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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