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Live Blog from San Diego Mayoral Debate at La Jolla Country Day

by Chad Peace, published

IVN will be live blogging the San Diego Mayoral debate starting right now at La Jolla Country Day High School where Democrat Bob Filner squares off against Republican challenger Carl DeMaio.


George Mitrovich, President of San Diego City Club introduces candidates. Calls debate a "non-partisan" civic venture.



Question to DeMaio re: building a stronger relationship with Mexico. What policies would you put in effect to strengthen relationships with Mexico?

Demaio: Went to Baja California to meet with government and business leaders because relationship is important. Has come out with a number of strategies and will be cornerstone of strategy as mayor.

Filner (same question): Glad you asked the question. I've done all this for a long time. Went on a plane and met with a bunch of important people. That shows my expertise and respect.


Filner asked question about what we think about the convention center expansion.

Filner: We need to do a lot of things to boast economy like solar energy while we await convention center advancement.

Demaio: Must protect the convention center or we risk losing events like ComicCon and other major events to San Diego. Proud of fact he supported expansion of convention center. Filner has opposed it. We should support free trade and commerce at the port to accompany convention center expansion.


DeMaio asked about extending school calendar to 200 days.

Demaio: Absolutely support expanding school calendar. More important than academic year is after school programs like library, arts, science programs. These will allow us to help children and enter public partnerships. "Our children grow and develop 365 days a year" ... "Our city is responsible for their development.

Filner: First, attacks Demaio for taking up an issue "suddenly." Filner says he is the only candidate that put kids through school in San Diego. Worked with schools to strengthen relationships between schools and city. Will be a strong proponent of increasing school funding. Will not be against more funding.


Filner asked what credentials he has to oversee police department.

Filner: I have credentials to make it cleaner. I have as member of city council been involved in funding of city security like walking patrols ... long experience and how they relate to the community and how they relate to the border. Need to consider citizens of Mexican origin and the way police respond to them is extremely important. "We should leave immigration to the immigration authorities." "We should not have racial profiling in our city."

Attacked Demaio: "Funding has decreased since he has been on the city council."

DeMaio: We need a 5 year staffing plan that allows us to have more police academies and officers, so that we have some to back-fill sworn officers. We should not be offering tax-payer funded jobs in this economy. As we look at selection of police chief need to look at three criteria: need to consider their support of rank and file officers, support of reform, and support of diversity.

Should look at local law enforcement responsibilities; not taking the role of federal government (referring to immigration). However, if immigrant has been detained, we should use immigration status as an "arrow in our quiver" to be tough on crime. Should be able to deport; selectively used only to get bonafide criminal off the street.

Filner: Demaio supports Arizona's immigration law (-12:34- Demaio says he does NOT; reserves right to support his own policies, not let Filner say what they are. -12:35- Filner says Mr. Demaio did not support city condemnation of AZ, so he supports it), consider that. Also attacks the pension system of all our public safety employees ... that is exactly why they are leaving; because they can't rely on the system. Says Demaio can't say he supports these employees then go attack them.


Question: Considering that downtown hotels are largely not owned by San Diegans, how do we promote the development of San Diego and its own best interests in supporting an expansion of the convention center if the taxpayer funds as you propose go to a private group.

Demaio: Believes it is in the hotels own best interest to promote travel, tourism.

Filner: Hoteliers has the private right to decide what is used by taxpayer tourist money; that is what is wrong with this city. We are taking public taxpayer money and giving it to private interests in the city. I will change that.

Question (follow-up): If you don't like what hoteliers are doing with the money then what do you do?

Demaio: Convention center looks at just one part of San Diego. The hoteliers have the entire city interest in mind. Right now we have two groups with more limited focus. We need to bring them together to have a single interest in mind: San Diegans.

Filner: The single biggest issue is that we are shifting where taxpayer dollars go and the public don't even get to vote on it under Demaio's plan.


Question regarding whether San Diego is in doom and gloom time.

Filner: I'm the candidate of boom and gloom. We have the basis to move forward, question is how. The way we have budgeted in the passed has left neighborhoods without infrastructure and city services because money going to private subsidies and not public. We should transfer money from CCDC to the public, not to private billionaires.

Demaio: I was one of first people to point out problem with city finances. Roads are falling apart in San Diego. Every year budget needs to consider repairing roads and streets. Setting that money aside; what if we just wanted to maintain the "bad roads."  We are still falling $36 million dollars short: we need to be honest about this, not just remove it from the budget and pretend its not a problem. We will not get that unless we have an anual budget that is honest about our financial position.

Question: Unemployment rate is about 20%. Meanwhile, many student have internships to fill this gap. How do you work with San Diego to create jobs and internships with business community.

Demaio: I was orphaned without a job and took in by Jesuits. I learned a lot by getting job opportunities and working hard. I announced the San Diego "Hire a Youth" program by working with San Diegans. We can provide opportunities by creating partnerships with local businesses. We can even get city seasonal projects done through these programs.

Filner: My mantra has always been that the whole city has to take care of kids from 6am to 6pm. City has incredible resources to take care of and be responsible for our children and their education. I will tell people in our city they they have a responsibility to give opportunities to children and veterans as well as opportunities in the city. We should have an official city program; imagine what you all (looking at high school students in audience) could learn.


Question: Considering terrible fires we had awhile back, do we still face the same threats? What do we do?

Filner: In Demaio's district, there is one cop and one fire truck, yet that is where fires destroyed hundreds of homes. First thing is to make sure public employees don't leave; that requires protecting their pensions, not taking them away. Then we have to look to where they put their money. Cities just had a windfall (IE: over $20 million from SDG&E for being responsible for fires). Why is this money not going directly to city for fire prevention instead of things like our hotel industry?

Demaio: Safety of city is the first priority of a city government. I was the lone vote against balancing the budget by browning out fire stations and police stations. Proposal was to increase taxes. I opposed, but supported a reform proposal to keep public officials by reducing other spending and reforming budget instead of higher taxes. It worked. We kept ourselves from raising taxes and prevented public safety brown-outs. These are reforms that Filner opposed.

Filner: The tax increase Demaio talks about was only .5%. This was a tax the state was dropping, so the net effect was taxes would be the same.

Demaio: (Sarcastically). Yeh, this money magically appears so its not really going to hurt you. "You can put money in one pocket and take it out of another; your still taking people's money that they need. We need to help them through this rough economy.

Filner: I'm trying to be civil while showing differences. Are we going to have a society that is in this together, or a "me me me" society? I think we should work together. That's why these services are not there. We need a rational approach and work together.


Question: Demaio, your plan will cut regulatory fees on consumers, do you think this is enough to fix energy problems.

Demaio: No, today if you invest in clean efficient energy, you take on the debt and cost. I support a PACE program that is market-based and is the best way to jump-start solar and renewable energies. Support power-purchasing agreements. Filner says things about fixing problems that we all agree with, but is not offering any solutions. I have a plan and will bring people together to get that done.

Filner: Need a Mayor with a vision, not just a spread sheet. Mayor needs to have the vision for a 21st century city. City powered by alternative energy by 2020 is a good vision. If we put on a city mandate, that is an incredible incentive for businesses and the community to fulfill these visions. It will protect our environment and ensure that we meet the goals of the 21st century. There are firms now in operation that will install renewable energy without upfront costs and your payment is your energy savings. That is the way to get things done; I'm not going to shirk the responsibility for clean energy because someone says we can't afford it.


Last Question: There is currently a 4 x 4 balance of power on city council. If the ninth position is a person of the opposite party, how would you work with them toward progress.

Filner: Says excited to work with Obama, curious whether Demaio supports Romney. Says he was go-to guy on city council and in Congress because he can work with people. Dont get elected to them without working with everybody. I will reach out to all council people who all deserve respect and find ways to get everyone involved in the success of the city. This is a non-partisan mayor, and there is only one person here that has a lifelong experience working in that manner.

Demaio: We now have a balanced city council that has passed many of my reform measures like the 401K retirement program unanimously. I think we have a team committed to fiscal reform and protecting the quality of life in San Diego.

Closing statements:

Demaio: Opportunity to serve as mayor would be opportunity of a lifetime. Have so much going for us: beach, bays, workforce, arts, culture, military... One thing not on the list is our city government. We've had a rough decade. We can do better. Proud to be leading the reform movement. Instead of declaring bankruptcy like other cities, we are on the move and turning the corner. We are not done yet ... need to reform pensions and other reforms. We should not turn back now to division, denial, and talk. Our time is now. While Washington and Sacramento are engulfed in partisan bickering, we can continue to solve problems. But it will require a mayor with a track record of bringing people together. You can't more united than the record I have had with city council. Thank you .. hope to have your support.

Filner: Offers internships for Filner and Demaio (Demaio nods head in agreement). We have a one-term city councilman. I am a 10 term congressman elected by people of San Diego 25 times. Demaio got his measures done by referenda because he couldn't get bipartisan agreement. That's not how you get done. Questions asked today call for complex answers. Requires getting people together at the table. When you look at accomplishments and saving taxpayer money, I've saved billions (Much more than Demaio has in the city). We have had a small group of people control the city for a long time. Some people got very rich by San Diego development. We need to get rid of that. I march with Bobby Kennedy. Like him, I dream of things that what our city could be and ask "Why Not."

End of debate ... applause.

Short editorial comment: what started as some platitude-type answers turned into quite a productive and spirited debate. Real questions, and with the political debate we see day-to-day on the TV, it was refreshing to see candidates actually speak about issues with relatively little personal attacking. And no mention of a water gun fight.

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