asked if any other reporters were covering the ceremony, I was told that Andy Cohen would be there. So I decided that since Andy was such a great reporter I would have to go about my article differently than planned. Imagine my surprise when I saw Ernie McCray in the audience and found that Andy had driven with Brittany, another reporter. That really meant that I could not approach my article as a “reporters report.”
The meeting was scheduled to begin at 6:00pm. Perhaps because one of the people giving the Invocation was a Rabbi – and we Jews are always known for being late – it didn’t start until 6:30. The Balboa Theatre was a sell-out and people were getting a little antsy that it was so late in getting started.
Todd Gloria, the new Council President called the meeting to order. He spent an inordinate amount of time introducing almost every one that was in the audience. He started with the current council; then he went to the County Directors; the school board members all over San Diego – including, I might add – those that have recently been indicted of fraud; he introduced dignitaries from Mexico, from the Philippines; from Bahrain; you name it and they were there. There were Military personnel that were introduced and even though we were asked to hold our applause, the military received the greatest applause by the audience.
After everyone was introduced, he introduced the two clergy that were going to give the invocation: Bishop George D. McKinney from St. Stephen’s Cathedral Church of God in Christ and Rabbi Laurie Coskey, Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. Among the things that Bishop McKinney prayed for was a better solution to Global Warming and Pot dispensaries; (snickers arose from the audience, but the good Bishop continued) in his prayer for Compassion, Justice and making San Diego the Finest City. Rabbi Coskey had a very surprising approach, citing that “it is an auspicious day because today is Martin Luther King’s birthday”. She read an unpublished article that Dr. King had written asking for a “warless world”; equal distribution of wealth; etc. It was very effective.
But….can someone tell me why we need to have an “Invocation” in the first place. This is definitely a State function. If there is to be separation of Church and State, what business does the church have in issuing prayers and guidance? The Church should be between the church-goers and the church, temple, etc. I have always resented being told to “bow my head and pray” when I am at a governmental function. Are we praying to make sure that the new Mayor does things right? Although both sermons were entertaining, I, personally do not it is necessary to have this at the ceremony.
The Color Guard was just that – a color guard. Nothing spectacular. The Pledge of Allegiance was also a routine said by those in the audience.
Then we came to the National Anthem, sung Accapella by Michael Morgan . As a former musician of low quality, it disturbs me when a wrong note is hit and I was less than thrilled by this rendition. He has a beautiful voice, but I do not think that the National Anthem is his forte.
The best part of the evening was when Mr. Gloria introduced Nathan Fletcher to introduce the next two participants on the program – Mr. Filner himself, and, get this, his fiancé who was referred to everywhere as “The First Lady of San Diego.” More about this in a moment.
When Mr. Fletcher stood up – and for those of you having a short memory – he ran against Filner for Mayor – he said, “I am honored to be here. This is like a dream come true. I am doing just what I wanted to do – I wanted to be on the podium for this inauguration. Give me a few moments before the bubble bursts.” (Quote is not exact but you get the picture.) He was most gracious as he thanked everyone. He had wonderful things to say about San Diego; about the election and the future.
Then he introduced “Bronwyn Ingram – the First Lady of San Diego.” What the hell? The first lady? Of San Diego? Who made her the first lady? Certainly not the new mayor. He hasn’t married her yet. What if he doesn’t marry her? Does she them become the “ex-first lady?” I can’t help but feel that this is in extremely poor taste. I don’t care if they are living together – are they? – have children together or what they do in private life, but she is NOT the First Lady yet, and should not be introduced as such. This is not to say that she hasn’t started a fine program targeting the homeless in San Diego. It is a good program and has the name “Team First Lady.” Again with the first lady. It really, truly, bothers me.
Bob Filner was then introduced and not only did he welcome the audience in English, he also welcomed them in Spanish. As fluent as I used to be and as non-fluent as I am now, I know that he pronounced all the words succinctly and with feeling. Those Latino’s in the audience must have been very pleased with his welcome. And the two women doing the “signing” was also very effective.
He talked about the budget and likened it to a patient with a life-threatening disease only to have surgery and become cautiously optimistic about the outcomes. I will let the other reports talk about his speech for it truly was inspiring and up-lifting. He also managed to get a lick or two in by stating that we now have more money than we had, thanks to SDGE and a little murmur specifically thanking Greg Cox.
He also began an annual award for people that have done a great deal for the good of San Diego. He awarded these certificates to the living legends that have put themselves out to better the city. Among those receiving a certificate was Father Joe Carroll, Gloria Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Rady; Jerry Coleman and his wife; Leon and Margaret Williams; Casey and Mrs.
Quinn Gwynn; and others. There was a standing ovation given to these unselfish people.
In discussing what items he will work on as the Mayor, he had two sayings I think worthy of repeating. One was “we have to save our beaches by not putting our heads in the sand” and he also told us that just today he was told by the Chargers that “our bolts will not bolt this year.”
So this is my report of the exhilarating evening I had tonight. Andy, Ernie and Brittany will be able to tell you what really happened; where San Diego will go from here under new leadership; and how much work it is going to take to achieve the Mayor’s goals. With all of us working together, we can make it happen.