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DeMaio, Filner Continue Attacks, Mudslinging In KPBS Debate

KPBS Mayoral Debate

Debate Questions

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The two candidates to be San Diego’s next mayor continued their tradition of mudslinging and negativity in a debate Monday hosted by KPBS and San Diego State University’s School of Public Affairs.


City Councilman Carl DeMaio and Congressman Bob Filner squared off in one of the many debates before the November general election. Sixteen debates remain before voting day.

Amidst the attacks DeMaio and Filner made on each other, they also found some time to answer specific policy questions, some of which were posed by community leaders and San Diego State University students. The candidates addressed issues including public safety, neighborhood development, pensions for city employees, the environment and the Convention Center expansion.

One of the most unusual moments in the debate came when Jacob Courts, an SDSU student, asked each candidate to name one thing his opponent had done that he liked.

DeMaio said he and Filner “share a goal” of increasing renewable energy and bringing water recycling to San Diego.

"You need a mayor who's going to be more thoughtful about the environment," DeMaio said.


Filner countered that in DeMaio's "250-page thing," he mentions the word "environment" one time. DeMaio's "Pathway to Prosperity" plan says "environment" three times, twice referring to "a strong environment for job creation" and "a more attractive environment for business." The third mention says storm water run-off regulations should be reformed "to provide a cleaner environment."

DeMaio’s “Roadmap to Recovery” plan says “environment” once—referring to San Diego’s “amazing environment”—but it also includes the word “environmental” three times, twice describing “environmental services” in the city budget.

In August, DeMaio released his "Clean Coasts 2020" water conservation plan, which says "environment" 12 times.

Filner then thanked DeMaio for his City Council vote to rename a Hillcrest street after the gay rights leader Harvey Milk.

DeMaio fielded a question from the debate’s moderator, Maureen Cavanaugh, host of KPBS Midday Edition, about his relationship with Doug Manchester and John Lynch, the owners of U-T San Diego and The North County Times. A KPBS/I-Newsource investigation last week found that Lynch wrote an email to Port Commissioner Scott Peters saying he had support from “one of the mayoral candidates” for his plan to build a football stadium at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal.

DeMaio said he was not that candidate and said he does not support building a stadium at that site.

"The U-T CEO mentioned that he got support from labor, and yet labor has not supported it, that he got support from business groups, but very few groups that are out there have supported the plan,” DeMaio said. “And so I just think that the email probably was making some claims that are not grounded in reality."

Filner said the candidate Lynch was referring to couldn’t have been him either, because he doesn’t know what Lynch looks like.

Because the City Council voted today to clear some of the last remaining hurdles in the path of the proposed $520 million San Diego Convention Center expansion project, Cavanaugh asked both candidates whether funding the expansion with a hotel tax that has uncertain legality was the right thing to do.

Under Proposition 13, any new tax in California must be approved by two-thirds of voters. City officials avoided that public vote by limiting those who vote on the tax to only hotel owners.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said that method “tests the boundaries of the law.”

Filner said this maneuver “would never happen in a Filner administration.”

“There should have been a public vote, and it should have gone into a public fund," he said.

DeMaio said Filner has supported “every single tax increase that’s come forward in the past decade,” but none would provide for neighborhood services, infrastructure, or creating jobs for San Diegans.

DeMaio said he told the hoteliers if they wanted the Convention Center, they would have to pay for it themselves.

“At the end of the day, it’s a win, win, win,” he said. “We get jobs in San Diego, we also get more revenues into the city’s budget to power our neighborhood services and fund our city programs.”

Cavanaugh then asked, if the courts struck down the hotel tax, what each candidate would do.

Filner said he would put the tax increase to a “vote of the people.” DeMaio agreed, saying “of course” he’d put the hotel tax to a public vote if that’s what the courts required.

Another question from Dalouge Smith, head of the San Diego Youth Symphony, asked each candidate what he would do to ensure Balboa Park’s centennial and the Plaza de Panama project were successful.

DeMaio said he would invest in the park using a “public-private partnership model where general fund tax dollars are not involved.” Instead of using the public’s money, he said the city should use money from philanthropy and self-financing mechanisms.

“Balboa Park should be seen as the Smithsonian of the West,” DeMaio said.

He accused Filner of attacking philanthropist Irwin Jacobs, who has promised to pay for a majority of the Plaza de Panama plan.

Filner said he was attacking DeMaio, not Jacobs.

“You said he was going to die,” DeMaio said, referring to Filner’s comments at the City Council meeting where the project was approved.

To close out the night, Vanessa Pash, an SDSU student, asked each candidate what he would do to ensure San Diego keeps the Chargers and “gets them the new stadium that they deserve.”

DeMaio said while it is an important issue, he is more focused on the city’s infrastructure needs. He said the city needs a public-private partnership to build a new stadium.

Filner also said no public money should be used to finance a stadium, and said sports teams “extort money from the public.”

“Under a Filner administration, there will be no more extortion,” he said.

Corrected: September 21, 2022 at 1:40 PM PDT
Editor's note: KPBS updated this story to include more of DeMaio's debate rebuttal re: his plans for the environment.