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Local leaders shared their takes on how the city should respond to the scandal surrounding Mayor Bob Filner.
It wasn’t a political rally or debate but at times, it felt like both.
Six local leaders shared their visions at Saturday’s Politifest for how San Diego should move forward in the wake of Mayor Bob Filner’s scandal-ridden tenure.
All agree that Filner should resign to ensure the city moves forward but their takes on how the city should respond varied — and in some cases, along party lines.
They were Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, City Councilman Kevin Faulconer, Council President Todd Gloria, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Councilman Mark Kersey.
The Democrats — Atkins, Gloria and Gonzalez — emphasized the need to move past Filner and elect another progressive mayor. Faulconer and Kersey talked about focusing on priorities including managed competition and street repairs; Goldsmith spoke about his office’s efforts to ensure the city’s legal interests are protected despite Filner’s alleged sexual harassment.
Here’s a roundup of the panelists’ views on what should come next.
Atkins, who served as acting mayor in the midst of a past scandal, said city leaders should focus on neighborhoods and ways to pay for the service improvements residents sought in the November election.
“We need to stay focused on the implementation of that vision that people wanted, that progressive vision that is about making sure that we finally find a way to pay for our infrastructure, that we pay attention to public safety, that we do it in a way that is transparent and open and includes all of our neighborhoods, and I think all of us have a role to play,” Atkins said. “The last time we were in a position where a mayor resigned and we had a reduced council, we came together.”
She also emphasized the need for the city to consider economic engines, including the Convention Center expansion, that might help bankroll the things residents want.
Faulconer, a two-term councilman considered a possible mayoral candidate in the event of a recall or resignation, emphasized issues he said the mayor hasn’t given enough attention.
He said the city should focus on street repairs, police retention and financial reforms including managed competition, which remains on hold during a review process requested by Filner.
“We’ve been very united as a City Council, focusing on where do we go from here,” Faulconer said. “We make sure we’re doing the job that you elected us to do, focusing on our neighborhoods, our streets, our parks, our libraries, our public safety. Make no mistake. It’s very difficult right now.”
Gloria, who said he hasn’t decided whether he’d run for mayor, called on local groups – including unions who have remained largely silent – to call for the mayor’s resignation. Gloria said he’d vote to recall the mayor if he continues to refuse to leave office.
Gloria said the mayor’s departure is essential to allow city business to go on.
“We are at the point where I think we can make real progress with our neighborhoods and our infrastructure in the way we’ve done on our financial issues but we can’t do it with this mayor. We can’t do it with a City Council that spends two hours talking about sexual harassment in closed session,” Gloria said. “That’s time spent not talking about potholes or sidewalks, public safety, the things that you care about so let’s get the mayor to resign and get back to the people’s business.”
Goldsmith said his office is focused on investigating allegations raised against Filner and ensuring the city isn’t on the hook for any bad behavior.
The city attorney said he’d use his legal powers to encourage Filner to resign.
“We’re going to be aggressive about it and we won’t back down but let me just say one thing: We, in the litigation context, we will give Bob Filner an out, if he does the right thing,” Goldsmith said. “We will be aggressive and to the extent it’s appropriate under the law, and the facts, he’s gonna be held totally responsible and he’s got a lot of legal problems and they are mounting, but he will be given a way out and that to me is the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Gonzalez, the former chief of the region’s labor umbrella group, was instrumental in helping the city elect its first Democratic mayor in two decades.
Gonzalez said she’s angry Filner disappointed middle-class communities south of Interstate 8 that overwhelmingly voted for him but said Democrats shouldn’t let Filner’s demise distract from their mission to elect candidates focused on those residents’ interests.
“I think we as progressives, what we have to realize is unfortunately, we elected a very flawed human being, one who needs to resign and needs to resign immediately so we can continue with the business of the city,” Gonzalez said. “But what we don’t do is we don’t cede control of a city that for years we have been trying to focus on neighborhoods and people, outside of the hands of downtown interests and special interests and giving really that power back to the people. We don’t cede that and we ensure that we can distinguish the difference between a jerk that we elected as mayor and what our progressive movement stands for.”
Kersey, who took office eight months ago, said officials can’t force the mayor to resign so they need to focus on what they can do.
“We’ve got a lot of dedicated public servants throughout the city. We’ve got a lot of people in our city who are working hard every day to make this place a great place to live and work and play,” Kersey said. “You keep doing your jobs, we’ll keep doing our jobs.”
Kersey said he’s committed to working to assess the city’s infrastructure backlog and ways to rebuild the city’s crumbling facilities, sidewalks and streets.