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Mayor Filner Weighs In On Sequestration And More

Mayor Bob Filner talks to KPBS about sequestration, his ongoing dispute over tourism funding and his relationship with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.


San Diego Mayor Bob Filner


San Diego Mayor Bob Filner answered questions from listeners on KPBS Midday Edition, addressing sequestration, his ongoing dispute over tourism funding and his relationship with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

Filner has been making headlines recently by holding up money slated for the city of San Diego's tourism marketers.

On KPBS Midday, Filner said tourism is very important to San Diego's economy, but that the contract with the tourism marketing district is a bad deal for the city. He said it gives the TMD $30 million to do whatever they want.

"It's an illegal tax, it's not accountable, and if it's a private deal with hoteliers, why aren't we getting more?" he said.

Filner said he intends to speak up for the "vast majority" of people in San Diego to get a better deal. However, because the TMD's contract was already approved, there are legal questions about whether Filner can require it be renegotiated. Filner said the previous mayor and City Council rushed the deal through before he took office.

"They made one error in rushing it through, they didn't get the signature of the mayor on the final contract, so it comes to me for signature," he said. "So I have the authority under the charter under the strong mayor form of government to sign or not to sign contracts. I decided we needed a better deal. If I can negotiate a better deal it comes back obviously to City Council for approval of that. So I think I have the authority to sign or not sign contracts. That is given to me by the charter of the city of San Diego."

The tourism marketing district is suing the city over Filner's refusal to sign and said it is delaying a summer multimillion dollar marketing campaign for San Diego. But Filner called that "erroneous."

"They could market San Diego, advertising anytime they want," he said. "They don't need me, they don't need the government, they don't need anybody, they just do it. So to say that they need the government to do private marketing I think is absolutely ridiculous."

Filner said when the present agreement expires at the end of the month, he "would be happy to sign an agreement that has some modifications, say less of a term maybe one year at a time for example or that included more indemnification when the city does get sued. I want perhaps more money, but as a matter of fact, they are meeting today to consider what I asked for, which is not let's not go to court, let's continue to talk and let's get a much shorter term in which we can talk about these issues with some breathing space to do that."

Because of Filner's recent public dispute with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, a caller asked Filner if he thinks the mayor should maintain "a certain level of civility as a leadership figure in this community in order to be an agent of progress."

Filner said he does, but said "you also have to have a mayor who stands up for the people."

"I think you should ask the city attorney why he would read an article in the morning paper, decide I was doing something illegal and he calls a press conference rather than calling me up and saying, 'Bob, you are off on a limb here, let's talk about it, you are my client,'" he said.

Filner said Goldsmith may have had a "lower tone of voice" during the dispute, but said Goldsmith was being unethical and unprofessional.

Because of the city's change to strong mayor, Filner said all of the relationships between the mayor, City Council and city attorney will need to be renegotiated.

"Every city where there is an elected city attorney that I know about has these tensions because it is a built-in system of tension," he said. "Because then you have this case, you have three elected bodies as it were, each one with certain prerogatives and responsibilities and they intersect 100 different ways every day."

Filner has also proposed developing a new parking plan for Balboa Park that involves changing traffic patterns and removing parking spaces. The user TD posted on asking whether Filner's plan violates the same city municipal code that the Irwin Jacobs plan violated.

But Filner said unlike Jacobs, he is not asking for any major changes to the park.

"I'm just really restricting certain things, moving certain parking spaces, changing some of the signs and traffic patterns and I'm doing it on a temporary basis," he said.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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