Katie Orr, KPBS Metro Reporter
Beth Ford Roth, KPBS Military Reporter
Related Story: 2012: Top City Government And Military Stories
ST. JOHN: Today we're taking a look back at some of the big top local stories in 2012. Here to help us remember the big issues and events of the year on the metro and military beats are KPBS news metro reporter Katie Orr.
ORR: Hi, Alison.
ST. JOHN: And Beth Ford Roth, author of the blog, Homepost.
FORD ROTH: My pleasure.
ST. JOHN: The election of I new mayor was obviously the biggest political story of the region locally. And city residents opted to go with their first democratic mayor in a couple of decades. Voters ended up with a pretty extreme choice, didn't they? What stands out about the race?
ORR: Well, the race started -- oh, man, about a year and a half before the actual election. And it was Bob Filner, Carl DeMaio, district attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and assemblyman Nathan Fletcher. Those were the four in the primaries. The most notable thing of the primary of course was Nathan Fletcher leaving the Republican party after he didn't get their nomination. He said the two were unrelated, but went independent and tried to get young and middle of the road voters to support him. Carl DeMaio and Bob Filner finished 1 and 2 in the primary, and they went on to have a pretty contentious general election.
ST. JOHN: Yes, that race was pretty nasty, which is unusual for San Diego. Why was that do you think?
ORR: You're right. It was nasty right from the start. And we actually have a clip from one of their first debates where DeMaio accuses Filner of not doing enough on the boarder when he was on Congress.
NEW SPEAKER: But your record is very clear. We still have a border crossing crisis that is undermining our ability to invest and achieve economic prosperity.
NEW SPEAKER: And in the last four years, what have you done? Have you helped me at all in Congress to put together that coalition? Where is your leadership?
NEW SPEAKER: I'm helping you by standing up!
NEW SPEAKER: Okay, candidates, candidates?
ORR: And that was moderated by Tom Fudge of KPBS. But ultimately this race was very contentious because it was the first time in a while that voters got to choose between such different candidates. And San Diego people are used to having moderate Republicans running for office. So the race doesn't get that contentious. In this case, you had two people who were on the pretty far extremes of bothing of their parties. So it provided a really big contrast for voters.
ST. JOHN: What do you think put Filner over the top?
ORR: Well, it was a presidential election year, which always brings out more Democrats. But in general, the city's demographics are changing. The voter registration is becoming more democratic. The Hispanic vote came out much stronger, and the Republicans made efforts to get some of that vote but ultimately it didn't work at all. And Filner ended up edging out Carl DeMaio.
ST. JOHN: Another Bick story was the voter-approved prop B. Remind us of that.
ORR: Right. Prop B was a measure backed by Jerry Sanders and Carl DeMaio who used it as the BBC bone of his mayoral campaign. It eliminates pensions for most new city employees excluding police officers and gives them 401Ks. It freezes the base pay of current employees for 5 years. So proponents said this will save money in the long run, but opponents say it will cost the city more money upfront, and already we're seeing that it will add millions to the city's pension payment next year. But that cost will decrease over time, proponents say. And it won with a wide majority in the June primary election. Flew new it's going to be up to the council now to insure that we implement this and implement it very strongly, implement it immediately, and start saving money.
ORR: That was Kevin Faulconer.
MAUREEN ST. JOHN: Filner did at this time spot prop B initially. Does he now?
ORR: He says he will. The voter turnout in the primary tends to be more Republican. The general election is more democratic. But Filner says he will implement it, and in fact he says he's the best person to implement it because he has such a good relationship with the unions.
ST. JOHN: Filner has jumped into the role with gusto, it seems. He started right off the bat with a proposal to put more money into law enforcement. He does have a majority on the council, but does that necessarily mean that the mayor and counsel will be in total harmony?
ORR: Already councilman Todd Gloria has it is no, he doesn't want to put that money there. It's now in a reserve fund to help the city pay off any lawsuits that might be filed against it. And he says we are not going to risk our financial stability to put this money toward public safety right now. So it's already a big clash. That's one of Filner's big objectives. And he has a Democrat sort of standing in his way already. So that's a sign that Filner is not necessarily going to get everything he wants just because they're in the same party.
ST. JOHN: Do you feel it's going to be a different kind of a job covering the city from last year to next year?
ORR: I think it will be. Bob Filner is a much different person than mayor Jerry Sanders was. So I think it'll be interesting to see how he handles things compared to Jerry Sanders.
ST. JOHN: Let's move to you now, Beth. Your blog, come homepost, is gaining readers. How many do you have?
FORD ROTH: Last I've been told upwards of 100,000 a month.
ST. JOHN: Ah, ha! Okay. So you can find it on the KPBS website. Gary Stein was a marine, stationed here at Camp Pendleton. What did he say?
FORD ROTH: It's what he wrote on Facebook, actually, while he was still a sergeant in the Marine Corps. He was very angered by the passage of Obama's healthcare law. And in a private chat on Facebook he said -- and this is a quote "as an active duty marine, I say screw Obama, and I will not follow the orders from him, all orders from him." And that's what got the attention of the Marine Corps because under the uniform code of justice, you aren't allowed to express your political opinions. You're representing something much greater than yourself as part of the military, and --
ST. JOHN: How did they react?
FORD ROTH: Not well! He was ultimately discharged know less than honorably, which means he doesn't get the benefits that someone would get normally separating from the Marine Corps.
ST. JOHN: But not everyone thought that he should be essentially fired from the military.
FORD ROTH: Well, it was interesting. Conservatives absolutely took up his cause. He started the armed forces -- the armed forces tea party website of the he was sort of the creator of that, so he had the backing of the tea party, but also the American civil liberties union helped take up his fight, saying it was a matter of free speech.
ST. JOHN: So it was a great debate, especially here where the military is so integrated into our general society.
FORD ROTH: He was tried and removed from the Marine Corps. He's still very outspoken. I just visited his Facebook page today, and he has a lot to say about the 2nd amendment in light of the Sandy Hook shootings. Still very much a member of sort of the right side of things, politically.
ST. JOHN: What kind of a message do you think his case let left for marines about how far they can take their free speech rights?
FORD ROTH: Well, and that's another thing they should bring up. I heard from a lot of folks in the military who said he should have known better. You can have your opinions, but you don't express them, especially on social media where just about anyone can get wind of it. I think the message has been made very clear that they're free to have their own political opinions and free to vote. But if you are wearing the uniform and expressing your opinions as sergeant so-and-so is of the Marine Corps, you're going to face some blowback.
ST. JOHN: Now, there's another interesting story that you covered on your blog, nursing military mothers. There's a photograph of a breast-feeding mother that stirred up a lot of controversy.
FORD ROTH: Well, it was sort of funny. It was something very private that was shared on social media that went viral, basically. It started in Washington state at Fairfield Airforce base. There was a military spouse who started this group for other military mom, and she wanted to promote national breast feeding month back in August. So she gathered some women from the base who were in the airforce reserves and had these lovely, outdoor photos taken of these women breast feeding their children. Most of them were taken in regular civilian clothes. There were, I believe two photographs taken where the women were wearing their uniforms. And those photos were shared via, I believe, the mom to mom Facebook page. And can just got a lot of attention from -- actually women in the military who said we can't be taken seriously if we're doing this in uniform. And it should be noted that there are a lot of things that are frowned upon in uniform, chewing gum, talking on a cellphone, if you're a waive notice who can't run up and kiss your husband when he's wearing his -- if it's a homecoming, it's different, but just on base giving him a smooch.
ST. JOHN: You have to maintain a different persona.
FORD ROTH: Exactly, exactly.
ST. JOHN: So what did the mothers say about why they agreed to have photographed?
FORD ROTH: Well, I believe they thought it was going to be private. It was going to be part of this public awareness campaign, but the belief is this may be making people uncomfortable, but the baby doesn't know that. A lot of people were saying she should have gone to a restroom, to a private room to breast feed in public. And the women are saying the baby doesn't know that. It's not always ideal, and there are women in the military, and these women are mothers. And they're going to be having children. And this is the best way to give the baby nutrition. And you just have to deal with it want
ST. JOHN: So marine mothers expressed various point of views on this.
FORD ROTH: Exactly.
ST. JOHN: A lot of controversy going.
FORD ROTH: Yes.
ST. JOHN: So is there any kind of policy in the military about breast feeding on the job?
FORD ROTH: From my understanding, there is not a specific policy addressing breast feeding in uniform. Again, it's a matter of women, a lot of these women who responded to this photo saying we've worked so hard for so long to be taken seriously to be seen as just another member of the military. And even though it's not supposed to be sexualized at all, our society does sexualize the breast, and they were being shown in these photos, albeit feeding a baby, and that this is sort of going backward. And you have women saying hey, this is what they're there for. So there was misinformation out there that these women were punished. They were not. The women behind mom to mom was fired from her job and has filed a lawsuit saying she believes she was fired because of this. But I've received notification from the lawyer who is defending her employer who said no, it has nothing to do with this.
ST. JOHN: Both of these stories were about life in the U.S. rather than to do being on the battlefield or in conflict. And your blogs is very much about Homeposts, 0issues affecting the military here. As we withdraw from Afghanistan next year, what do you get a sense might be some of the issues you'll be covering?
FORD ROTH: Absolutely Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And also just the effects of that, which has been a spike in military suicide and active duty troops committing suicide. There needs to be an awareness that a lot of these men and women are out there in combat as a way to avoid the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and when they come home, there will be no way. And I hope we have the resources in place to help them and a culture that supports that kind of getting psychological help without worrying about being demoted or losing your job and negative reaction from peers.
ST. JOHN: And we have more veterans from those wars in San Diego County than any other county in the nation.
FORD ROTH: As I understand it.
ST. JOHN: How we address that issue is going to be very important for the health of our whole community. Thank you very much.