By Jay Powell
Like a lot of people who strongly support the “neighborhoods first” policy commitment set forth by Mayor Bob Filner I have been on the revoltin’ remain-recall-resign roller coaster oscillating between disgust, disappointment, despair, dedication and determination regarding the daily drumbeat of “revelations” and political attacks on Bob Filner.
I am particularly wary of the recall option when I recollect two recalls that have affected San Diego within the last recent decades– a city councilmember in 1991 and, of course our Governor in 2003.
In each of these elections, the incumbent was voted out and the winner received less than a 50% plus one of the votes cast. Schwarzenegger (who incidentally was plagued by accusations of inappropriate behavior towards women in the final run up to election day) got almost 49%. Tom Behr won the Fifth District City Council seat with barely 25% of the votes cast. Done deal. No run off.
The main distinguishing and disturbing feature of a recall “election” is that the highest vote getter of the free-for-all alternative candidates listed after the yes or no on recall vote, wins it all.
And there is a wealth of misinformation running around out there regarding the recall process. Our U-T (=”Utterly Terrible”) news machine is doing its best to provide the worst. In an August 1 commentary, Joshua Spivak, a senior fellow at Wagner College, tells us that “San Diego law has other deficiencies such as an almost certainly unconstitutional provision that voters can only vote for a replacement candidate in a recall if they cast a ballot to oust the incumbent.”
Yet the City Clerk website clearly states: “No vote cast for a candidate shall be counted unless the voter also voted on the recall question.” That’s different than only the yes on recall folks getting to vote. Thanks again U-T.
Spivak goes on to speculate about the motivations for a 39 day circulation and then 30 day supplemental circulation period. There is talk about reforming the recall provisions to provide more time for circulation and to prevent potential bogus recall efforts from usurping the prerogative with intent to deliberately fail. The current dueling “recallers” have promised a joint news conference to announce a possible coordination – a kind of “gathering together to gather together.”
The fact is that recall is one of those remnants of the turn of a previous century citizen-led reform movement that included the right of voters to place items on the ballot by initiative petition. It is there to give direct recourse to voters outside of the legislative body. It has noble intentions.
But perhaps there should be some reflection on the rush to judgment aspect that the recall can enable. Irrespective of this situation, maybe it does need some reforming to allow for a two step process instead of a two in one, winner take all sweepstakes.
Another quirk in the recall rules: up until the actual recall election is held under the current rules if “a vacancy occurs in the position occupied by the official whose recall is sought, the election shall not be held.” The Mayor has the option to stay and fight right up to the recall election day. And then a whole different process begins. We have a process that allows for interim leadership. That will go into effect if the Mayor were to resign or if his office were to be “vacated” either by recall or resignation.
It’s important to separate the policy issues from the fitness and ability to lead character and viability issues. It may yet come to pass that the Mayor will decide that under the circumstances, he cannot lead the progressive, responsive and responsible government agenda he set forth and has been implementing to the consternation of those who have enjoyed exercise of unquestioned power for so long in San Diego.
While the Mayor’s peccadilloes and potential for prosecution on more serious allegations fuel national news outlet sensations and late night mirth-making, the local powers that be are busy piling on with their own version of the impacts of the Mayor’s considerable policy and political actions and accomplishments during his short tenure.
The squealing over the demise of our tourist industry is just one example of the hyperbole and hysteria that the U-T and the usual suspects are spewing as yet more reasons why Mayor Filner has to go as soon as possible.
Ironically, it is Cory Briggs and Donna Frye that tried to dissuade the City Council from the incredible give-away to the tourist industry that the Tourist Marketing District (TMD) represents. The Mayor has tried to extract some actual public benefits and safeguards from the TMD folks. The reason they aren’t getting the TMD funds that have been collected is because they won’t put their money where their mouth is to indemnify the City so we won’t have to use General Fund revenues to pay for all that exotic promotion if the TMD challenge succeeds in the courts.
Instead of telling them to shut up and put up, the U-T runs woe-is-San Diego stories that our economy is collapsing because they can’t pay the minions of staff and contractors who promote the tourism industry. The hotel rooms, the beaches, the restaurants, the tour boats and buses are emptying out at an exponential rate from a combination of no more TV ads in Cincinnati and Mayor Bob exploits running on the Daily Show.
Get a grip San Diego.
Instead of the three R’s already mentioned – Remain, Recall, Resign – let’s choose a different one for right now: Reflect.
Take a deep breath –not because Mayor Filner told us to do that last week in what is easily seen as a self-serving suggestion, but because we do need to be clear on what the options are and what the ramifications of each will be for us to have the best Mayor to carry out the best agenda for our neighborhoods, our environment and our economy.