By Anna Daniels
When Bob Filner was campaigning for mayor last year, he was a visible presence in City Heights. He showed up to support public transit initiatives; he attended the rally calling for George Zimmerman to be charged with murder in the death of Trayvon Martin.
Filner listened to mid-city youth advocating for a skateboard park and free bus passes for low income students to get to school and work. He listened to taxi drivers advocating for livable wages and safe working conditions and called for additional library hours. He recognized the importance of streetlights and supported the needs of vets and the homeless.
These are all meaningful issues in City Heights. For the first time in my memory, a mayoral candidate acknowledged not only the importance of our government in addressing these needs, but our government’s ability to do so–right here in City Heights.
And there’s the rub. While our civic needs are reflexively acknowledged every election cycle, there has always been a political reason provided thereafter explaining why City Heights hasn’t received funding yet again for enough street lights or parks, adequate transit service, police presence, library services, or quality affordable housing. Most recently the reasons have been the economy, the pensions, and the recognition of long time structural budget weaknesses.
But despite all of those things public funds have been diverted, unabated, to private developers and financial interests. We were assured that the resulting economic growth from the Qualcomm Stadium expansion, Petco Park, and convention center expansions would benefit all of us, not only in the form of jobs but as subsequent public infrastructure investment in neighborhoods, made possible by swelling city coffers.
Not surprisingly, it hasn’t worked out that way, not only in City Heights, but in most communities in the city of San Diego. What has benefited City Heights most recently are the commitment and direct action from Mayor Filner and the continued efforts of a few council members. And now the sky is falling over City Hall.
I don’t know whether Bob Filner, the man we elected mayor, can hold up the falling sky. Perhaps that is not the right question. How will our city continue to be governed with or without Bob Filner is the more pertinent question. Todd Gloria, Council President, and Councilman Kevin Faulconer addressed that issue at their July 22 press conference. The councilmen’s response was confusing. But much more troubling was the unwillingness of either speaker to say that he, or they, would continue to advance the mayor’s agenda. It is no surprise that Kevin Faulconer is not committed to Filner’s agenda.
But what about Council President Todd Gloria? He appears poised to take another bite of the Plaza de Panama poison apple, which would unwind a mayoral accomplishment. What about any of the other liberal voices that we have heard from over the past week and a half? As self-identified supporters of the mayor who helped him win the election, it is reasonable to assume that not only did they support his agenda, they would help provide the heavy lifting which that agenda requires.
The lack of economic security and livable wages continue to be the most pressing problem here in City Heights. The local rally for Trayvon Martin after the Zimmerman verdict was a clear reminder of the fraught relationship between the black community, the police and the justice system. I was recently asked why the City Heights library wasn’t open while I stood waiting outside the doors. The agenda that Filner campaigned on matters here.
If there is no political will for the city council members and powerful constituents who helped assure Filner’s election to assume the role of moving the mayor’s agenda forward even if they are unable to support the mayor himself, the end result will be that little, if anything, of substance gets accomplished in City Heights. That means a return to business as usual in the city and a political scandal becomes just the newest excuse for why little attention is paid to our neighborhoods.
What appears to be the discarding of the mayor’s agenda, which was the result of coalitions that included marginalized neighborhoods like my own community of City Heights, is the shame that has no name. If that is the real back story to Filner’s fall from grace, that is the true scandal.
Editor’s note: This post was updated to provide the correct date of the press conference called by City Council President Todd Gloria and Councilman Kevin Faulconer. It was erroneously posted as June 22.