Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon
Visit the Midday Edition homepage

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner To Talk Budget, Park, Pot Rules

May 6, 2013 1:33 p.m.


Bob Filner, Mayor, City of San Diego

Related Story: San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Talks Pot Ruling, Budget


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.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition is a visit from San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. Since the last time we spoke Mayor Filner has presented a budget and a proposed medical marijuana ordinance to the city Council. He's introduced his plan to make Balboa Park more pedestrian friendly, and he says he wants to bring the Olympic Games to San Diego and Tijuana. Welcome, Mayor Filner.

BOB FILNER: Not bad for a few weeks. Thank you for this regular conversation.

MAUREEN CANAVAUGH: I'd like to get some of our listener calls in, our number is different from the pledge number that you've been hearing. To talk to the mayor give us a call, our number is 888-895-5727. That is 888-895-KPBS. Now there's breaking news today from the California State Supreme Court about medical marijuana. That ruling says that cities and counties can use zoning powers to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. Does that in any way affect your commitment to developing legal zoning regulations for medical marijuana shops here?

BOB FILNER: No, I think San Diego should lead the way, in fact, in providing access to humanitarian medical marijuana because it meets the needs of chronically ill and people in great pain but it should be well regulated. We have the power to make sure that it is not near schools or playground for where our children gather which anywhere will affect the quality of life in a neighborhood so we have to balance the needs for humanitarian access, then needs to protect our children and neighborhoods and that's what we're trying to do. So I hope the counselor will act in the way that is permissive. That is, yes we can ban dispensaries in certain areas, which we always do. But we have to have access. In addition.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, as you say, the city Council took your proposed ordinance and said that they really want to write a new ordinance and they are consulting with the city attorney about that. What is your reaction to that?

BOB FILNER: Well we will see how it comes out. Look we are all trying to find a balance and people come down on different sides don't. I want to see what their final recommendations are. Again, what I did, I tried to take the original ordinance, which was passed a couple years ago now and try to make it both more accessible to users, but more regulated for protection of neighborhoods. More access in the places which you could locate them, more regulation in terms for example, that a person who has a doctor's prescription must go. In addition to the department of health services in our county and get eight, be put on an official registry, get a card that identifies them, and they are in a computer registry. In addition, I wanted a pretty high permit fee because of the higher cost of regulation, $5000 permit fee plus a 2% excise tax on wholesale sales. So, we would get the money that is needed for protection. Dispensaries could not be located near each other. Or of course near schools or playgrounds or places where children gather. So I thought we had a pretty strictly regulated ordinance, but one which would give access to those who need it.

MAUREEN CANAVAUGH: Let me take a call, Andrew is calling us from Ocean Beach, hi Andrew, welcome to the program.

NEW SPEAKER: Great show as always. Great job, Mayor. I'm 110% behind you and I just out of curiosity, I know that we could be, make a lot more revenue with the dispensaries. Is that part of what you are going for with some of these fees and everything?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And the taxing that you proposed?

BOB FILNER: You know, we could move in that direction. That's up to the city Council. There would have to be a greater tax approval of the voters. What I was going forward which is legally allowed to the city is what we call an excise tax and a permit fee which allows you to recover the cost of the program, of regulating in this case, these dispensaries. My proposal is to have complete cost recovery and not cost taxpayers anything in the fees and excise tax and would not need to go to the voters in that respect. If we wanted to make money, which is an option, it would have to be a tax approved by the voters and go to the city Council for that.

MAUREEN CANAVAUGH: As I understand the city Council is going to take a few months to look at the new ordinance?

BOB FILNER: Who knows. I hope they don't try to go kill it by over-studying it leaving it in the city attorney's office too long. I think again, a compassionate view of this is that we have to do this but on a strictly regulated basis.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's move on to the budget and thank you for the call Andrew your proposed budget to the city Council has run into some criticism by members of the city Council and the independent budget analyst for delaying plans to fix San Diego's infrastructure. Improving infrastructure is a big issue to San Diegans. You think you made a misstep in proposing the delay?

BOB FILNER: I'm not sure where that comes from because we are moving forward with a greater amount of money which I pledged my campaign. We are adding stress to the department involved with that. The only thing that would affect really didn't affect the amount of money please we delete the issuance of a bond but that's only because we haven't used yet. The proceeds of the previous bond. That is it doesn't make sense to pay interest on a bond issue and go through the process. When you still have money left that you haven't used. So we haven't delayed anything. We are putting more money. In fact, I announced today for example on the lease of a building that we have for city employees don't count. We negotiated a lease in a different building. We are going to save $3 million earmarked 3 million year for five years. That's $15 million of new money. Going to suggest it go directly into some of these in the structure needs of our city. So it was a central part of people's concerns, central part of my election and we're not going to neglect infrastructure. We are going to before but move forward in all neighborhoods in our city, not just downtown not just in a few neighborhoods in all the city. We will meet infrastructure needs.

MAUREEN CANAVAUGH: the Independent budget analyst said she disagreed with the idea of delaying the bond and impeding the momentum that the city Council approved to move ahead with infrastructure. I know that you did that in order to save the money for the city because we are running a trade deficit next fiscal year. Why do you think would need to be cut as the city Council update your proposals in order to move forward on infrastructure bond.

BOB FILNER: I think it's an unfair criticism. Looks like she was just looking for stuff to criticize but the momentum is going to continue and it's going to be in fact accelerated. But it does not do any good to pay interest on a bond when my money from the previous bond has not even been spent yet. We're going to have to speed data. That is where the issue is to make sure the money is put out there quickly enough. I knows what they're going to try to cut. I asked for more money for the arts, for example. I asked for more money for infrastructure, four children, for example, to get to school by using bus passes. For, what I'm calling a program on a new civic imagination, a new initiative to really get the city excited about our art, our culture, our binational relationships. Our ability to help children in new ways. So I didn't make very many changes from the previous mayor's budget because I came in really at the tail end of a budget process. I will be re-examining all of the departments as we move forward really in my first budget. This was a transition budget which we used a lot of the previous mayors way of looking at things and we added a few new things and subtracted a few things. So I hope the Council basically approves the budget, but they have the authority to deal with those issues as they see fit.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Speaking of previous mayors, we had a program just a few days ago inviting a few previous mayors to talk about what's going on in San Diego during their day and now during hours, but after, with, giving up that tease, I want to let everyone know we have to take a break right now and Mayor Bob Filner, we will stay with you after this break. We will be taking your calls at 888-895-KPBS. This is Midday Edition. You are listening to KPBS Midday Edition. Welcome back Bob Filner who stayed with us over the break. Again, our phone number is 888-895-KPBS. Now, last week KPBS ran a special called meeting, San Diego, where former mayors, Pete Wilson, Roger Hedgecock and Jerry Sanders talked about city issues. Now, Mayor Filner I know a big issue for you is the homeless. It's become a major issue for you and our administration I want to play a clip from Jerry Sanders about homelessness in San Diego and get your reaction.

JERRY SANDERS: A lot of people want to feel good and help the homeless, what they do is enable homelessness, they enable homelessness by feeding them. You can get 16 meals a day within a 10 block area downtown. There is no food shortage for homeless. We have people come downtown and provide them on the street corners which concentrates in downtown which means that the folks never have to go and address the problems in terms of treatment and getting medication.

MAUREEN CANAVAUGH: Mayor Filner, your reaction you think your policies are enabled, since San Diego?

BOB FILNER: Mayor Sanders is a friend of mine. He's helping me in my transition and the future, but I think it's a pretty superficial view to take to say well they have enough to eat. One, that's probably not true. Do I would like Mayor Sanders to spend a week on the street with violence, uncertainty, not illness inducing circumstances answering me know, you feed them and it is okay. I want to, I've adopted the theory, by the way of what they call housing first, let's get people into shelter, whether permanent or temporary, and they will work, but with the services available to help them work out other problems, whether it's drug and alcohol abuse, job counseling, mental illness. People will work with them on their own speed. I want to get everybody off the street because that several days. Several times in my life just to see what it's like and I will tell you that it is not pretty. I have a plan. I hope we can be able to announce soon. For example, to be the first city in America to get all the homeless veterans off the street. And if we can get them shelter. They will work on their other problems and many of them will become productive members of society. You cannot solve every problem. Not everybody wants to be taken off the street, but I think you have to have a realistic view than we just heard on the clip about somehow enabling them. We are the richest society and history of the world in America. There is no excuse for us having homeless. And people get there, 95% of them through no fault of their own. They have illness, they lose a job, they have problems at home, whatever. Once you are there for any length of time, a week or month or year, it's very difficult to get off. They need a helping hand. We should be compassionate if enough society and besides it economically make sense that you don't have tourists confronted by people on the street and panhandlers and restaurants are offended and everybody does not really want to look at people. We can do better and I intend to do better.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: On the KPBS special former Mayor Pete Wilson talked about prison realignment and the threat he believes it poses to San Diego.

PETE WILSON: Once again, the state is making life difficult with what they term realignment where they are sending felons from the prisons back to local county sheriffs to conduct triage and decide whether they're going to send the felons in the jails waiting to go to prison or the prisons just send them. This is dumping a state responsibility on local government to get rid of some of their cost burdens that the states, but worse than that it is putting people on the street who should be in jail.

MAUREEN CANAVAUGH: I realize prison realignment falls most heavily on the County, but I'm wondering what cautions the city of San Diego may be taking to make sure that realignment which results in more felon serving time here or being monitored in San Diego, so that it doesn't lead to an increase in crime?

BOB FILNER: I wish our leaders like former Gov. and Sen. Wilson and Mayor wouldn't give a false sense of what is going on and the demagogue the issue. It makes it harder to solve. The realignment first of all is not felons per se, it is nonviolent felons or misdemeanors. And it was caused by the fact that we have overcrowded prisons to such a great degree that it is not humane for people to be there. I don't want criminal on the street. I don't want to have to deal with it, but there are certain problems that we have to solve and we have to understand the cost of that and we have to look at it with some rationality and not just demagoguery. As the mayor you want to do whatever you can to help the county, to house people, to keep them in jail if necessary and provide the kind of society with jobs and other kinds of help that will allow people to be productive members of society and not more threats on our streets.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We saw a little bit of a bump in violent crime in the city of San Diego. After years of decline after realignment kicked and if we continue to see the violent crime number go up what do you think you might be doing about it.

BOB FILNER: I'm not sure exactly what the cause is for example we are dangerously low in San Diego in the staffing of our police department. Our police, do something. We used to do proactive policing or community policing. Right now the cops do what they call cross your fingers policing that is a cross their fingers that when they go to an incident a worse incident will not take them away from it. So part of the problem. A big part of the problem it's our responsibility as citizens to provide and myself as mayor to provide the kind of staffing that we need. We don't have enough officers. We do not pay them well enough. We don't have a good enough retirement system. They are leaving. We've had a net loss on the police and fire department over the last several years of several hundred public safety officers. They leave our city after retrain them to get a better salary and a better pension and working conditions elsewhere. We have to change that. And I'm not sure what I could attribute to spy to that more than anything else. I'm not both the actual numbers are the reasons. I will tell you my responsibility is to make sure the citizens understand that we have to do better. We have to get our community officers back on the street. We have to do community policing, pay our officers well enough. They have to have a decent pension system. All of that is part of fighting crime. And we should do better as a city. I cannot account for all the other stuff. We could do better here in our local force.

MAUREEN CANAVAUGH: Let me also go to former Mayor Roger Hedgecock also spoke during the special leading San Diego talked about your career in Washington and how it might make you more contentious than other San Diego mayors.

ROGER HEDGECOCK: It's obvious that the new mayor doesn't come out of the tradition that we three do, which is basically a bipartisan tradition. We were Republicans, or we were party people, but in a limited sense. I also always felt personally and every mayor did in that area that you representing everybody and you really had a respond to everybody and only by working together with Democrats and responsible Republicans and everyone else were you going to get anywhere. The appearances that this new mayor is a much more partisan person because he's had a history of many years of the Congress, and Congress is a very partisan place. Bringing that into San Diego is a foreign element and even Democrats on the council, I think kind of record little that some of the stuff that went on, the kind of combativeness that may be is what Mayor Filner is anyway but also that's coming out of the experience he's had it Congress. I hope that he mellows a little bit it gets into the community a little bit more. We are a little bit more laid back than that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Mayor Filner, your reaction

BOB FILNER: I mean for Roger Hedgecock to call somebody partisan is rather strange. I mean, he's probably the most partisan extreme guy on the radio today. So I'm not sure what he's contributing to the debate. Backup of the same tradition those guys did. I was on the school board, the city Council. I come out of a tradition of trying to work with everybody together. And I'm going to do that. And I would characterize us a little different than Mr. Hedgecock did. I mean, all of our recent mayors have come out of a Republican, big business tradition. And the same old boys network continues to cover the city that has governed since Pete Wilson and they are all representative of the group of special interests that have dominated the city. I was elected to change that, frankly. That's what they are really concerned about, not partisanship or anything. They are concerned that I want a city that is on our diversity that recognizes the talents of all people in the city, that draws on the talents of those in poor neighborhoods and ethnic minority neighborhoods, of women, environmentalists, educators and say we are going to be a stronger city when we build on our diversity. That seems to threaten people who have dominated the power structure here and I think that's where the criticism comes from.

MAUREEN CANAVAUGH: Lastly, Mayor Filner, do you feel that you have mellowed a little bit?

BOB FILNER: We all mellow as we get older but I'm not going to mellow on my fighting for the working person in the city. The average person, the taxpayer. They need representation at City Hall, not the special interests who have dominated the city for 50 years and we are going to change things, and they're going to keep yelling and streaming that I'm trying to change things but I'm not going to mellow on the need for change.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to apologize to our callers who could get you in I wanted to get the three segments in and we had a shorter segment. This time around. Thank you so much Bob Filner once again

BOB FILNER: Always a pleasure.