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Mayor Filner Answers Our Questions, And Yours

City of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner answers questions from KPBS and its listeners.

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San Diego Mayor Bob Filner says Plaza de Panama can still be remodeled despite a court ruling this week. Amita Sharma spoke with Filner on KPBS Evening Edition about that ruling and other issues facing the city.

The last time San Diego Mayor Bob Filner was interviewed on KPBS, we asked him if he'd come back often as a guest. He offered to come on once a month to answer our questions as well as questions from our listeners.

On Wednesday he made good on the first leg of that promise, chatting with callers about everything from pension benefits to medical marijuana.

Filner began by addressing a judge’s recent decision to halt the Plaza de Panama plan for Balboa Park. Filner was an opponent of the plan, but said "happy is not the word" for how he feels about the judge's decision.

He said there are many options for restructuring the park, and proposed one alternative.

"You put in parking on the outside, you park outside of the park, and there may be a space for a parking garage outside the park, and you have people coming on a tram system into the park, the tram system being part of the whole park experience," he said. "We can do that. I could put up six traffic cones tomorrow and stop the cars from coming in. So this is not a $40 million operation."

Filner said he hopes the original project’s sponsor, Irwin Jacobs, will be involved in future plans for the park. But Jacobs told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday he has not seen any alternative plans that meet his requirements for support: removing cars from Plaza de Panama but still serving the needs of museums and other institutions inside Balboa Park.

"At this point, it's over," he said.

The City Attorney has said the City Council could make an amendment to satisfy the judge’s objection to the original Plaza de Panama plan. Filner would not say if he would veto that action, but he said he wishes the City Attorney would act as the attorney, not the policy maker, for the city.

Another caller asked Filner where he planned to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to open. Last month, Filner re-opened the door to the possibility of legal medical marijuana collectives in San Diego.

On Midday, Filner said he would bring a plan for medical marijuana zoning to the City Council soon.

"We’re going to try to balance compassionate use of medical marijuana with the concerns that neighborhoods have and come out with an approach that will do both, and I’ll have that ready in about three weeks," he said.

When a caller asked about pay raises for city employees, Filner said it was not right to blame city employees for the city's financial troubles.

"The day of the vilification of our public employees is over," he said.

He added he'll start negotiations with city workers next week, beginning with police officers.

Filner also said he'll open an office in Tijuana starting next week.

On KPBS Evening Edition, he responded to news that Senator Barbara Boxer has called on federal regulators to investigate San Onofre. Boxer said there is new information that Southern California Edison was aware of problems with San Onofre's generators before the company installed them.

Filner said the Nuclear Regulator Commission must hold a public hearing requiring proof from Edison the plant is safe to restart.

“Look, we don’t want to be a Three Mile Island," he said. "We don’t want to be a Chernobyl. We don’t want to have a situation as they did in Japan. The safety of nuclear plants is very shaky.”

The NRC says it won’t allow the plant to restart until it's saftisfied the plant can operate without undue risk to public health and safety.

Others with questions about Filner's plans for the city can email him at bobfilner@sandiego.gov.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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