Sunday, November 17, 2013

Elections Have Consequences

“Elections have consequences.”  So said soon to be former Mayor Bob Filner to soon to be interim Mayor Todd Gloria, during one of their first set battles early in Filner’s truncated term as Mayor of San Diego. 
The circumstances of this dispute had several interesting, and, in retrospect, revealing attributes.
This particular confrontation was spawned by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s bad advice to Mayor Filner that the Mayor had the authority to veto the City Council selection of Port Commissioners.  No one was certain then, or now, whether Goldsmith’s advice was inadvertently wrong because he is a bad lawyer or if it was intentionally wrong because he is a rogue City Attorney.
The dispute played out with a City Council that began the year short one Democratic council member.  You may remember Tony Young’s fascinating timing; resigning just in time to assure a hamstrung City Council for the first four months of 2013.
This was among the first battles that pitted newly elected (by 8 people) City Council Prez Todd Gloria (thanks again, Tony) against newly elected (by 245,092 people) Mayor Bob Filner.  The spectacle of the nominally progressive Gloria consistently sabotaging the first actual progressive Mayor ever elected in San Diego was more confusing then than it is now.
Gloria, along with the four Republicans on the council, was supporting the appointment of Marshall Merrifield, the conservative Republican who spent $653,628 coming in third in the 2008 District 1 council race against Sherri Lightner.  Filner, who had some very good, very non-partisan reasons for opposing the process by which the port appointments were made, also thought that the Port Commissioner appointments should reflect the change in demographics and agenda that the 2012 election had made manifest. 
Gloria did not agree, hence Filner’s admonition that “elections have consequences.”
Ultimately, the state legislative counsel weighed in that indeed the Mayor did not have veto power in this circumstance, the City Attorney said “oops”, and Merrifield was seated as a Port Commissioner.
This double-cross by the City Attorney and lack of support from the Democratic Council President was one of the first salvos in a campaign that ultimately culminated in Filner’s resignation.  While for many Filner’s unquestionably wrong behavior toward women is now the beginning and the end of any discussion about the Filner administration, others think that there is a parallel story that needs to be examined.  A story about elections and their consequences;  About an odd assortment of Republican and Democratic power brokers setting out to assure that the consequences of the 2012 Mayoral election were thwarted. 
It is a story about raw ambition and misplaced trust.  It is about a deeply flawed man, with a seductive vision of what San Diego could be.  It is about bad judgment and personal animosity.  Of course there is money, and lust.  Strangely, in a saga that is supposed to be about sexual harassment, the lust that really gets things going is not for sex, but for power.  More than anything, though, this is a story about hubris, about the arrogance of sets of powerful people with little in common except for the determination to set aside the consequence of San Diegans’ elective choice and replace him with someone more to their liking.

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