Mayoral candidate answers questions about Balboa Park, campaign finance
By Morgan M. Hurley | SDUN Assistant Editor
The Bankers Hill Residents Group held a special meeting Tuesday, Oct. 23 to host Congressmember and 2012 mayoral candidate Bob Filner. The candidate addressed a small group of area residents in a town hall-like setting at the top floor lounge of Inn at the Park, located at 525 Spruce St.
In his opening remarks, Filner identified reasons why he deserves their vote for mayor, citing his long history of prior city leadership and two decades of experience in the federal legislature, in comparison to his opponent, Councilmember Carl DeMaio.
Filner also outlined ways he would stimulate local small businesses. “I can mandate that every public building be solar powered in five years. Imagine the demand that creates for photovoltaic and solar panels,” he said. “That’s all small business and that is what we need to promote here in San Diego.”
He emphasized that issues regarding commerce along the international border are also important. “We’ve lost $6 billion per year because our border is so inefficient after 9/11 … but we can change that,” he said. “I represented the border for a long time. I know the policies that need to be done.”
Filner then reminded the group he is being touted as the “education mayor” due to his background not only as a professor, but also as a San Diego Unified School Board member and a parent who raised children through the local public school system. “I know how this system works,” he said.
The forum was then opened up to questions, which covered a wide variety of topics ranging from the pedestrianization of Balboa Park and its Centennial Committee, enhancing the quality of life for residents, campaign funding caps, and homeless veterans.
Developer Doug Manchester was also a recurring topic for attendees, notably his purchase and use of the U-T San Diego, his involvement in the Navy Administration complex project at the west end of Broadway in Downtown and his desire to bring a stadium to the 10th Avenue Terminal, among others.
The first question regarded the “Jacobs Plan” for Balboa Park and how, as mayor, the candidate would help facilitate a restoration of pedestrian use in time for the Centennial in 2015. It was presented by Ben Baltic, facilitator of the event, but came from another resident who was unable to attend.
Saying he firmly opposes the council-approved Plaza de Panama project, Filner explained his stance on the subject regarding parking versus pedestrians in the park.
“I was the councilman for Balboa Park when I represented this area,” Filner said. “We wrote the plan 20 years ago that, if it was implemented, would have solved this issue and solved it without destroying the topography [and] the geography of the park without $40 million worth of stuff.”
He told the group about that alternative idea, which would involve parking around the perimeter of the park and bring people in through the use of trams. He also suggested closing the park to cars on weekends as an alternative.
“There are lots of things you can do but I think this [Plaza de Panama project] is the wrong one,” he said. “If it passes the court I’ll have to implement it.” As the project is currently being held up in litigation brought by Save Our Heritage Organisation, Filner then encouraged the residents to join the Balboa Park Centennial Committee and speak their minds about the current plan and alternatives.
One resident voiced concern over what she referred to as one-sided editorial content coming from U-T San Diego and how difficult it was to hear both sides of the race. “Where can we get alternative news?” the woman asked. Several ideas from other attendees were put forth.
Filner then presented his ideas on a public financing ordinance, a plan that would cap campaign spending, shorten the length of campaigns and “level the playing field,” he said.
“This money is obscene and it destroys the democratic process,” he said, adding that his name recognition and his history in San Diego that will get him elected in the end, not the amount of money donated to each side of the campaign.
In closing, the candidate spoke directly to the individuals in attendance before leaving for a debate with DeMaio.
“We’re going to listen to you when I’m there,” he said. “You people are the experts. You can tell me where the crosswalks need to go – I don’t need a traffic engineer; you are right here – we should listen to the experts and do the right thing.”