The day after he won election as mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner took a symbolic step, holding a press conference in Trolley Barn Park in University Heights.
“There’s going to be new seats, new people at the table of economic and political power,” the long-time Congressman turned city leader told a throng of reporters. “People whose faces have not been seen.”
The location of his first press conference was as telling as what he said. The park is located at what used to be the end of the line of a trolley that started in downtown. Filner, the first Democratic mayor in 20 years, said it was time to symbolically reclaim the tracks that used to run from downtown to the city’s neighborhoods.
“It’s going to be a new City Hall. I purposely had this press conference not at City Hall to show that we are going to respect and concentrate on neighborhoods,” Filner said.
Filner, who received 51.42 percent of the vote compared to 48.58 percent for Carl DeMaio, has promised to shift power from the “downtown power structure” to new faces. He said there would be new faces among his advisors, among those he appoints to municipal boards and commissions, on his mayoral staff and among businesses that get city contracts.
That has concerned some in the business community, who now worry that labor, which contributed more than $2.6 million to Filner’s campaign, will have far more sway than businesses.
Vince Mudd, the past chair of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the incoming chair of the San Diego Economic Development Corporation, told Voice of San Diego that “the business community will judge Filner by the people he hires for his cabinet.”
“I don't think Bob Filner can mend those fences by himself," the online news source reported Mudd as having said.
That brought a comeback from a labor representative that highlights the current tension.
“Vince Mudd has it backwards: it's businesses who spent millions against Filner who must do the fence mending,” tweeted Evan McLaughlin. “The San Diego 20's arrogance will live on even if their relevance does not."
The San Diego 20 is a term that Lorena Gonzalez, chief executive officer of the San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council, has used to describe the old boy network in San Diego.
“We have seen the same names recycled for every [appointed] position,” she said, referring to people like Vince Mudd and Steve Cushman. “Every time there is an appointment for port commission or the convention center, it’s the same names.”
She said the labor council has sought to get new names into the mix, and Filner has promised to make that a reality.
“There is nothing wrong with [these people],” she said. “But we have to cast the net wider to get really good innovative solutions and cover all of the neighborhoods in San Diego; to make sure they are being represented and heard.”