As the mayor wades through controversy, residents weigh in
By Morgan M. Hurley | SDUN Assistant Editor
Mayor Bob Filner has arguably had the worst two weeks of his political career, and certainly his short stint as mayor of San Diego.
Quick on the heels of intense scrutiny over a City-funded trip to Paris and his return of a $100,000 gift to the City from local developer Sunroad, the mayor not only lost a fiancée, but a host of supporters in light of reports that he has been sexually harassing female staff, campaign volunteers and constituents.
Since July 10, more than a half dozen top leaders have stepped forward one by one calling for his resignation, including former City Councilmember Donna Frye, Councilmembers Kevin Faulconer, Lorie Zapf, David Alvarez, Myrtle Cole and Scott Sherman, Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, Council President Todd Gloria and Congressmembers Susan Davis and Scott Peters, among others. Several of the mayor’s staff have also resigned, most notably his Chief of Staff Vince Hall.
On the day following the initial allegations, Mayor Filner released a DVD recording to the press, saying he “diminished” the office of mayor with his behavior by “not fully respecting” women, and that he “needed help” and would pursue sexual harassment training.
The next day, on July 12, the U-T San Diego’s editorial board stated that Filner deserved “due process,” something Filner repeated in his next statement on Monday, July 15. In direct contrast to the video, he now said he didn’t “believe” he was guilty of sexual harassment, was “entitled to due process,” would be “vindicated” and would not resign.
Frye, along with attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs – three previous supporters who are now top detractors – held a second press conference that same morning offering more specifics regarding the allegations, but the accusers remained anonymous. On Tuesday, July 16, the City Attorney released a statement clarifying the mayor had retained his own counsel and is not being represented by their office at this time.
It is important to note that so far, no formal charges have been filed against the mayor and the local Democratic Party has yet to request his resignation.
However, as a result of recent events, San Diego Uptown News reached out to the local community, asking what citizens feel about the situation. Many chose not to go on record.
Ben Gomez, paralegal • North Park
I am a firm believer that anyone charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Only in a judicial court system can one’s guilt or innocence be determined. Unfortunately, the allegations against Mayor Filner are mounting and have become a distraction for all City government employees to do official City business. Additionally, Mayor Filner is losing the majority of his supporters. Even if the mayor were to be proven innocent he would not have a support system to help him effectively fulfill his duties as mayor. If he genuinely cares for the City it would be prudent for him to resign and let the citizens decide on a new leader so that the city can get back on the road to recovery and progress.
Melanie Peters, musician & entrepreneur • University Heights
My reaction has changed over the last few days. When I first heard about it, it felt like a mud-slinging campaign by his detractors. In fact, I supported his decisions on some of the development issues, and the deals made by previous administrations in regards to taxes and deals cut to help hotels and businesses Downtown. I even voted for him. It’s a bit movie-like to first have the republicans gnawing at his heels for making big changes and roughing up the status quo, and then all of a sudden, there’s a cry of foul play and a call for him to resign. So, at first I thought it was hoopla. There’s a part of me that thinks it still is, but if there is one ounce of truth in this story, I want him gone. We live in the most beautiful city in the world, and I’m sick to death of the mismanagement of it, the corruption and greed that’s plagued it since I moved here 20 years ago. I want a city that’s in the news for being a great vacation spot, has a fair housing market and great jobs and companies to work for. I thought I voted for the right change to make that happen, but one shred of truth to this story and I’m out. God only knows what will happen next, though. My vote is for a non-career politician to do get the job done.
Luke Terpstra, community leader • University Heights
I would have no comment about the mayor at this time, just disappointment.
Sista Moon, retired • University Heights
I am angry and sad and conflicted about the allegations being made against Mayor Filner. I don’t want to believe them because I have a personal story about something positive and life changing he did for a member of my family. Every time I’ve met him, three times now, he’s been gracious and professional. I am concerned there is an avalanche effect of accusations by lawyers and politicians (neither of which have a very high reputation for integrity) who may have other, less honorable intentions. I don’t trust the deeply conservative San Diego power elite who are used to pulling the strings on what goes on, from hotel taxes to Sunroad easement permits. I love what Filner has done so far in his short term as mayor, not going with the program, much to the distress of the City Council. I respect that Filner put his life on the line during the Freedom Rides. Yes, he’s an old man, and maybe there might be some mental issues going on, that’s why I need to see proof and am giving him the benefit of the doubt. That being said, if after he gets his day in court, and it is proven that he sexually harassed his staff, then yes, he should resign. Until then, it’s just a witch-hunt as far as I’m concerned.
Dwayne Crenshaw, community activist • Encanto
I have worked with and voted for Bob Filner many times over the years as a long-time resident of his congressional district. Sadly, the Mayor Filner of today is not the leader I knew before. In his own words, he has told us there is “a monster inside” of him, he has not “fully respected women,” and that he “needs help.” I sincerely hope he gets help, and, if he wants due process to fight these allegations even after his own admissions, both the help and the process must play out on his own time and on his own dime. For the good of the City, Mayor Filner must resign.
Margie Palmer, writer • University Heights
I think it is sad and unfortunate that Mayor Filner is putting his pride and ego ahead of the well being of the City of San Diego and the voters that elected him. The rumors of this type of inappropriate behavior have been swirling among politicians and the media for years – and within those circles, the biggest surprise seems to involve the hammer having taken this long to drop.
Scott Markey, personal trainer • Hillcrest
This is becoming a major situation for the City of San Diego. I realize that I, and most of San Diego, do not have all the facts at the moment. I can only go by what I see and read from our news publications and the television commentary. Everyone should be afforded due process, but having said that, Mayor Filner himself has admitted to some serious guilt, which of course needs to be investigated. I think that he has done a good job as mayor up until this point, but that does not excuse any sexual harassment charges that may or may not be brought upon him. From what I understand, he has obtained his own counsel that he himself is paying for. Fair enough. However, if more women come forward and there is validity to their statements, and Mayor Filner decides to use the City’s attorneys, this could be a long, drawn-out process and cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Before this happens, he should step down and let the City and the voters put in place a competent replacement.
Stephanie Torres, criminal investigator • University Heights
As someone who grew up in and around politics most of my childhood and teenage years in Hartford, Conn., it was always clear to me that good leaders should know when they need to stand up and when it’s time to stand down. It’s very apparent that Mayor Filner’s continued desire not to step aside is very indicative of the selfishness we don’t need representing our city and this attitude lends even more credence to the allegations currently against him.
Buckminster Duck, political cartoon character • Bankers Hill
I am disgusted and embarrassed for both the City and the mayor’s office. The truth needs to be told from both the mayor and the accuser. No one gets to hide behind any curtains here (Oz perspective). When both parties tell the truth, then legal steps need to be taken – retain, recall or resign. Either way, this is great “duck-fodder” and I feel a TOOOOOOOOOOON coming on!