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One of These Mayoral Agitators Is Not Like the Others

Three progressive leaders have asked Mayor Bob Filner to resign. But one of the requests is weirdly out of place.

Three high-profile Democrats who’ve long been among Mayor Bob Filner’s allies urged him to resign Thursday. Two of those requests, made by former Councilwoman Donna Frye and attorney Marco Gonzalez, were clearly tied to allegations – neither provided any specifics – that Filner mistreated female employees. Both made passionate pleas and focused on the harm done to the women involved.

Frye, tearing up, spoke about her obligation to help the women who’d confided in her. Gonzalez used fiery rhetoric that reached a crescendo when he quoted Dante.

Then there was Cory Briggs.

Briggs, an environmental attorney and open-government advocate, joined the call, but with a different charge entirely.

His letter Wednesday calling for Filner’s resignation spoke to open and responsible government. It came on the same day he filed a legal complaint against the city and Sunroad Enterprises over an approved change to a development project in Kearny Mesa.

Indeed, Briggs brought up Sunroad during the press conference, veering off the course Frye and Gonzalez had set by focusing on instances of Filner’s misbehavior toward women. Briggs said he became increasingly convinced it was time for the mayor to go as he researched and learned more about the way the Sunroad deal went down.

Briggs says there’s a thread tying those seemingly different complaints together: an abuse of power relationships, whether it’s extorting money from a developer or taking advantage of female staff members.

“Let’s face it, there were a shitload of people here today because it was about sex,” Briggs said. “And everybody ought to be ashamed and disgusted that that’s why there was such a crowd here. The overwhelming majority of questions were, what did he do, how many times, how many women, but the root problem is an abuse of a power relationship.”

But Briggs also muddied the message Thursday by placing blame beyond the mayor’s office: He said he’s been disappointed by media scrutiny of the Sunroad deal that has focused too much on the mayor’s office and let the City Council off the hook.

“The problem of corruption at City Hall is systemic,” he said, reminding the press that eight Council members voted unanimously to grant Sunroad its requested easement of city parkland.

Whereas Frye and Gonzalez want Filner to step down because of specific instances they say they’ve learned of, Briggs’ message is different: Filner isn’t any different than the mayors who preceded him, and he and the current City Council have continued to direct a corrupt city, despite hopes that he’d be different. He isn’t different, so he needs to resign.

That’s a hard claim to make stick on its own. Many people are disappointed in many politicians for all kinds of reasons. They don’t all justify a call for resignation.

Update: Briggs took exception to the idea that he doesn’t see a difference between Filner and previous mayors. He said the sexual harassment allegations take Filner’s behavior beyond that of his predecessors.

He wrote: “Andrew: Your representation of my comments to you a few moments ago is inaccurate. I did say that City Hall is corrupt and that more than the mayor need to go. I did not say that this mayor is no different from his predecessors. I know about no sexual improprieties involving his predecessors, which I cannot say about the mayor. Corruption is bad and in my view is a firing offense. Corruption PLUS abuse of women/sexual harassment is also a firing offense, with a “slightly” greater sense of urgency.”

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