I’m not surprised that the first six months of Bob Filner’s tenure as the top elected official in America’s Finest City have been tumultuous.
After all, San Diegans elected a progressive Democrat after years of rule by mostly moderate Republicans. The local GOP leadership opted to back a more radical flavor of conservative in Carl DeMaio and, as a result, lost.
That’s been a bitter pill for them to swallow, and you could hardly characterize them as gracious losers. And, in a way, you can hardly blame them. Losing the election has cost their supporters the kind of insider access needed to assure that their financial interests take priority over public concerns.
The UT-San Diego has run (nearly) weekly editorials, bleating about one (often imagined) offense after another. The city’s hoteliers, acted as a proxy for the entire downtown-first gang, engaged in a protracted tantrum, and threatened to ruin San Diego’s tourism economy unless they were given unfettered access to tax revenues (er, fees) to spend as they saw fit.
And the nattering nabobs of negativism in the local 2012 losers’ circle have been desperately trying to float the idea of funding a recall of Mayor Filner, despite the long odds against success and the high probability of, according to a Voice of San Diego story, “a brutal five- to eight-month process that will consume untold millions of public and private dollars and grind municipal government to a chaotic halt.”
Here are four stories ripped from the news providing substance to the argument that, at last, we have a Mayor who gives a damn about what people in this city actually want.
Peace Breaks Out at City Hall
Previous administrations have exploited concerns over pension indebtedness and budgetary shortfalls caused by the great recession, using city employees as a public whipping boy for political gain.
One need look no further that former Mayor Jerry Sanders’ refusal to negotiate with the Police Officer’s Association during the Proposition B campaign to understand just how egregious these political games have been for everybody except a small group of politicians.
The proposed labor pacts will save taxpayers $60 million in pension plan payments in the first three years, according to Mayor Filner. You know it was a big deal because the press release coming from the Mayor’s office had three, count ‘em, three, exclamation points in the headline.
“This is the first time the City has ever achieved five-year agreements with any labor organization, and to achieve this with all six labor organization is historic,” the Mayor said. “This is a great day for taxpayers, for employees, for the City and for the City’s retirement system. We are going to use the money that would have gone to the pension fund on services, infrastructure repair and reducing our reliance on one-time funds to balance the budget.”
The five-year agreements would comply with Proposition B’s restrictions on pensionable pay increases, meaning any increases in compensation will not impact San Diego’s pension obligations.
“This deal accomplishes exactly what Proposition B had set out to accomplish when it was chaptered into the City’s Charter on July 20, 2012,” the Mayor said. “Even if it is struck down by the courts, we have accomplished the promised $1 billion savings!”
Here’s a copy of the deal. City employees are granted the right to re-open discussions about additional pay increases after the first three years have passed. After ratification by each labor organization, the contracts will be presented to the City Council for ratification.
Filner Gives a Sh*t
Or at least he cares about the bird poop plaguing La Jolla. The Mayor has issued an “Emergency Finding” under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 stating that the La Jolla bird waste is a public health hazard that threatens public health, safety and welfare.
Rather than turn this issue into an opportunity to complain about odious government regulations and the wild-eyed environmentalists that run this state, Filner simply researched the rules and came up with a solution.
From NBC San Diego 7News:
On Friday evening, Filner announced that a plan for solving the La Jolla odor issues would be put in place following the Memorial Day weekend.
Filner says he’s been working closely with San Diego City councilmember Sherri Lightner on this matter.
The pair has now been told by regulatory agencies that the city can begin implementing a plan that will neutralize the chemicals and organisms – including the overwhelming bird guano – causing the stench permeating the air around the cliffs east of La Jolla Cove.
The Streets Belong to the People
This town has been car-centric for so long that it’s ridiculous. Some of you may have noticed small but significant changes around various streets of San Diego, changes designed to give some recognition to bicyclists.
Filner held a press conference at the intersection of Montezuma Road and Collwood Boulevard in the College Area. In 2012, a man was killed in an accident at the intersection. Along with the leaders of BikeSD and the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, Filner has officially unveiled a new project and announced more details of what’s to come in plans to make shared roads a reality in San Diego.
Green lanes, meant to slow drivers down and make them more aware of the shared road are already in place at several different intersections including Balboa Avenue and Genessee Avenue, along Nimitz Boulevard in Point Loma, along Harbor Drive in front of the Convention Center.
The Mayor has lent city support for CicloSDias, an August 11th event modeled after the very successful Ciclovías events that started in Bogotá, Colombia over thirty years ago as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets. For one day selected city streets in various neighborhoods throughout central San Diego will be car free, with activities along the route, shops and restaurants open for business and neighbors and friends from all over coming together to make the streets come alive.
Doors Are Opening at City Hall
Some folks in the local media seem to have taken up the sport of tracking Filner’s foibles, of which we’d guess there must be a few. Apparently he’s hard to work for, as the departure of several staff members over the past months would indicate. It’s taken too long for his PR department to get up to a standard that keeps local reporters satisfied. And he can be curt, a real sonofabitch who doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
But then there’s this article in the San Diego City Beat, about how environmentalists finally have meaningful access to City Hall.
Environmental-justice leader Diane Takvorian is finally being heard
In June 2012, environmentalist Nicole Capretz met with aides to then-San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders to talk about the Quail Brush power plant proposed for near Mission Trails Regional Park. Sanders’ chief of staff, Julie Dubick, and senior policy advisor Aimee Faucett listened to her concerns about how the plant should be a sustainable-energy project that doesn’t burn fossil fuels.
Later that month, news broke about another possible project, the North City Power Plant in University City. The city had been working for more than 16 months with one bidder, and city staff had compiled a 206-page report on the project. Capretz says Sanders’ aides didn’t even bother to mention it during their meeting.
Ever since gold-rusher and businessman Alonzo Horton set up New Town along San Diego’s harbor in the 19th century, the city has been focused on improvements within 20 blocks of the waterfront, San Diego Mesa College political-science professor Carl Luna says. But Filner’s approach seems to shift away from a Downtown mentality. Takvorian says the mayor’s recently released budget proposal is one of the first times a mayor has highlighted community plans. When Filner developed a formal vision for the Port of San Diego, which was presented to the city earlier this year, he wanted input before finalizing it, Takvorian said. So EHC [Environmental Health Coalition] offered strategies about how to make the port freer of diesel pollution. Takvorian says that kind of planning was groundbreaking, and even though her organization has monitored the port for more than 20 years, no city official has taken that kind of initiative.
Portions of this story were originally posted at The San Diego Free Press.