In The Matter of Mayor Filner

| July 31, 2013 | 0 Comments

I have called for Mayor Filner’s resignation, a difficult decision given our shared history, but in the end, a necessary one.

I made my decision on the evening of July 16, and the following afternoon, after struggling within over language, issued the following statement (which was posted on the Sentinel’s Web site):

“It is with deep regret that I ask Bob Filner to step aside as mayor of San Diego.

“In calling for his resignation I am torn philosophically, because we both share similar views on issues of social justice, too long denied to too many, but our city has reached an impasse in the state of its governance due to the mayor’s intractable problems; which arise, not from his politics but his personality.

“In our system of jurisprudence we do not indict by proxy, but allegations of sexual harassment leveled at the mayor, even by persons unknown, cannot be ignored; nor can the mayor’s demeaning conduct toward others, the citations of which are too numerous to be dismissed.

“When I endorsed Bob Filner for mayor, I did so persuaded in principle he would become an enlightened leader for San Diego; in that judgment I erred.

“I take no pleasure in other people’s pain, whatever its cause, however unfair its manifestation, least of all someone I have known more than 30-years, but this isn’t about friendship, it’s about our city – and while I as a person of faith love Bob Filner as a human being, I love San Diego more.

“The city needs a new beginning, and Bob Filner needs the personal help he himself acknowledges.

“Tragically, we can’t have one without the other.”

That statement, with one notable exception, was met with approval; which was nice, but that was not my objective.

The “notable exception” was a friend of long standing who vehemently disagreed with me, accusing me of having no regard for due process, of joining the Donna Frye/U-T hysteria demanding the mayor go. I responded more civilly than my accuser, as I thought my statement deserved better than that of others — and I have no history of joining “mobs.”

However, having endorsed Filner for mayor I couldn’t just walk away. His conduct had spun out of control and there had to be an accounting – his and mine.

In writing this I do not presume my views are of consequence to anyone but me, but since this column bears my byline, in that context, it is consequential.

In an interview I did with an LA radio station, I was asked, having known Bob Filner more than 30 years, how had I missed his boorish behavior? The answer is quite simple: over those years I was probably in his company 50 times (maybe), and there were years when I saw him not at all.

As a member of Congress he sometimes attended private luncheons of mine on Capitol Hill for former guests of The City Club (it is slightly ironic that at one of those gatherings he met Bob Novak, the famous journalist and conservative provocateur, and they, the liberal and the libertarian, became friends).

There were the occasional one-on-one breakfasts here at home, but no more. From time to time he would call and tell me how much he agreed with something I had written for the Sentinel or the Huffington Post, which was thoughtful and I was appropriately appreciative (I write lots of stuff, most of which passes without notice, so a congressman calling would understandably lift my spirits).

However, on those occasions when we were together, he never acted in any fashion contrary to the standards of a gentleman – ever.

But, here’s a hard truth too many otherwise intelligent people miss: Unless you are spending 24/7 with another person, whoever that person, husband, wife, daughter, son, brother, sister, mother, father, significant other, partner, you cannot possible know everything there is to know about their life. And if you think you do, you are seriously mistaken (accept that, please, from someone who’s been married 57 years).

That said, to say I was wholly ignorant of Bob Filner’s theatrics would be false, but I do fundamentally believe that in judging others you need to judge them on the basis of your own personal experiences and not that of others (in part, not whole).

So, having endorsed him for mayor in these pages, having said he would win, having predicted he would be unlike any mayor we have ever had, meaning a true liberal as head of our city, and only that, I had high hopes for him; and now, for it all to come crashing down in the most disgusting and odious manner is a huge disappointment.

But know this; my hurt is not for me but for our city. I am of no consequence in this, but our city is, and our city is been hurt.

But while media will focus on the sexual harassment charges, now personal rather than by proxy, of no less importance to me is how the mayor treated others – and he treated them with ridicule and contempt.

When I called for his resignation I did so due to a telephone conversation with a high-ranking city official, one for whom I have the greatest regard and trust to tell the truth.

I was told the mayor, in closed-door meetings, was frequently insulting and demeaning to others. To such a degree, and in such an offensive manner, this person wonders whether he suffers from an unidentified illness.

The mayor tells us he needs help.

In that, I take him at his word, but the help he needs cannot be found at group meetings at city hall on the protocol of sexual harassment. It can only be found in intense and long-term therapy. But to receive the professional guidance needed requires him, for his own good, but more importantly, for the good of San Diego, to step aside as mayor, begin therapy with someone who has a proven history of freeing individuals from their demons, and, over time, make that person whole again.

Human beings being the way some humans are, and the dark side of politics being the darker side, there are those who relish Bob Filner’s problems, who cannot wait to get up in the morning to see what Doug Manchester’s newspaper is saying about him in bold black headline on the U-T’s front page.

But that’s not me. I take no pleasure in other people’s pain or problems, and if you happen to be one who does, then you should also consider therapy.

What are the odds Bob Filner will resign? Clearly, that is the best option for San Diego, and, while he can’t see it, for him as well. But since that is not likely, what happens?

There is a process in place, which allows for the recall of a public official. To recall a mayor you need more than 100,000 signatures (all of which must be authenticated). Assuming that happens, an election is then held and voters are asked two questions: 1) do you agree to the recall, or 2) disagree.

If you agree and a majority vote is achieved, you’re then asked to vote for a candidate to succeed Mayor Filner; meaning anyone who has qualified for the ballot by having obtained the requisite signatures.

But know this: Neither the 100,000 threshold to recall nor signatures required for mayoral candidacy is a walk in the park; both are time consuming, exhaustive, hugely expensive – and uncertain of success, or, as a former high-ranking city official told me, “A recall is a crapshoot.” “God help us!”

If indeed it comes to that, voters being asked if they favor the mayor’s recall, and if a majority chooses yes, you are then asked to vote for one of the candidates appearing on the ballot.

But here’s the potential predicament: Only a simple plurality is required to become San Diego’s 36th mayor; which means, if the list is long, five, six or more candidates, the next mayor could be elected with 25 percent of the votes cast – or less.

Then what?

You tell me.

George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader. He may be reached by email, gmitro35@gmail.com

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