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Thursday, Oct 20, 2011 - Last Blog on Earth | News

Filner, Fletcher and the future

Outtakes from A Better San Diego debate

By Kelly Davis
- Kelly Davis
Mayoral candidates Bob Filner and Nathan Fletcher squared off last night in the second debate of the campaign season. While the four major candidates were invited, they were the only two to accept the invitation. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has said she has no plans to debate until March, while DeMaio questioned whether the debate's organizers, the labor-backed A Better San Diego, would put on a fair forum.

And, indeed, Fletcher, a moderate Republican, was clearly at odds with the politics of most of the folks in attendance. Comprehensive pension reform? He supports it (boo!). Forcing city workers to prove they can do their jobs more cheaply than the private sector? He supports that, too (double boo!). Implementing a policy that requires the city to hire locally for taxpayer-funded projects? He doesn't support that (triple boo!).

But Fletcher showed populist leanings, too. He said he'd support an ordinance similar to one in Chula Vista that holds banks responsible for the condition of vacant foreclosed properties; he wants to see spending on public transit be more of a priority (and he briefly mentioned improving things for bike riders); and, he pointed out that he supports legislation by Gil Cedillo that would prohibit police from impounding the cars of unlicensed drivers at DUI checkpoints.

Fletcher came across as practical and pragmatic; the dude didn't flinch, regardless of how the audience responded. Filner, meanwhile, stopped short of promising everyone in the audience a pony (credit to political observer Seth Hall for that one).'s Liam Dillon wrote up a good summary of everything Filner said he'd do.

"But as the months tick down to the June 2012 primary," Dillon sums up, "it's on Filner to fill in the details of his world." Among the blanks that need filling in is Filner's plan to fix the city's pension problem. He reiterated last night that he does, indeed, have a plan and will be releasing it "soon." But, he's been saying that for awhile now.

Some things to watch for—and mull over—in upcoming debates:

* When you're running for city office, to what extent do you bring up your history in state or federal office? Both Fletcher a state Assembly member and Filner, a member of Congress, talked at length about their records. Does that resonate with voters?

* Filner said that, if elected, he'd abolish the Centre City Development Corp., the city's Downtown redevelopment arm. He's made it clear that Downtown redevelopment's run its course, but has never been so unequivocal about putting an end to CCDC. From our interview with him in August:

I’m going to run the whole campaign around neighborhoods—there are different needs in different neighborhoods. And I think Downtown, CCDC has done its job. They’ve turned Downtown around.

Now it’s time to refocus and maybe use those tools redevelopment gives us on other areas. And maybe be more creative because you don’t have that same kind of blight, but you have infrastructure needs.

* Both candidates talked about economic fairness and equality, though neither directly answered CityBeat editor Dave Rolland's question about trash fees (currently paid only by folks living in apartments and not by homeowners) and stormwater fees (currently far less than what they should be, even for businesses whose activities impact water quality, forcing the city to cover the difference to the tune of $30+ million). Both candidates took Mayor Jerry Sanders' tack, saying that voters wouldn't trust any kind of revenue increases until the city's got its financial house in order.