By Doug Porter
Rumors of the Filner’s imminent resignation swirled through the city yesterday like scraps of newsprint caught up in the wind eddies regularly whipping through San Diego’s downtown canyons.
Could IT be today? Would IT be this week? Was the City Attorney working out a deal?
Several dozen people gathered at mid-day to protest the possible return of Mayor Bob Filner to City Hall, chanting “Bob must go!” for the assembled press corps. The minions of the mainstream media nodded their heads in approval.
The organizers of the recall movement weren’t taking the resignation rumors seriously. Organizer and Republican activist Michael Pallamary told UT-San Diego, “There’s no reason to believe he will resign. It’s not in his DNA. You got people now turning their tune from resign to recall. There’s only recall. There’s no way he’s going to resign.”
The Mayor responded to the group’s published intent to recall late last night via a statement issued by his law firm (Payne & Fears really is the name of the firm!) highlighting accomplishments achieved during his first eight months in office and calling upon San Diegans to “continue to move forward.” There was no mention of the ever increasing allegations of inappropriate behavior or press accounts of criminal investigations of various dealings by his office.
Technology entrepreneur Benjamin Katz, who spoke at yesterday’s anti-Filner rally was quick to tweet:
Once again missing from Filner’s statement: “I didn’t do it”
— Benjamin Katz (@MeanestBossEver) August 13, 2013
Moving Forward with the Recall
The Mayor’s statement will be published as a legal notice this week, clearing the way for recall organizers to start collecting signatures from registered city voters on August 18th. Nearly 102,000 valid signatures are required to trigger a recall and organizers have just short of a ten week window to collect them.
A recall election could be fraught with both legal and political challenges. The City Attorney has acknowledged that the legal basis for a recall could be successfully challenged and the City Council may be considering revisions after its August break. Any modification would pose its own set of legal challenges for a recall already underway.
Wendy Fry’s story at NBC/San Diego News talked about the political hurdles involved in a recall.
None of the four major political groups that could feasibly fund a petition drive are stepping forward with the money. The San DiegoCounty Democratic Party, the Republican Party of San Diego County, and the Lincoln Club have called upon the mayor to resign, but all have said they will not be funding a recall effort…
…Francis Barraza, Executive Director of the Republican Party of San Diego County, has helped lead successful petition drives in the past. She estimated this drive may cost more than a million dollars.
“The risk is that at any point the recall will be over if Bob Filner decides to resign. So, once he resigns, what happens to all the money that was invested into it? I’m not sure they’ll be able to get it back. What if it’s already spent? It’s a really high risk for our donors,” Barraza said.
(The fourth group referenced in Fry’s story is the San Diego and Imperial Counties Central Labor Council, which has not called upon Mayor Filner to resign. I’ll get back to them later in this narrative.)
The final issue with a recall vote, which might not be held until late this year/early next year, is that it sets up a situation whereby a candidate with a committed block of voters would win with a plurality in a low turnout election. Somebody like, say, Carl DeMaio.
But the fury of Filnerphobia is so strong in San Diego that the potential of an administration Donna Frye once referred to as the “Highway to Hell” is considered an acceptable alternative.
Drumming Up the Fear Factor
Meanwhile, the pressure on the Mayor to resign continues to ratchet up. KPBS’ MidDay Edition did its best yesterday to play on the largely illusionary fears that horrible things are happening here as long as hizzoner stays in office.
Some of San Diego‘s most influential business leaders are calling on Mayor Bob Filner to resign. Today, the life science association Biocom called on Filner to resign immediately.
Last week, former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders uninvited Mayor Bob Filner to the Chamber of Commerce’s trip to Washington, D.C. at the end of August. Sanders and 30 other members of the San Diego Leadership Alliance called on the mayor to resign.
But will a “no-confidence” vote by some leaders in San Diego‘s business community translate to a negative impact on San Diego‘s economy?
I have yet to see any actual evidence of any negative effect on the local economy caused by Filner’s bad behavior other that the same “uncertainty factor” Republicans have used to excuse their obstruction of economic reforms that might actually create jobs. And don’t get me started with the scam known as the Tourism Marketing District’s “fees”.
None-the-less, it’s hard to see any viable political future for the Filner administration. The man handed his enemies both the paint and the paintbrush needed to corner him, and even if he were to prevail in the courts, the administration wouldn’t have the means to accomplish much in the future.
Resignation from political office may not be in Filner’s DNA, but self-preservation is ultimately a more potent and primal force. The forces aligned against him have insured that fighting this fight will exhaust his resources on every level, particularly financially. It’s over. The only question is when.
What we’re looking at in terms of the Mayor’s tenure is combined political and legal solution, one that meets the needs of all the big party players. The deal to remove Spiro Agnew as Vice President back in the Nixon era comes to mind; it was bi-partisan, limited the Vice President’s culpabilities and put the lid on a major scandal. (At least until Watergate.)
Such a deal won’t come as quickly. There are a lot of moving parts at play. And it could, as any complex negotiation is wont to do, fall apart. But make no mistake about it, even if Filner remains in office, his time as a leader of anything is done.
Those of you who want to interpret this analysis as a call on my part for the Mayor to resign are wrong. I‘m saying it doesn’t make any difference. Y’all can smirk about blenders the Mayor bought and other minutiae. There’s real work to be done.
A New Direction
What I will say is that there are lessons to be learned here. The expectation that any one elected official can undo the sins of the past is unrealistic. The Filner debacle demonstrates the limitations of over-reliance on the electoral process as a vehicle for change.
Richard Barrera, who now heads up organized labor in this town, is expected to make a major speech at their annual Labor Day Breakfast.
He’s expected to outline a new direction for that group, charting a course for labor and local progressives focusing on issues rather than strictly working on electing supposedly pro-labor candidates.
The idea is to build a broad movement that unites community, labor and key constituencies will accelerating San Diego’s transformation into a blue region and articulating a program of economic and social justice.
This is in tune with what I talked about last week as far as the future of organized labor and activism in general is concerned. AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka:
“It used to be your issues and my issues. We want it to be our issues, whether it’s a civil rights issue, a human rights issue, a women’s issue, a race issue or a collective bargaining issue.”
I’ll have more to say about this in the coming weeks.
I’m certainly not inclined to waste my activist energy with the likes of the miscreants answering the call for Bob Filner’s head on a stick.
Back to Business as Usual In San Diego?
What is worth watching as this situation unfolds will be the resurrection of the business-as-usual agenda in San Diego. The agendas of the City Council over the next few months will prove to be most telling in this area.
The reconciliation process involving non-housing assets of the once mighty Center City Development Corporation has, I’m told, a $50 million dollar gift to County’s Republican agenda, one that the City Council will turn a blind eye to because the deal was done behind closed doors.
The Downtown Partnership has brought in Michael Colantuono- the same lawyer used by the Tourism Marketing District- in their quest to deny an accurate accounting of their expenditures. The way I hear it some of the city’s Business Improvement Districts and other special collection schemes are rife with corruption going back decades. Residents of Golden Hill and South Park prevailed in battling such malfeasance, proving in court that their district unlawfully used its funds.
And the residents of North Park filed a complaint in Superior Court yesterday challenging the recent demolition and new construction at a Jack in the Box restaurant in their neighborhood because those activities are being done without valid development and construction permits. They’re calling for supporters to show up in court Wednesday, August 14th at
9am. 8:15am, 5th floor (new building), Department 71.
On This Day: 1912 – The first experimental radio license was issued to St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia, PA 1960 – “Echo I,” a balloon satellite, allowed the first two-way telephone conversation by satellite to take place. 1967 – The Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Joan Baez to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. because of her opposition to the Vietnam War.
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Judith Wesling says
In my town back East, years ago, a homeowner who built an addition and wall without permits was told to take it down, and with a deadline. None of this “it’s too far along to stop it now, we could get sued” stuff I hear in San Diego. Sunroad – Jack in the Box – are you listening?
Nice reporting, as usual. I wouldn’t be so quick to call the immediate future “post-Filner.” I see no reason to believe that elections don’t matter: they have for my whole life, they mattered when Sanders was mayor, and they matter here…what we are seeing is pushback to the electoral process. I see no reason to go with the flow in that regard: elections have consequences when the crooks are voted in, but not when the reformers are voted in?
However, lots of groups have ganged up on the mayor, so he could lose. We shall see. He could also win. A few dozen people with gobs of money, but each has only one vote as a citizen. We shall see. I would be very surprised to see a replacement by issue-only voting.
Doug Porter says
For lots of nascent activists and voters, this scandal represents the end of their interest in politics. That’s the real damage here.
Many of them feel their choices are:
a) stand behind a self-admitted monster.
b) stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the same people intent on promoting economic inequality in our society.
I’m saying we don’t need to play that game.
Doug, I believe that is a false dichotomy on their part. Filner was being perhaps too frank — one of his distinguishing characteristics over the years, I think you’ll agree — when he referred to a ‘monster’ inside him. So, who doesn’t have one…St. Francis of Assissi? His alleged behavior hardly amounts to monstrous. To blow that up into the definition of a man who has done so much good for others, all his life, is illogical.
I have had many friends over the years who, when disappointed, give up on politics. I don’t do that because voting is one of the few duties imposed on us. It’s not that hard or tragic, and to interpret it that way is ahistorical.
bob dorn says
Good on you, Cynthia, if the Republicans pursue the mayor let it be on political and legal grounds, so that we all can watch the proceedings. I don’t believe any Democrat could withstand this combination of thugs and money that have launched this media-based attack. The court case might reveal more about San Diego than we’d ever know without it.
And Doug, your line about Filner being “a self-admitted monster” is the kind of rhetoric I associate with those whose case is weak. So is your insistence that Filner can do nothing as mayor, any longer. Which of the accusations recently made has changed your mind about his ability to survive?
What do we have to lose by letting this thing go to its bloody ugly end? Nothing I’ve heard about Filner so far justifies a walkaway. We might just learn more and more about power in San Diego as the caca piles up.
Doug Porter says
I say the walkaway has already happened; Filner has not been seen in the flesh for two weeks now. If he was willing to fight back or even be visibly trying to do something related to his job function perhaps my view would be different. His lack of a defense says to me that he’s looking for a way out.
Katherine Lopez says
Well I have a different scenario for the mayor, and being the fighter he is, I’d like to see him do it. Painted into a corner? It’s just paint. Walk across it and say to the city council, You and I were elected to do a job. I’m not going anywhere, so let’s get back to work. And if those so-called representatives of the people fail to go back to doing their jobs, which is what our taxes are paying for them to do, not all this conspiring and moralizing and wringing of hands, and keep instigating revolt against our duly elected mayor, then it’s time to recall them, too. At a minimum they should be deeply worried about the next election cycle, even if they are termed out. My impression is that a whole lot of people, particularly in the working class districts 4 and 8, will have a long memory on this one, and may sweep the house clean of people they consider traitors. This is not a game. This is not even, at the base, an attack on Bob Filner. This is a war on the people of San Diego. And we are not going to give up our city, and our mayor, not without a fight.
bob dorn says
Katherine: are you sure you’re not Irish?
Katherine Lopez says
Pretty sure! I could check Ancestry.com and get back to you!
Interesting report. Thank you. I’m glad to hear news that Barrera will focus on issues instead of just supporting pro-labor candidates. This situation wouldn’t deter me from staying interested in policy and voting, but it is increasingly difficult to see that elections matter as much as they ought to. Party operatives, political insiders and special interest groups on all sides have too much strength in determining who gets on the ballot and who has a fighting shot at winning. Everyone goes along to get along and voters get to choose from the lucky few who survive the negotiation. Why else did Lori Saldana endorse Filner reluctantly? Why else did Kevin Faulconer and Susan Davis run basically unopposed in their last elections? I realize they aren’t unique, but they are/were the representatives of my neighborhood. Davis is no longer due to redistricting.
You know what I find amazing? We have been covering the story, and I asked…especially early on…if this was the obvious suspects? Though I must admit…given what we knew on Background of the Peters / Saldaña race…and her coming later on with her aproaching Jeff Durfee with women’s complains…even two years ago…tells me all this is self inflicted.
Yup, the bronze statue has clay feet.
I m also reminded of the denial during Watergate…and the so called liberal media behind Watergate.
This is a possibility that I have yet to see progressives ask…self inflicted.
And as to voter disapointment. You know what…look at DC and NSA…that it is where it is. But time to smell the coffee in my opinion and realize Bob Filner was a very flawed candidate, and the refusal of Jeff Durfee to even aknowledge the problem, perhaps even punish Saldaña…is one I have yet to see voiced in this publications, nor do I expect it.
The mark of a solid news organization is to also cover news that might not be to your liking fairly.
“…This is not a game. This is not even, at the base, an attack on (Mayor) Bob Filner. This is a war on the people of San Diego. And we are not going to give up our city, and our mayor, not without a fight.”
ADD, to Doug: Nobody, and I do mean NOBODY – not the people, not the ever-circling vultures-in-waiting, not this city itself – is coming out of this entire civic morass UNDAMAGED. It’s long past that. Believe you me…
John Lawrence says
I hate to see Filner run out of office by a group of people piling on with accusations, none of which rise to the level of an actual crime in my opinion. It is pure and simple a witch hunt. So far Filner has not even fought back. It is not too far-fetched to think some of the accusations against him are spurious. Some of his actions could be interpreted in a different way than people are interpreting them like being playful. And I don’t think asking a woman for a date constitutes sexual harassment.
Mark Bauman says
What! How about restraining them, slobbering on them and rummaging around in their clothes? Have you listened to the actual accounts many of these women have articulated in great detail. Do you really believe that they’re just out to get Bob? How about right wingers like Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi and a host of other Democratic voices. Bob’s approval rating by the good people of San Diego has swirled down the drain, and I hope that you don’t really believe that a majority of San Diego citizens are just plain dumb, misguided or gullible when they call for him to step down. The only person running Bob Filner out of town is Bob Filner.
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman says
Who knows if Doug Porter is right, but each person has to choose how to think about this unfolding drama. Whatever each person chooses, the over-riding fact is that your vote for Mayor Filner last Fall is about to be nullified. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. Never mind the compelling evidence of Filner’s years of doing “so much good for others, all his life,” as Cynthia has so perfectly expressed.
You can do a move-on, like Doug Porter, who egregiously here calls Bob Filner himself “a monster,” when what Filner actually said referred to “the monster within,” presumably, poignantly, to his womanizing compulsion, which he has apologized for and is coming to terms with.
You can join Doug in placing his hopes, incredibly, in Labor Council’s Richard Barrera’s new-era speech when in fact Barrera’s own continuing tenure on the Board of Education has been, well, undistinguished. As in school bond money improperly sent to build the Central Library and then “paid back;” bigger class sizes in every successive year he’s been on the Board; District property sold to developers; major conflict between his Labor role and discharging School Board responsibilities toward teacher-employees who are members of the AFL-CIO.
You can join Righteous Jim Miller who is furious at being betrayed by our number one
Progressive, the Mayor who has displayed macho male frailties — and also threatened the Establishment status quo over only eight months in office in ways that have not happened here in a lifetime. For accuracy, make that 43 long years.
You can choose to see things through the lens of Mr.Bauman who is into the slobbering and rummaging descriptions and seems to be undone by serial accusations of mature women who claim to have been harmed by the Mayor. I personally think this has been a charade of not very good actresses. And the waves of nationwide attacks against Mayor Filner seem suspiciously coordinated and programmed.
I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t know why Doug Porter feels he has to produce one. What happened to watchful waiting? Why all this prognosticating about the post-Filner future? Who says it’s time to move on? I do know that I strongly disagree with Porter’s shocking statement that this purposeful disenfranchisement of the voters — what he now calls “the Filner debacle” — “demonstrates the limitations of over-reliance on the electoral process as a vehicle for change.” Really? Over-reliance on the electoral process as a vehicle for change? Would that include California? National elections? Or is that just an accommodation to our corrupt local politics here in America’s Finest City?
Mark Bauman says
Or, one can choose to see things your way by turning a myopic blind moral eye to Filner’s behavior, and to discount, qualify and/or ignore what so many others see.
This is a little off-subject, but I must say it is a sad commentary on how taxophobic our state has become over the years, to see schools and libraries contending for funds. They shouldn’t be at odds, it doesn’t feel right.
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman says
Your comments are a lot off-subject given the gravity of Doug Porter’s thesis here.
The idea that “activists” working in harmony with one another will carry the day after a duly-elected liberal Mayor, Governor or President has been sidelined by money-driven agendas and processes is a fantasy that only the defeated could entertain.
Take a look at Matt Potter’s story yesterday in the Reader on the history of the Gray Davis recall, the rise of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the role of Darrell Issa.
Using a sex scandal as pretext, the people of San Diego are about to be screwed over
by the usual vested interests, and Doug Porter suggests we find solace and renewed purpose in a Labor Day speech by Richard Barrera? I don’t think so.
Doug Porter says
You’re welcome to disagree with me, Frances, but please don’t let your anger put words in my mouth.
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman says
I am quoting your exact words ,Doug.
You have essentially written off the flawed “electoral process” and exhort the faithful to revert to some communitarian vision of “activism,” under Labor’s umbrella, working together. Like on what? A new stadium? Convention Center expansion?
In the face of a crushing insult to all voters — getting rid of the elected liberal Mayor by any means necessary — this is your default position? Let’s just say it’s disappointing and premature and let it go at that.
And I am very happy about the modest tax increases made in the last election. I do not see this oft-stated equivalence between a for-profit business like a football stadium, and a public library. As Andy commented in his article about it, the extra monies are just starting to trickle in.
I hope there has been a real sea change in attitude, and would like to see the excellent idea in Doug’s piece, about not waiting for change to come from on high, continue. That coalition, however, would be a return to the loyal opposition and scraps for the multitudes, without someone like Filner as Mayor. Reconciliation for the entrenched is subservience on the part of the hoi polloi, you know that’s true. But I agree with Doug that if Filner leaves, we should keep going. If he perseveres, I think his agenda will succeed.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, I have one further thought on the issues vs. public servants route to good government. I think all levels of government need to function in harmony for the best result, and when the citizens have good laws implemented by those who have the opposite view, feet are dragged in implementation and exceptions and waivers are handed out like candy. There is nothing like having someone with a good government and social justice viewpoint at the helm. That goes for other offices as well.
Whoops, did I say “one further”? Well, I forgot to mention the underlying thought: people do not want to live as governors themselves. They have other things to do, and most just want the bureaucrats to run the government well so they can run their own businesses and lives without also constantly worrying about making up laws via initiative and proposition. There is a reason why legislators are also called lawmakers. That is their job.