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Bob Filner’s resignation speech

As a former San Diegan, I have been following the Bob Filner story with special interest. I did get to meet and work with Bob Filner in 1976. I was working on Tom Hayden’s campaign for U.S. Senate. Filner was also involved in that campaign. Hayden would lose to the incumbent John Tunney in the primary, and Tunney would then lose to S.I. Hayakawa in in the general election. After his loss, Hayden and his then wife Jane Fonda tried to start a grassroots political movement they called the Campaign for Economic Democracy. Filner announced plans to run for San Diego school board.

When I moved to Berkeley in 1980, I did not follow San Diego politics as closely. Through the years, I discovered that Filner was able to move from the school board to the city council, and then to a seat in congress. When I learned he was running for mayor of the city, I realized how far San Diego had come to actually consider a progressive for mayor. I was also pleased that Filner’s Republican opponent is a gay man. This was definitely not the same city I left in 1980. I was happy to hear he won the election.

Then the news came out about Filner’s treatment of women, and I realized how much I did not know about this man who I worked with in progressive politics in 1976. It became clear to me that Filner needed to resign. I found myself on the same side as those who have organized to recall him.

Listening to Filner’s resignation speech, I continue to be perplexed by this complicated man, feeling both sorrow and anger for what he has done to San Diego. He refuses to accept full responsibility for his actions. As soon as he made apologies to those he has hurt, his speech turned into an attack on his political opponents. He characterized the campaign against him a “lynch mob.” He pleaded he was being denied “due process” in fighting charges that have not been proven in court.

We certainly don’t want to deny Bob Filner his right to a fair trial on sexual harassment charges or other possible charges of misspending public money. However, no one was the right to hold public office. Being mayor of San Diego or any other city is not a right; it is a privilege. When an office holder loses the trust of the people he represents, they have the right to remove him from office. He is incapable of doing the job they elected him to do.

Bob Filner ended his resignation speech by talking about his vision for the future of San Diego and his accomplishments toward those goals. He spoke of a walkable, bikeable city that could grow economically while still protecting the climate. He spoke for a more inclusive city that brings more minorities into power. That is the Bob Filner we wanted to be mayor of a major city.

When I met Bob Filner in 1976, San Diego was a textbook case for urban sprawl. Its inferior bus system was further decimated by Proposition 13 in 1978. The area was totally dependent on cars and freeways for transportation, as housing developments sprouted up miles from civic center. I would like to see San Diego live up to the dream Filner expressed in his speech, including the enactment of a climate protection plan. A new mayor could realize that dream.

It is interesting that Filner concluded his speech with a quote from Ted Kennedy when he conceded to Jimmy Carter in 1980. Kennedy remained committed to the long term goals of success despite the short term setback of a lost election. But Kennedy, like Filner, had his own personal demons. Toward the end of his life, Kennedy was able to conquer those demons. Redemption is possible for Bob Filner, too, but he needs to start taking full responsibility for his actions and stop looking for others to blame.

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August 25, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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