For the twelve days of Christmas I give you: The madness of 2013, one month at a time-A month by month recap of stories that appeared in the Starting Line in the past year.
By Doug Porter
#1 Apologies to John Cleese
In response to reader requests, I’m doing my best to keep this Filner falderal all in perspective. Not every development in this saga is a screaming headline kinda deal. So I’ll limit my remarks in keeping with what I see is the actual significance of events in yesterday’s San Diego edition of the Monty Python Media Circus. (h/t My Mom)
Ex-Mayor Sanders went on TV to say Filner’s gotta go. It’s bad for business, said the current head of the Chamber of Commerce, citing staffing cutbacks with the local tourism marketing effort.
Then there’s the hubbub over the sexual harassment training claims made by Filner legal beagle Harvey Berger. I can find no record anywhere of Bob Filner saying he was denied or did not receive training. But that’s how it’s being reported in the media.
Acting as the Mayor’s attorney, Berger’s leaving no stone unturned, including challenging the position of the City Attorney who says the city is not liable for Filner’s actions. Here’s honest reporting, from Politico:
The attorney for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner says the city could well be liable for “failing to prevent harassment” in the sexual harassment lawsuit brought against its mayor.
“If there is any liability at all, the City will almost certainly be liable,” Filner’s attorney, Harvey Berger, wrote in a letter Monday to San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith…
…Berger’s letter acknowledged that a lack of sexual harassment training does not excuse inappropriate behavior, and he even threw in a slightly altered line from Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” song: “You don’t need a weatherperson to tell you which way the wind blows.”
Also it’s now apparent that Mayor Filner, who’s been attending conferences of Iranian exiles in Paris for several years, was misled about the tax-exempt status of the sponsoring group that paid his airfare. He’s promised to repay what the law requires, but that’s not good enough for the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, which is demanding that he also cover the costs of his security detail.
And if you haven’t come out publicly for Filner to resign, even if you’ve denounced his actions, you could be in trouble. That’s the case with Councilwoman Marty Emerald, who’s now getting flack via a “Recall” page posted on Facebo
#2 So Many Questions…
UT-San Diego ran a lengthy interview with Lee Burdick on Sunday, the Mayor’s latest chief of staff that actually made her (and by default the administration) sound reasonable. It was damn sweet of them to do so after putting columnist Logan Jenkins on the front page last week suggesting all the key players left at City Hall were some kind of quislings and urging them to resign. To hear Jenkins tell it, the Mayor’s so guilty he doesn’t even deserve a lawyer.
Here’s a snippet of the Burdick interview (Do read the whole thing!):
Q: At least one critic of Walt Ekard’s decision to accept a job as Filner’s chief operating officer described it as “enabling a monster.” Do you consider yourself enabling a monster?
BURDICK: “No, I do not. I would never characterize the mayor as a monster and anybody who does is engaging in the worst form of hyperbole. He was elected by the citizens of San Diego because of the values and the vision he presented and I am standing up for those values and that vision. I know that the legal process and the mayor’s defense is going to play itself in time and we’re going to know the right thing to do at the right time. But I refuse to jump to conclusions because the mayor may have a challenging personality, that he’s done anything wrong. I just refuse to go there. I think that’s contrary to his right to confront his accusers, which he has not done, and to build an evidentiary record on which a fair and just decision can be based.”
Then there’s the Voice of San Diego interview with former Filner chief of staff Vince Hall. I was biting my tongue so hard while reading it I thought it’d bleed. What a self-serving load of crap:
Hall said that he had long heard infidelity rumors involving Filner, but McCormack’s comment in the June 20 staff meeting was the first time he had heard any allegations of sexual harassment against the mayor from his staff.
Hall, who had worked for the mayor on and off since the late 1980s, said all he heard before becoming mayoral chief of staff was that Filner was a “womanizer” and that he never confronted him on any of those rumors.
“The mayor was my supervisor,” he said. “We never had a personal conversation about any personal issue.”
I’m wondering if any of the folks (some of whom are amongst the Mayor’s accusers) who actually had to work with this man will step up and refute this balderdash. From what I hear, (and, yes I’ve heard plenty, from multiple sources) the truth of the matter is in another universe from the city hall world Hall described. Sadly, I got all this info on background some time ago, so all I can do is jump up and down and flap my arms.
#3 Here Are Some Made Up Stories…
Since I can see that many ‘professional’ journalists are working so hard on the Filner story, I have some predictions for BREAKING NEWS next week:
- Monday: San Diego State wrestling team will appear on KPBS, saying Filner’s giving headlocks a bad name. Trent Seibert of UT-San Diego will report City sanitation engineers are saying Mayor’s garbage stinks.
- Tuesday: Logan Jennings at UT-San Diego will feature interviews with prominent Catholics saying Filner can’t be saved and is going straight to hell. 10News will file a report about Jihadists Against Filner’s fundraising efforts in the recall campaign. Unitarians have no comment over at KUSI.
- Wednesday: CycloSDias bike event organizers will tell VOSD they have agreed to festoon route with nooses hanging from lampposts to prove they really, really want Filner to resign. City Beat will announce contest for ‘Best Martin Luther King Quote That Seems Relevant to Bob Filner These Days’.
- Thursday: The Restaurant Association will hold a presser announcing ‘No Beef for Bob’campaign designed to reassure patrons afraid the Mayor might pop up at their favorite eatery and do something disgusting. MicroBrewers will chime in, saying current climate in San Diego is making local beers too bitter.
- Friday: Local comedy clubs will be featured in UT-San Diego entertainment section, complaining business is down due to all the good jokes being told on TV. VOSD will run the ‘mother of all string charts’ detailing connections between everybody who hasn’t called for a Filner resignation. (SDFP will get left off)
#4 My Idea for Getting Filner to Quit
Assuming our Mayor has a problem and it truly is in the best interests of our city for him to resign, how does one get him to step aside?
The answer is not to threaten him in what he sees as his role of defender of the downtrodden.
You might, on the other hand, get away with promising that good governance will occur without him. Say it in a believable fashion (i.e., anybody but Todd Gloria or Jan Goldsmith mouthing the words), give Filner a way out that doesn’t increase (or at least abates) his legal problems and he could be gone.
The real work here would be defining good governance. A package of proposals and a commitment to back them, combined with a promise to not simply restock city hall with Jerry Sanders’ cronies might just do the trick
It wouldn’t be a fast process, but it’d be faster than any of the other choices available.
And it ain’t gonna happen.
Because the people pulling the strings here (Donna Frye, et. al., are really no longer players) won’t let it happen. His bad behavior has been a convenient excuse; the Recall Filner website domain registrations were done more than seven months ago.
Over the next few weeks we’ll see a Pandora’s box of bad policy being threatened (or enacted) in the hope Filner will back down. It’s gonna be almost as cringe inducing as watching those assorted women describe his conduct.
It’ll be like “Resign Bob or we’ll shoot this cute kitty”. Not literally; maybe something more subtle, like bulldozing BalboaPark. Or one of Carl DeMaio’s big donors announcing that he’s laying off employees because nobody wants to vacation here. You get the picture…
Speaking of dear Carl, word on the streets is that the (GOP leaning) Tarrance Group is polling around town looking to see if voters are sufficiently incensed to swallow their fears of the Dark Lord.
#5 So Many Conspiracies, So Little Time
All of this brings me to today’s really big news. Our local daily fishwrap has, in so many words, noticed that we at SDFP exist. (At least we seem to meet all the criteria better than any other media in this town.) My reaction is below the quote.
From today’s editorial, entitled Mayor Grabby Grabby’s Inventive Defenders:
It doesn’t take long for followers of local social media and news websites to come upon defenders of Mayor Bob Filner offering conspiracy theories to explain his current troubles. Not just commenters but some San Diego alternative journalists — especially self-styled “progressives” — suggest the real reason Filner is facing sharp criticism is because he has crossed powerful downtown business interests.
We wonder what these apologists for horrible behavior would say if they saw the Tuesday news conference at which a 10th woman, licensed vocational nurse Michelle Tyler, spoke emotionally about Filner’s unwanted advances after she had asked him to help an injured former Marine get help with the Veterans Affairs department.
Like many San Diegans, my point of view on hizzoner has evolved as the picture has become clearer. I hate the sins, but not the sinner. And because I truly care about what happens to the city, I’m not willing to subscribe to the “everybody knows” fan club.
I’m not happy to have Bob Filner, the failed human being, in a position of power. It’s obvious he’s a masher. The fact that he got this far along in life without facing the consequences of his actions, speaks volumes about how failed the political process is.
But there he is, elected by the people. He can be removed by the courts (possibly) and via recall election. He can be sued, many times over, apparently.
As former Mayor Jerry Sanders said, quitting is not in his DNA. And questioning the motives of those who would profit from his resignation isn’t conspiracy theory.
UT-San Diego publisher Doug Manchester thinks he can get away violating the law scott free. That’s a proven fact. Look at his hotel in Del Mar. Look at the threats made when city inspectors wouldn’t ignore his unlawful construction in Mission Valley. Look at how the Centre City Development Corp. siphoned off money meant for affordable housing in San Diego. Look at San Diego’s history of bad actors who’ve screwed this town supported by our elected officials and ignored by the likes of the UT.
This isn’t conspiracy. This is reality. Not one of the people calling for Filner’s resignation has even addressed this issue. That might be evidence of a conspiracy.
Can we have good governance without Bob Filner? Filner’s ego stands in the way of his being able to answer that question. That doesn’t mean the rest of us should ignore it.
I draw the line at Trial by Press Conference. Or Trial by Twitter. And I’m not going to ignore the actions of those who stand to benefit from resignation.
#6 Are You Now or Have You Ever Been (A Filner Supporter)?
Here’s an interesting quote taken from localhistories.org about the Salem witch trials:
One of the most horrific aspects of the witch hysteria was that if you were accused and you confessed your life was spared. However if you were accused and you denied the charge but were then convicted you were hanged. Furthermore if you expressed skepticism about the witch trials you put yourself in danger. You might be accused to being a witch.
Politicos and union leaders from around the region were inundated with emails yesterday from the newspaper’s reporters yesterday demanding to know, as one union leader put it, “are you now or have you ever been a Filner supporter. And have you called for his resignation yet?”
No doubt inquiring vigilantes want to know… Like the folks who circulated links to old pro-Filner stories on social media, hoping that people would look past the dateline and send hate mail. And then there were the Trolls seeking to heap shame upon everybody who ever supported the Democratic candidate for Mayor in San Diego in 2012.
— Ryan Clumpner (@RyanClumpner) August 8, 2013
#7 Remember the….?
Back in the glory days of San Diego when we had two newspapers (right wing and more right wing) the morning Union weighed in on the North Koreans seizure of the USS Pueblo and its crew by running a daily box reminding readers how long it had been since the heinous act took place and by implication what a weenie President Johnson was for not dropping nukes on them.
Now the UT-San Diego is running it’s daily box of shame reminding us all how long the Filner scandal has been going on without the Labor Council calling on the Mayor to resign. Reminding us that unions are bad. Because unions must support sexual harassment. Because anybody who hasn’t called for the mayor to resign is a bad citizen. Because the gears of the Lynchester propaganda machine demand it…
Except that the UT-San Diego hasn’t made that call either. So I’ve created this handy-dandy box to remind everybody just what hypocrites they are…
#8 Shooting Into A Barrel Full of Fish
As we move into the second month of Filner’s follies, the news media continues figuratively shooting into a barrel full of fish and calling it reportage.
Liam Dillon over at Voice of San Diego is up with The Mayor’s Summer of Distortion, which has already garnered criticism in the twitterverse for not going back further in time.
CNN is up with a report that the Mayor is locked out of his office, citing KFMB as as a source.
The Filner recall effort is getting loads of free coverage from UT-San Diego. And 10News is busy touting it’s acquisition of mayoral credit card statements showing he spent $511.06 at the Westgate hotel in 2013.
Team 10 has also obtained some of the mayor’s credit statements that beg the question, was he wining and dining women on the taxpayer’s dime?…
After some digging, Team 10 obtained some of the mayor’s corporate credit card statements from parts of January, February and May of this year, detailing 6 different transactions at the Westgate Plaza Hotel between January 21 and February 7, then two more on May 10 and May 12 for a grand total of $511.06.
Still unclear: what was purchased or who it was purchased for.
Given that the room rate for a basic 400 sq. ft. room at the Westgate on Orbitz is $224.00, there is likely little truth to the speculation rampant in the media that Filner was bedding down his conquests at the hotel.
Still, there are reports that the Westgate is part of a burgeoning series of investigations involving hizzoner. Given the paucity of facts being reported about the Westgate/Filner connections, I feel obligated to suggest another possible scenario.
On Friday I received a call from a reliable source alerting me to reports about the changing of locks at the mayor’s offices.
The twitter feeds of local reporters and observers were going nuts on this latest tidbit… was there some sort of palace coup in progress?…was the Mayor’s chief of staff in cahoots with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith?…would Filner be allowed back in his office?
‘None of the above’ said Lee Burdick in response to numerous inquiries, who said locks were being changed as a precaution to protect ‘evidence’ from being removed or tampered with while the Mayor was away.
Don Bauder over at the SD Reader came up with a similar story to what I’d heard and reported it as rumor. My source swears they didn’t talk to him, for what it’s worth.
One of the rumors making the Twitter circles today (Aug. 9) is that Homeland Security has caught a person or persons eavesdropping on the mayor’s office with a directional microphone from a room at the Westgate Hotel.
Blogger Pat Flannery chimed in, responding to Bauder’s report:
That malicious rumor was started by somebody who is not on Twitter and who knows very little about it. It was an awkward attempt to intimidate Lee Burdick by making her believe that she is being stalked. I suspect you got your information from Donna Frye because I know of one other person who was fed the same false rumor by that source.
My source wasn’t Donna Frye. As bizarre as the whole scenario seems, changing the locks due to a listening device makes more sense that protecting the evidence. Try as I might, however, I could not come up with another human being to confirm the story.
#9 It’s All Downhill From Here
We certainly have no reason to complain about being bored in San Diego during the dog days of August. In addition to not having to suffer through the heat and humidity plaguing much of the country, we have own political drama playing large at a time when others are limited to watching last winter’s episodes of House of Cards.
The latest developments include the official launch of the Recall Filner campaign, a slo-mo wanna-be palace coup and supporters of at least one well known politician taking steps to get in position for any imminent mayoral campaign.
Sunday saw organizers of the recall campaign ensconced in donated space at the Town and Country Hotel conducting training for signature gatherers. There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that UT-San Diego’s publisher Doug Manchester paid for the Chargers’ cheerleaders to appear. Those cheering on the volunteers from the sidelines were actually journalists, distracted from their role as chroniclers of history by the righteous indignation in the air.
There was no mention in the news media of the hotel owner’s vested interest in getting rid of Mayor Filner. Owner Terry Brown is chairman of the San Diego Tourism Marketing Association, the group Filner forced to sign an agreement protecting taxpayers from liability via the group’s “fee” tax collection system.
He and his cronies were among the first to suffer under the Mayor’s no-more-business-as-usual program. Now we’re asked to believe that, after a lifetime of supporting GOP policies and programs that reinforce the subordinate position of women in society, suddenly our city’s Republican businessman types are signed on to the “non-partisan” issue of fighting sexual harassment.
Later in the day the faithful traveled to city hall for the “Freedom From Filner” rally. Again, there were no UT-San Diego-sponsored cheerleaders, but they didn’t need any. I defy anybody to find another local political event in the last fifty years that received more pre- and post rally coverage.
The local fishwrap gushed:
At noon, they trained volunteers in the ballroom of a Mission Valley hotel. By midafternoon, about 800 started a rally outside City Hall, where celebrity attorney Gloria Allred led chants of “Bob Must Go!” They then marched through downtown San Diego, waving signs — “Bob Feel-Her Must Resign” — and stepping to a bagpipe’s whirling strains.
There did seem to be room for debate as to how successful the rally actually was. The 800 participants shrank to 400 in the LA Times, 300 at10News and 200 at Reuters.
I watched it live-streamed via the local NBC affiliate and believe the LA Times number to be the most accurate, if you include the small army of reporters on the scene. One thing struck me from the TV coverage, the pictures on Twitter and Instagram: I haven’t seen so many white people at a downtown rally since Carl DeMaio’s campaign for Mayor.
The rally got off to a shaky start:
Recall rally is seriously off the rails. Playing right into Filner supporters’ hand. Way off message.
— David Rolland (@drolland) August 18, 2013
From the fishwrap:
During the rally outside City Hall, the focus occasionally blurred.
On the edge of the crowd, Mystie Bollaert of Carlsbad offered petitions demanding Filner’s recall — plus repeal of the Affordable Care Act, removal of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and impeachment of President Barack Obama.
Cox, the Rancho Santa Fe lawyer, took the podium to urge Filner’s ouster “on behalf of my four daughters” — and to restructure the state Legislature.
Donors to the Filner mayoral campaign, unions and legislators were all tarred from the podium. But it didn’t matter. The local news media by-and-large followed the script and downplayed that part of the program.
Attorney Gloria Allred took the podium and restored the focus of the event. Her oratory channeling the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream speech” was the focus of local TV coverage.
The LA Times cast a skeptical eye on the momentum of the recall movement:
“Everyone wants things resolved in 42 minutes plus a commercial break, but real life doesn’t usually comply,” said Carl Luna, political science professor at San Diego Mesa College…
…All six recall movements against San Diego mayors have failed to reach the ballot. In addition, the city’s recall laws have legal problems, the city attorney has said, and could be challenged in court, potentially scuttling the recall movement against Filner even if sufficient signatures were gathered.
#10 The Daily Fishwrap Gets Religion
After eight months of proselytizing, watchdogging and editorializing, the UT-San Diego editorial board has decided it’s time to come out of the closet and demand Mayor Bob Filner’s resignation.
I hope you didn’t just take a big swig of coffee:
We did not join the early flood of calls for his resignation because of the value we place on the electoral process. Like it or not, a majority of San Diego voters put him in office. Our first editorial on the sexual-harassment scandal, published July 12, argued that he deserved “due process.” We also believed that for us to join the chorus would have created an unnecessary distraction.
Yes, indeed San Diego, today we learned that the newspaper that ran rigged polls favoring GOP candidates and tried to pass them off as news; the newspaper that published a special front page editorial five months before the election, and the same newspaper that warned us about the end of civilization as we know it should a Black man be re-elected as president places a value on the electoral process.
What would that value be? Would it be the sum of the difference in ad rates offered to candidates favored by the publisher? Would it be the fines less likely to be imposed on ‘Papa’ Doug Manchester’s under-the-table development schemes?
Now that their sentiments are out in the open, it’s ‘anything goes’. Consider this gem from columnist Logan Jenkins today:
Filner, it’s fair to say, learned his liberal politics from the crib.
Before World War II, Joseph Filner worked in his parents’ Pittsburgh bakery, eventually becoming a union organizer. In the early ’40s, he was secretary of the local Communist Party, according to a newspaper report.
#11 Pretenders to the Crown
And you thought getting rid of the last Mayor was a circus? Wait until you see the field of dreamers looking to replace him on November 19th.
The list of candidates filing with the city clerk’s office about their intention to vie for the top job in San Diego grew to thirteen yesterday and includes only one well known politico, Nathan Fletcher.
Telephone polls are being conducted, one of them asking questions about a potential candidate who doesn’t even live in the city of San Diego. Readers over at SDRostra, the local conserve blog, report being polled about Matt Romney, son of former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The younger Romney doesn’t even live within the city limits; he resides in the 4S Ranch development north of Rancho Penasquitos.
Among the more interesting questions being asked by poll takers are questions linking the timing of the election to passage of a city-wide living wage ordinance. That same poll, believed to have been paid for by a labor union, also asked about City Councilman David Alvarez—somebody who’s not been the subject of much speculation when it comes to mayoral candidacies.
Alvarez, along with Todd Gloria, was on a short list of candidates being discussed at a recent labor council meeting. People that I talked with from Barrio Logan about the possibility of an Alvarez candidacy were generally both surprised and supportive of the idea, saying he’d be a good choice to keep Mayor Filner’s neighborhood –centric vision for the city alive.
While the decision on who gets labor’s nod won’t be made until September 6th, sources tell me that former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, whose candidacy has been actively promoted by former Labor Council leader Lorena Gonzalez, is unlikely to garner an endorsement from that group.
Early rumors asserting that Fletcher’s candidacy was assured of labor’s support appear to have angered many in the group, which struggled mightily to maintain a disciplined and united front in the face of much external pressure against its ‘due process’ stand as demands grew for Mayor Bob Filner’s resignation or recall.
The elephant in the room as far as the election is concerned is former City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who continues to send mixed messages over whether or not he’ll abandon his campaign for Rep. Scott Peters’ seat.
DeMaio held a press conference yesterday to announce his ‘Integrity First Plan’, an event/plan reminiscent of the many he sponsored during his days and councilman and mayoral candidate. Those gatherings (and this one) consisted of handing out a slick-looking document, with ‘bold reforms’ and promising these actions would save us all from whatever problem was at hand.
This particular press event didn’t quite follow the past script, however, as he was peppered with questions stemming from allegations about acts of self-gratification that have been reported lately. After telling the media he’d be making a decision on whether or not to run for mayor over the weekend, DeMaio fled to the safety of his SUV.
#12 Orders from on High at UT-San Diego
In case you missed the news, Bob Filner’s days as Mayor will be coming to a close this week. The City Council went into closed session, voted to accept a deal worked out in mediation, played cards for 75 minutes, and came back to announce the results.
The soon-to-be ex-Mayor came to the front of the room and gave a rambling speech on Friday.
The announced date for the resignation to take effect is Friday, August 30th. By postponing the inevitable a week into the future, the schedule for future special election(s) was moved up in a manner more favorable to a higher voter turnout. This could turn out to be one small last gift to the people of San Diego from hizzoner.
Today’s UT-San Diego hails City Attorney Jan Goldsmith as one of the four citizens who ‘saved’ the city. While making his victory laps around town this morning, Goldsmith appeared on NBC7/39, telling us about how it’d been 8 months of tough work…
Wait? Does that mean his “investigation” started before the scandal? I’m sure it was just a mental slip up. Right?
Now that the Most.Horrible.Era.In.San.
From down-low in the flood plains of Mission Valley, Doug Manchester’s minions are leading the charge, starting out with editorial advocacy of a road map for what the future must hold in order for America’s Finest City to redeem itself:
According to the UT, we need to:
- Get back to the business of screwing government employees. Around here we call that ‘managed competition’, a process where city employees are encouraged to participate in the elimination of city services via the threat of privatization.
- Get’er done with the Convention Center Expansion. Nothing says good government like a shiny new building built on a sinking waterfront to meet the demands of a shrinking industry.
- Build a paid parking garage in Balboa Park. A local rich guy with a legacy complex wants it. They want his money for lots of other projects and it fits in nicely with plans to convert much of the rest of the parking in the area to paid.
- Build a new Charger stadium. Yes, we need less pothole filling and more luxury boxes so we can watch over-rated quarterbacks throw interceptions. Ugh.
On This Day: 1808 – The U.S. prohibited import of slaves from Africa. 1967 – Sonny and Cher were barred from the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, CA, for their support of the Sunset Strip rioters. 1975 – The magazine “Popular Electronics” announced the invention of a personal computer called Altair. MITS, using an Intel microprocessor, developed the computer.
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Here’s the rest of this series:
July * San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s World Starts to Fall Apart
June *Issa’s Joe McCarthy Imitation, DeMaio’s Koch Connection and #filnereverywhere
May * Bigger Than Watergate, Dumber Than Obamacare and More Dangerous Than a Leftist Bagman
April * Cochella (Twice), Taxes, Terrorists, and Testing
March *Sequestration, Taxifornication, Misinformation, and the Great Tourism Recession in San Diego
February * Guns, Governors, God and the Gipper
January * Ted Nugent’s Guns, Obama’s Gays, Manchester’s Minions and Huffpost’s Sideboobs