She gave them the question beforehand because she wanted all four of the mayoral candidates to be prepared for their interview.

Susan Tinsky, one of San Diego’s most prominent affordable housing advocates, asked the candidates about the proposed Convention Center expansion and housing. Specifically, Tinsky wanted to know where all the people who received the low-wage tourism jobs generated by the expansion would live in a region with such high housing prices.

Three of the candidates, Republicans Carl DeMaio and Bonnie Dumanis and former Republican Nathan Fletcher, answered by talking about the economic development that the Convention Center expansion would bring, not tourism jobs vs. housing affordability, Tinsky said.

Democratic Congressman Bob Filner, she said, responded by talking about the importance of making affordable housing a greater part of the city’s infrastructure plans.

“You can tell a lot about the framing in how they come back to you,” Tinsky said.

It’s not just housing. Filner has a distinct take on many of the core questions in the mayor’s race. His three rivals for the most part don’t vary on the big issues and instead duke it out over how to get the same things done. For proof, check out our mayoral candidate scorecard. DeMaio, Dumanis and Fletcher all support a pension reform initiative, a ban on mandating union-friendly contract deals, outsourcing city services and the Convention Center expansion plan. Filner opposes all of them.

I started asking Filner about the scorecard, but he stopped me before I finished my question.

“I’m different than all the other three,” Filner said. “Guess what? I’m the Democrat. They’re Republicans.”

Filner’s answer played into the stereotype of his campaign platform: People should vote for him because he’s a Democrat. But the depth of Filner’s difference runs deeper than party.

It’s in how he pitches himself. Dumanis brags about throwing people in jail as the district attorney. Filner brags about going to jail during the civil rights movement.

It’s in his approach and position on issues. The affordable housing example shows that he comes from a different place than his opponents. Filner has said he supports the idea behind redevelopment: focused, targeted, investment in downtrodden neighborhoods. But he disliked San Diego’s emphasis on downtown redevelopment. Every other mayoral candidate decried the recent death of redevelopment as a major hit to the city’s economic development program. Filner celebrated it as a blow to downtown insiders, and hoped it would allow the city to focus on needier neighborhoods outside downtown.

And it’s in the kind of people he’d surround himself with once in office. Environmental, neighborhood, open government and renewable energy advocates would have a seat at the table that they haven’t had previously, Filner said.

“I’m going to listen to different people,” he said. “I’m going to make different appointments. We’re going to have different advisors. We’re going to listen to the neighborhoods.”

He listed Environmental Health Coalition head Diane Takvorian, solar energy booster Bill Powers and former City Councilwoman Donna Frye as three examples.

Filner’s approach inspires confidence among these kinds of groups even when on the surface their ideals might conflict with his policies. Filner’s economic development strategy relies on massive development of San Diego’s port. Though Filner has laid out few details on his plan, an expansion would likely affect the surrounding port neighborhoods of Barrio Logan and Logan Heights, whose residents continue to push back against industry expansion.

Nicole Capretz, a director at Takvorian’s Environmental Health Coalition, which advocates for public health issues, said she wasn’t concerned about Filner’s jobs plan. She knew Filner would address her organization’s point of view because they would be in the room with Filner when he worked out the plan’s specifics.

“We’d have his ear,” Capretz said.

The biggest difference between Filner and other candidates and recent City Hall history, said political scientist Vlad Kogan, is that Filner rejects tourism as the city’s primary economic development strategy in favor of greater industry at the port.

“He’s not holding up tourism as an idol,” Kogan said.

Still, Kogan said he isn’t sure how much Filner’s difference would translate into a different City Hall. Filner hasn’t provided much more than a broad vision for how he’d change San Diego.

“I still have no idea what he’s going to do and how the hell he’s going to do it,” Kogan said.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

    26 comments
    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    You don't need to be an authority to see the problem, businesses are quite free in telling us why they are not coming here, or why they are leaving. Platitudes and fuzzy indistinct plans that lack a logic behind them are not the answer, even if they come from someone who is not DeMaio.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    You don't need to be an authority to see the problem, businesses are quite free in telling us why they are not coming here, or why they are leaving. Platitudes and fuzzy indistinct plans that lack a logic behind them are not the answer, even if they come from someone who is not DeMaio.

    Omar Passons
    Omar Passons subscribermember

    being strangled by national and economic winds as easily as tourism is. And I want to recognize that things like Start-up Circle and the various tech incubators in town are yielding results in a new kind of economy. DeMaio has tapped into a certain type of visceral frustration amongst citizens and is leveraging it to his political benefit. But I want someone who is looking at this picture more broadly and willing to acknowledge that our problems can't be reduced to one letter of the alphabet repeated three times.

    omarpassons
    omarpassons

    being strangled by national and economic winds as easily as tourism is. And I want to recognize that things like Start-up Circle and the various tech incubators in town are yielding results in a new kind of economy. DeMaio has tapped into a certain type of visceral frustration amongst citizens and is leveraging it to his political benefit. But I want someone who is looking at this picture more broadly and willing to acknowledge that our problems can't be reduced to one letter of the alphabet repeated three times.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    The pension scheme was bi-partisan but you already knew that.

    mgland
    mgland

    The pension scheme was bi-partisan but you already knew that.

    Omar Passons
    Omar Passons subscribermember

    Agree with SDGuy on diversifying. Jim, I'm not sure we can afford not to walk and chew gum at the same time on this. Need for reform must not hijack everything else. If these policies could be implemented overnight then perhaps we could wait, but they take months and years to implement, so fixing one doesn't require waiting on the other.

    omarpassons
    omarpassons

    Agree with SDGuy on diversifying. Jim, I'm not sure we can afford not to walk and chew gum at the same time on this. Need for reform must not hijack everything else. If these policies could be implemented overnight then perhaps we could wait, but they take months and years to implement, so fixing one doesn't require waiting on the other.

    Mel Shapiro
    Mel Shapiro subscribermember

    All 4 candidaes were invited to a forum on historic preservtion yesterday. Filner was the only one who showed up. Obvioulsy, they don't believe in historic preservation. The news media did not report on this meeting.

    melshap
    melshap

    All 4 candidaes were invited to a forum on historic preservtion yesterday. Filner was the only one who showed up. Obvioulsy, they don't believe in historic preservation. The news media did not report on this meeting.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    The greatest irony to me with respect to Filner v. the Republican establishment, which I think includes Mr. Fletcher no matter what he says, is that all of the problems many point to over the past 30 years in San Diego, including bad decisions on the pension system, occurred under ostensibly non-partisan, but in fact Republican mayors. (The last Democrat mayor left office in 1992 and was succeeded by a very Republican mayor who presided over many of the major pension changes.) Maybe it's time for change.

    B Chris Brewster
    B Chris Brewster

    The greatest irony to me with respect to Filner v. the Republican establishment, which I think includes Mr. Fletcher no matter what he says, is that all of the problems many point to over the past 30 years in San Diego, including bad decisions on the pension system, occurred under ostensibly non-partisan, but in fact Republican mayors. (The last Democrat mayor left office in 1992 and was succeeded by a very Republican mayor who presided over many of the major pension changes.) Maybe it's time for change.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    It's a nice dream, but so much that is wrong has to be fixed before we can attract more business that tourism is really the only option for us.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    It's a nice dream, but so much that is wrong has to be fixed before we can attract more business that tourism is really the only option for us.

    Charles Walls
    Charles Walls subscriber

    You say "affordable housing", I say "the projects". Ever been to the projects? Not nice places. Most people who live in "affordable housing" spend their lives trying to get out of it. Why invite that into anyone's life? Or the life of our city?

    CharlesWalls
    CharlesWalls

    You say "affordable housing", I say "the projects". Ever been to the projects? Not nice places. Most people who live in "affordable housing" spend their lives trying to get out of it. Why invite that into anyone's life? Or the life of our city?

    Joe Jones
    Joe Jones subscriber

    Bob wants to talk about going to jail during the Civil Rights movement, not so much about funneling 400k in campaign contributions to his wife. Funny how it's possible to protest one type of injustice while profiting from another.

    jad555
    jad555

    Bob wants to talk about going to jail during the Civil Rights movement, not so much about funneling 400k in campaign contributions to his wife. Funny how it's possible to protest one type of injustice while profiting from another.

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon memberadministrator

    Omar- I think what Vlad was commenting on was Filner's rejection of tourism as a primary, continued economic development strategy particularly on the waterfront. If you look at Fletcher's jobs plan, he not only wants to expand the Convention Center, but also: "will not stop with the current expansion. I will work with local hoteliers, business leaders and other regional leaders to find innovative ways to continue to increase the amount of convention space available in our region. Together, we will market San Diego as the best place in the world to host a convention, highlighting San Diego’s climate, its vibrant downtown, and its innovation culture."

    dillonliam
    dillonliam

    Omar- I think what Vlad was commenting on was Filner's rejection of tourism as a primary, continued economic development strategy particularly on the waterfront. If you look at Fletcher's jobs plan, he not only wants to expand the Convention Center, but also: "will not stop with the current expansion. I will work with local hoteliers, business leaders and other regional leaders to find innovative ways to continue to increase the amount of convention space available in our region. Together, we will market San Diego as the best place in the world to host a convention, highlighting San Diego’s climate, its vibrant downtown, and its innovation culture."

    Dianne Parham
    Dianne Parham subscriber

    At least he finally woke up to the fact that it is not a cakewalk to the final two for him. He has either been disinterested in the campaign or arrogant, but he has taken his time in acting as if he wants the job. Still haven't decided who I am voting for (yes, I know, time is a-wasting) It's a very unappetizing group...no one has strong enough positives (at least for me) that clearly outweigh their negatives. They can save money on campaign mailers....I'm shredding those as soon as I take them out of my mailbox. The only sure thing is anyone endorsed by the U-T probably won't get my vote unless they are the only one on the ballot, and maybe not even then.

    dialyn
    dialyn

    At least he finally woke up to the fact that it is not a cakewalk to the final two for him. He has either been disinterested in the campaign or arrogant, but he has taken his time in acting as if he wants the job. Still haven't decided who I am voting for (yes, I know, time is a-wasting) It's a very unappetizing group...no one has strong enough positives (at least for me) that clearly outweigh their negatives. They can save money on campaign mailers....I'm shredding those as soon as I take them out of my mailbox. The only sure thing is anyone endorsed by the U-T probably won't get my vote unless they are the only one on the ballot, and maybe not even then.

    Omar Passons
    Omar Passons subscribermember

    r vital services more affordable to all San Diegans. Whether that plan is market driven or by regulation or some hybrid, its good that she is shining a light on where these candidates stand and I hope to see more from VOSD on this issue between now and June 5th.

    omarpassons
    omarpassons

    r vital services more affordable to all San Diegans. Whether that plan is market driven or by regulation or some hybrid, its good that she is shining a light on where these candidates stand and I hope to see more from VOSD on this issue between now and June 5th.

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