Mayor Filner was our featured guest speaker at the February meeting and he did not disappoint! The Mayor captivated the audience with anecdotes and stories as he described how the various city entities struggle to deal with a Democratic mayor for the first time in 50 years. He is fighting for real change, and as he said he’s “changing the face of City Hall” so that it is more representative of the diversity of the city. As an example, he cited the fact that of the previous administration’s personal staff appointments 21 out of 24 were white men, while Mayor Filner’s appointments have included 21 women and people of color out of 24. “We’re a stronger city when you build on our diversity” he said.
He went on to describe some of the various issues he has been dealing with as the city officials, trade organizations and business owners realize that “business as usual” is very different now than it has been for years. Filner said, “They are used to just calling us and things happen.” For example, in one specific instance he received a call asking that he call off the code enforcement officers in spite of the fact that this developer had put a heliport on a hotel and other items with no approved permits. Code enforcement found out about it and was planning on inspecting. The developer called the mayor and said “You have to stop code enforcement.” His response? “I wouldn’t do this for a friend. We’re all subject to following the law. For you, I’m going to speed up the process!”
Mayor Filner is determined to break this mindset of business as usual, conducted or overseen by the same basic group of about 50 people who seem to rotate through various appointed positions on the Port Commission, SANDAG and other city bodies. He is refusing to make any Port Commission appointments at the moment, for example, until they come up with a plan and vision for the future of the Port. Once that is established he can then find and appoint qualified individuals based on the needs of that plan. “There’s no accountability” he said, “It’s just a popularity contest.”
The Mayor went on to describe his ideas around alternative energy (solar on all public buildings within 5 years), climate change (developing a policy) and most importantly, he explained his desire to take a more regional approach to his work because “we all have a stake in this. All the cities have to work together.”
Lastly he spoke on his efforts as part of the “Mayors Against Guns” effort whereby a coalition of mayors are speaking out in support of the President and Senator Feinstein’s efforts on gun control. By combining efforts the group has leverage with the gun lobbyists and manufacturers. For example, a city has to purchase guns and ammunition for their police forces. If these manufacturers lobby against the President’s plans then the cities can and will refuse to purchase from them. Additionally they could also disinvest city pension funds of any holdings with the gun industry.
During the question and answer period he addressed questions regarding the San Onofre nuclear plant, high speed rail, a new Chargers stadium, a rail connection between the Santa Fe Terminal and the airport and lastly, how he will manage to promote his messages and be heard when the UT San Diego “so called newspaper” is so negative and distorting of what he is trying to accomplish.
It was a fascinating 30 minutes. If you missed it, you can watch the entire presentation via two 15 minute videos taken as he spoke. Here is Part I and Part II.