Change Some Filner Supporters Can Believe In - Voice of San Diego

Bob Filner

Change Some Filner Supporters Can Believe In

In response to sexual harassment allegations, the mayor says he’ll change. He’s said that before.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner asked the public to give him time to change.

“If my behavior doesn’t change, I cannot succeed in leading our city,” Filner said in a DVD statement Thursday afternoon.

Filner apologized for intimidating and disrespecting female staffers after a trio of progressive supporters leveled allegations of sexual harassment against him this week. Filner said he’ll undergo sexual harassment training and pleaded for time to show he’ll be different. He rejected calls to resign.

Those calls came from three prominent progressives who had long supported Filner, but after confronting him with the sexual harassment allegations became convinced Filner wouldn’t act differently.

“Unfortunately, I and numerous of my colleagues have reached the point where we do not believe that your behavior will change, and thus must request that you immediately relinquish your position as Mayor,” attorney and Filner accuser Marco Gonzalez wrote in an email to Filner Tuesday.

Filner’s Thursday pledge to change his behavior should sound familiar.

During the mayoral campaign, the 70-year-old Filner said time and again that he’d act differently in executive office than the combative, sometimes over-the-line stances he took in his more than two decades as a legislator and on the campaign trail.

When the campaign started in summer 2011, former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña told then-local Democratic Party Chairman Jess Durfee six prominent women in local politics, business and education had told her that Filner had physically or verbally harassed them. Durfee spoke to Filner, who assured him there was nothing to worry about.

In one of the most high-profile incidents in the campaign, Filner said he regretted personally attacking Qualcomm founder and philanthropist Irwin Jacobs over his opposition to Jacobs’ planned remake of Balboa Park.

“I can be against the issue without, say, taking on Irwin,” Filner said last August. “I’ve learned that.”

Filner also said he learned lessons from his friend, former City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who famously flamed out after one term in 2008. As I wrote in July 2012:

When Aguirre became the city attorney in 2004, Filner paid close attention. Aguirre continued to fight anything and everything. Even though Filner thought Aguirre was right much of the time, he pleaded with Aguirre to take a less combative approach. It never happened and Aguirre’s behavior overshadowed his work. Aguirre turned supporters into enemies and got crushed after one term.

“He killed himself,” Filner said. “That’s not what I’m going to do.”

As recently as two weeks ago, Filner promised self-reflection after the resignation of two top aides over how Filner treated his staff.

“Clearly, anybody who’s intelligent would have to undergo some self-examination,” Filner said.

Filner’s DVD apology Thursday was good enough for key allies to stand by him. The local Democratic Party and City Council members David Alvarez, Myrtle Cole and Marti Emerald condemned Filner’s behavior, but also hitched themselves to the Filner-will-change wagon.

“I commend Mayor Filner for the courage to admit he has made mistakes and for his commitment to change his behavior,” Emerald said in a statement.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

Show Comments
Loading