- Photo by David Rolland
“Euphoria can only go on for a certain amount of time. Eventually reality wins out.”
San Diego County Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric—still wallowing in the political thumping his soldiers took in November—didn’t bother shaving for the occasion.
A restless Mayor Jerry Sanders—seated between First Lady Rana Sampson and a tearful Johnathan Hale, Carl DeMaio’s life partner who so badly wanted to succeed her—perked up when praised for his fatherly civic stewardship but slumped and chewed gum briskly at mention of work left undone.
Reelected Democratic City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, meanwhile, quoted scripture from Galatians about not giving up, which failed to get a mention from Krvaric, who’d earlier tweeted his outrage that the day’s invocation was devoid of the words “God” or “Amen.” (Invocations at city functions are traditionally nondenominational.)
Yes, Monday’s swearing-in ceremony for new mayor Bob Filner, two new council members and four familiar faces was not likely what Sanders and his Republican forces had predicted would highlight his final day as the city’s top dog.
But as has been his go-to mode when faced with outcomes not foretold during his seven-year tenure as mayor, Sanders joked his way to completion.
“Today begins a new chapter in San Diego, and I’m happy for that new beginning,” he told an overflow crowd at the Balboa Park Club. “In fact, I believe the two happiest days in a mayor’s life are the day he takes office and the day he leaves office. Having been through what Bob is about to go through, trust me, I’m the happier man.”
Not surprising words from a man who, as mayor, made it abundantly clear it was a job he did not relish taking. But take it he did—twice.
From the outside, however, it appeared that Filner was having the better time, that trademark wide smile perpetually plastered on his face while calling for a new era of cooperation. He used the word “gracious” several times to describe his at-times-virulent campaign opponents, all of whom, he noted, were in attendance.
“I think it shows the vibrancy of our democracy that all of the people who ran against each other are here,” Filner said in a departure from the prepared remarks beaming from two Tele-Prompters, “and participating in a very rare thing, you know, a peaceful transfer of power. You don’t see it everywhere in the world.”
Filner also departed from the script while thanking city Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone and his staff for agreeing to stay on during the transition and “hopefully” through the coming budget process.
“The day of the vilification of your employees is over,” the new mayor declared, prompting a roar from the crowd.
Councilmember Marti Emerald, reelected, but to the new District 9, injected a bit of partisan fervor when she loudly proclaimed that “for the first time in San Diego history, we have a Democratic [City] Council and a Democratic mayor!” Heady stuff indeed for San Diego’s progressive leaders, who acknowledge in private conversations the awesome responsibility that comes with such rare political success.
With folks like Krvaric, DeMaio and their drown-government faithful maintaining their tone-deaf mantra into 2014 to double down, blame the loss on November’s high voter turnout and, as DeMaio reiterated during his final remarks, “stay the course,” it’s clear that the drumbeat of the reluctantly vanquished won’t soon fade away, putting into question the ceremony’s spirit of cooperation.
To his credit, DeMaio uttered some words of atonement Monday during a mostly self-congratulatory speech, which he uncharacteristically read from notes, minus, he said, one contact lens. He thanked city employees, whose unions he demonized.
“Now, I know that we disagree on compensation and pension reforms,” DeMaio began, “but I want you to know how much I respect and appreciate how hard you work for the citizens of San Diego and the professionalism that you demonstrate day in and day out.”
DeMaio seemed to keep his emotions in check on his final day, acknowledging that “public service is rewarding, but it can take an emotional toll.”
He said he was buoyed during bad times by phone calls of encouragement and constituent emails thanking him for his help. Some communications even transcended politics, he said, including a letter from a gay high-school student he received three days after the election, “saying that despite the outcome, he appreciated having a role model to look up to.”
DeMaio concluded, “This has been an amazing four years for me, and I would gladly do it all over again.”
Newly elected Councilmember Mark Kersey, DeMaio’s District 5 successor, who’d waited since his unopposed June primary win to be seated, seemed to mimic some of his predecessor’s clarion reform calls but also softened his remarks with a vow to make neighborhoods—Filner’s laser-beam focus—“walkable and bikeable.”
Kersey also demonstrated a streak of humor when he noted that his young son had asked him, “Daddy, when you’re president of San Diego, can you make a law requiring people to drive faster?” He said he’d work with his son on that, “maybe make him an intern.”
The other council newbie, Scott Sherman, who along with Kersey and eventual District 1 loser Ray Ellis were touted as part of the council-majority team that DeMaio had hoped would join him on his fiscal conquest, offered up the briefest speech in which he reiterated the ever-popular “I’m not a politician” mantra, but with a twist, noting both the brevity of his words and his hairline.
Later that evening, Filner would stop in at The Center in Hillcrest as part of the day’s inaugural whirlwind tour of several city neighborhoods and schools. He was still smiling when talking about encouraging the city’s youth to get politically involved.
“Remember, the previous mayor was a police chief, and the present mayor started his career in jail,” joked the former Congressman, who, as a teen, served time for his participation in the Freedom Riders movement in the South. “I think that’s a step forward!”
The crowd erupted in cheers, but he quickly added: “My new police detail is not applauding.”