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Bob Filner On His Bid To Become San Diego's Next Mayor

May 14, 2012 1:26 p.m.


Bob Filner, US Congressman representing San Diego's 51st district

Related Story: Bob Filner Says Fletcher's Shift To Independent Was 'Hail Mary' Pass


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: And now to mayoral candidate Bob Filner. Congressman Filner, welcome to the program.

FILNER: Good morning, and thanks to KPBS for doing this series.

CAVANAUGH: Now, you've been a democratic Congressman in Washington a long time. Do you think you might have gotten out of touch with local San Diego issues during that time?

FILNER: You have to stand for election every two years in Congress. That keeps you more in touch than anything because the voters have a chance to turn you down at any time. It's that frequent touch with the people that our founding fathers planned for the house of representative ares that keeps you more in touch than quarterback else.

CAVANAUGH: I'm thinking of an Investigative News Source report, it seems you under estimated how much money and jobs the port brings into the city now in 2012. Of the only reason I bring this up is because the port is your key job-creation strategy. Isn't it important to get those facts straight?

FILNER: Of course it is. But we had a so-called Investigative News Source did not go back in time as far as I said. The fact of the matter is, our port is and remains the big of the single source of middle class jobs that we can do anywhere, whether it has a billion or $4 billion now. We can double it and triple it. We can add thousands of jobs to our city's economy, middle class jobs, the ones we lost in a defense industry through expansion of our port capacity. That is essential to my plan, essential to my outlook, and nothing has ever changed in that.

CAVANAUGH: One would imagine a natural ally of this plan might be the port of San Diego. Yet on their website, they argue that the 10th avenue marine terminal is not underused.

FILNER: Well, that's funny because I don't know what their terminology is. I just met with the port staff, they're highly supportive of my effort, I that want political support for their efforts. The current port administration is doing the right thing. They want to expand cargo. They have. They've brought in cars from Japan, fruits and vegetables from Mexico. So they're doing the right thing. But they're the first to admit they're only half or less than half of their capacity to grow. They've met with me, and briefed me, and supported my efforts to help them.

CAVANAUGH: I'm going to move to the San Diego unified school district. That has been cut by hundreds of millions of dollars. This year, the district may be getting to the breaking point, and I've looked on your website, and your plan for education is only to encourage six to six care for kids out of schools. Isn't that out of touch

FILNER: I think you're not understanding the mayor's legal responsibilities. The school district is governed by a School Board, it's governed by taxes funned mainly through the State of California. I will part of a coalition that joins with the school district and the state to have more money. The city school district, all the school district, do not have sufficient funds. We may have class sizes of up to 50. I understand that. But my job as mayor is not to interfere in the governance of the school or to get billions of dollars. I'm trying to help through our city life the school district, and their education. So those who argue like Ms. FILNER, we're going to take over the school system, that's just irresponsible. I have to be part, the mayor has to be part of a coalition that says let us fund our schools adequately. We have gone down from 20 years or so ago, the state that was first in the nation in per capita funding, now we're near the bottom that. Has to change.

CAVANAUGH: You're the only candidate who does not support the comprehensive pension reform initiative on the June ballot. Your pension reform plan is -- part of it at least, is to refinance some of the city's debt. That's been criticized as kicking the can down the road. What's your response?

FILNER: Well, let's admit we have a real problem. And I looked at proposition B, and I call it the so-called comprehensive pension reform. It doesn't do anything. It costs us as taxpayers more money. It does not touch the old system. It sets up a new system which costs $100 million, and thoughs our employees under the bus. The previous candidates did not mention that our city workies do not have Social Security. So now they're going to be put on the stack market casino without any other kind of safety net. That's wrong. The question is, with a major debt, and payments approaching a third of our city's budget, how do we deal with it? There's no good answer otherwise we would have solve today by now. Mayor Sanders has done a good job in stabilizing that system. We have brought down the city critic, raised the employee's contribution. So I do two major things. I put a cap on pensions, which I don't understand why the people who are arguing for pensions don't. All their horror stories are about $250,000 pension, that's just some management employees who got phony pay raises last year, let's put a cap. No more 6-figure pensions. We have the lowest interest rates in the history of this country. We can refinance our debt at 2.5% lower interest rate that puts $550 million into the general fund, something the so-called pension reform initiative does not do. We can fix things now, help our kids, help our seniors. The pay-off period is longer, but we are better able to fix the future.

CAVANAUGH: Isn't getting creative debt --

FILNER: No, that's not what got us into trouble. What got us into trouble was the failure of the stock market, we lost half the value of our stocks, and we had a couple mayors who stole from the pension system. There is no perfect answer. I'm trying to take the one that will be most fair to our taxpayers and employees, and most fair to the general fund. And I've come up with a way to take advantage of our lowest interest rate. Yeah, if you leave everything in the stock market as we do now, you have risk. I'm saying let's take the same risk.

CAVANAUGH: You say in your statements and your election materials that you're the only candidate who will stand up to downtown power brokers and special interests. Who exactly are you talking about?

FILNER: I heard Mr. DeMaio's interview, he said he's standing up for the people. He has the Union Tribune on his side which is the -- one of the most powerful interests in our city, the support of the building association, the general contractor, those are the people who have been running our city. The developers and their lobby of theists. Look at our financial statements, and my opponents have the support of all of those Republican downtown interests. I do not have any of that money. I do not have money fromming SDG&E, which the other folks do. I'm not supported by the Union Tribune, which aye never been, by the way. I've won 25 elections without them. There's only one person who has always been independent, who has always voted with the people, who will not take money from the corporate interests, and I'll just give you one example, last week, the Convention Center, they decided to give big hotel owners in this city, in fact they don't even live in this city, the right to put a tax on tourists and take $35 million a year for their own use. That's a giveaway to private interests.

CAVANAUGH: We have to end it there. Thank you very much.