Opinion

Beyond Business: Why Filner Must Resign

Beyond Business: Why Filner Must Resign

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Bob Filner

My job is to manage the affairs of an association that markets the San Diego region as a world-class business destination. More than 150 San Diego businesses give us their money and trust to be a strong and responsible voice for regional competitiveness, job creation and economic prosperity.

Fix San Diego Opinion Logo Over the past few days, I have responded to articles and tweets from my colleagues at Voice of San Diego that were critical of the local business community’s silence regarding the sexual harassment allegations being directed at Mayor Bob Filner. Some business leaders have wanted to speak out aggressively. Others have wanted to stay silent.

I have argued with VOSD that this may not be a “business” or “jobs” issue and have pushed back against the accusations that the business community is using this tragic situation as an opportunity to take advantage of a weak mayor and push through pet projects and personal agendas.

But our silence and my arguments end today. As a proud San Diegan and as a voice for the businesses and partners I represent, I have joined with more than 30 business association leaders from across our region in asking Bob Filner to resign immediately from the office of mayor of San Diego.

It has become impossible to ignore how interconnected our region’s economic development efforts are with the mayor’s office. This interconnectedness is becoming more of a detriment every day.

First of all, this is, in fact, a business and jobs issue. As you will begin to hear in concrete terms from our region’s business leaders, the abuse allegations against the mayor are having a serious negative impact on our economy – and anyone who says otherwise should spend a day in my shoes.

We have had conversations with businesses contemplating moving and expanding to San Diego that have been dominated, jeopardized and derailed by questions, concerns and jokes about our mayor. Our collaborative projects involving the mayor’s office are paralyzed with uncertainty and confusion. Business leaders have threatened to back out of meetings critical to cross-border initiatives if the mayor attends. And with each passing day, we have had an increasing number of calls from business representatives – women and men – who want to make clear that they will not be in the same room with him.

In addition, I cannot allow any women on the team at the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. to engage with the mayor – a serious problem, since nearly 70 percent of our team is female. It is clear that we can no longer work with the mayor to fulfill our obligations to our region.

But there is a far more important reason why the business community must now speak up. Most of the alleged misconduct by the mayor has taken place in a work setting. No business leader in this region can possibly condone a workplace where women are not respected, where they are intimidated, inappropriately touched, demeaned or are treated any differently than their male counterparts. It’s unacceptable, period.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

So today, there are no more arguments to be made as to why this is not a jobs or business issue. There are no more logical explanations for anyone remaining silent. For the good of our city, our economy and our community, we urge the mayor to resign immediately.

Cafferty’s commentary has been edited for clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us here. Want to respond? Submit a commentary.

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Mark Cafferty

Mark Cafferty

Mark Cafferty is the president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.

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Andy Cohen
Andy Cohen

Mark- I respect the difficult position you find yourself in with the EDC. But I suspect that many of your business clients are using the sexual harassment accusations as an excuse to shun the mayor, as most of them held him in contempt to begin with. It is no secret that the business interests Downtown were vehemently opposed to his candidacy for mayor in the first place, so this just gives them the out they were looking for without the appearance of being overtly political. There are legitimate concerns about what is happening right now at City Hall to be sure, but it is being somewhat over-dramatized. Whether he resigns or not, eventually this will all blow over and everything will return to normal, as with any other crisis. What I find reprehensible is members of the business community continuing to blame the TMD situation on the mayor. During that showdown, Filner did the right thing in seeking to protect the taxpayers in the event (eventuality) that the TMD "fee" is found to be an illegal tax. Even the City Attorney himself--who supported the TMD contract as originally conceived--admitted in so many words that the taxpayers were not adequately protected. The compromise requiring waivers from the hoteliers indemnifying the city is a perfectly reasonable and responsible outcome. And now the TMD is in trouble again because they cannot gain access to the funds that have been collected. Why? Because the hotels refuse to sign the waivers. They are publicly absolutely convinced that their "fee" scheme is perfectly legal and that they will prevail in court, yet they refuse to take on any of the risk in case they are wrong. Private profits, public risk. Who's fault is that? In my opinion it would be far more productive if the TMA and the EDC turned their ire toward the hoteliers who refuse to cooperate instead of directing it at the mayor's office. After all, all they have to do is sign the waivers and the money gets released. They are the ones who are deliberately doing damage to San Diego's tourism economy, not the mayor. It was the business interests that wanted to privatize the TMA in the first place, and this is the result.

Andy Cohen
Andy Cohen subscriber

Mark- I respect the difficult position you find yourself in with the EDC. But I suspect that many of your business clients are using the sexual harassment accusations as an excuse to shun the mayor, as most of them held him in contempt to begin with. It is no secret that the business interests Downtown were vehemently opposed to his candidacy for mayor in the first place, so this just gives them the out they were looking for without the appearance of being overtly political. There are legitimate concerns about what is happening right now at City Hall to be sure, but it is being somewhat over-dramatized. Whether he resigns or not, eventually this will all blow over and everything will return to normal, as with any other crisis. What I find reprehensible is members of the business community continuing to blame the TMD situation on the mayor. During that showdown, Filner did the right thing in seeking to protect the taxpayers in the event (eventuality) that the TMD "fee" is found to be an illegal tax. Even the City Attorney himself--who supported the TMD contract as originally conceived--admitted in so many words that the taxpayers were not adequately protected. The compromise requiring waivers from the hoteliers indemnifying the city is a perfectly reasonable and responsible outcome. And now the TMD is in trouble again because they cannot gain access to the funds that have been collected. Why? Because the hotels refuse to sign the waivers. They are publicly absolutely convinced that their "fee" scheme is perfectly legal and that they will prevail in court, yet they refuse to take on any of the risk in case they are wrong. Private profits, public risk. Who's fault is that? In my opinion it would be far more productive if the TMA and the EDC turned their ire toward the hoteliers who refuse to cooperate instead of directing it at the mayor's office. After all, all they have to do is sign the waivers and the money gets released. They are the ones who are deliberately doing damage to San Diego's tourism economy, not the mayor. It was the business interests that wanted to privatize the TMA in the first place, and this is the result.

Valerie Lewis
Valerie Lewis

Thank you Mr. Cafferty with San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. Your support for equal opportunity as an economic issue is a breath of fresh air and deeply appreciated. By many women in countless situations. And over multiple generations. But mostly for the future of our granddaughters. The sexual harassment allegations have caused a long-needed public conversation, an unintended consequence that will be beneficial in personal and professional growth for San Diegans.

David Malmuth
David Malmuth

Very well said Mark. Thanks for stepping up!

David Malmuth
David Malmuth subscriber

Very well said Mark. Thanks for stepping up!

Mark Cafferty
Mark Cafferty

Andy, I appreciate your comments. You know where I stand on TMD. You and I have been down this road quite a few times. And while I can agree with what you have stated above as to where we are now, we will continue to disagree as to how we got here. That is what it is. However my comments here regarding the mayor make no mention of the TMD issues. I don't mention tourism at all. These are simply my thoughts, observations and opinions based on what I see, hear and observe every day.  I am not making excuses to shun the mayor. I have no reason to. I have no reason to over-dramatize anything either. Whether you believe it or not, I have wanted nothing more than to see the mayor succeed.  I have worked with and for Democratic elected officials my entire career and know that we can be a remarkable city with either a Democrat or Republican steering the ship. In fact most of the great metro US economies are currently led by Democratic mayors. My reason for writing this was to offer a direct response to those at Voice (and in the broader community) who were suggesting that the business community was staying quiet in order to get/gain something from the mayor or push through personal agendas. In my opinion--for what it's worth--I see this as an issue that is paralyzingly the city, projecting an environment of disfunction, instability and uncertainty to those thinking of doing business in San Diego, and another huge setback in promoting our region for business attraction and investment. I also believe that it is a very serious workplace issue that those running and representing businesses need to comment on.  I hope you are right Andy in suggesting this will all blow over. But right now I see no positive end in sight. I certainly agree with you on one thing--there are and should be legitimate concerns over what is happening at city hall. I know that I hear about these concerns from people outside of San Diego every day. 

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage

Agreed. The EDC, Chamber of Commerce, San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and all business interests approved of Violating our State Constitution to increase Hotel Taxes 5% from the existing 10.5% TOT, to an effective 15.5% without the required public vote to raised public taxes. Pathetic. Illegal. Immoral. No Principles. Should be shamed for their civic position of hoarding the created wealth. The TMD and Hoteliers agreed to take over all Financial risks for the TMD legal strategy from the City's General Fund. Stop whining and put a 5% TOT up for a 2/3 public approval to be used solely for regional infrastructure. Including a maximum $525 million for a multi-purpose NFL Olympic stadium and Contigueous Convention Center Phase III Expansion on our Public State Tideland Waterfront. Show some leadership and stop Violating our State Constitution for private interests. San Diego has lame leaders all around.

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage

It is worse than that. The TMA, EDC, and everyone has refuse to put the idea of a 5% TOT Increase on the Ballot. The 5% Hotel Tax Increase would pay for Infrastructure, a up to $525 million multi-purpose Olympic Chargers Stadium and Convention Center Phase III Expansion, and advertisement TMD, Sports Authority, Film Commission, etc. A legal 2/3-voter approved 5% TOT Hotel Tax Increase would give the TMD, CONVIS, and Hoteliers certainty and stability. With zero effect to the City's General Fund. The 5% increase would be in place of the existing 2% TMD and up to 3% Special Tax under control of the TMD and TMA. Instead the downtown crowed has relied on legal advice from the City Attorney and agreement with the Hotelier's private attorneys on an illegal tax to raise Hotel taxes without the need for a public vote as required under our State Constitution. Breaking State law for a select private interest. www.tinyurl.com/20130415a The downtown Leaders also refuse to confirm or deny active faulting in the Port of San Diego Planning Areas from the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal north to Laurel Street, in areas prone to liquefaction. Very dangerous. At least the City of Los Angeles is finally obeying the call from our State Geologist John Parrish to follow normal State Seismic laws and not build high-rise skyscrapers on active faults. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-hollywood-fault-millennium-20130802,0,2930877.story The California Coastal Commission has filed a lawsuit against the US Navy including outstanding Seismic Issues and Hazards at the Navy Broadway Complex (NBC). Selling out to hide seismic hazard and scientific evidence of active faulting on liquefiable State Tidelands for greed, and getting along with business as usual, is immoral. And the status quo. Costing taxpayers billions in broken utilities. Allowing the siting of our United States Naval West Coast Headquarters including private high-rise structures on presumed active faulting may be a form a treason. Only the above-the-law downtown crowd and the former Osama Bin Laden would site such an important Homeland Security site just, and ignore scientific evidence, for private profit.Skyscraper developer agrees to dig trench to look for quake faulthttp://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-hollywood-fault-millennium-20130802,0,2930877.storyThe developers of a Hollywood skyscraper project said Friday that they had agreed to dig a trench on the property to help determine whether an earthquake fault runs under it. Officials at New York-based Millennium Partners said they do not believe th...

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage subscribermember

Agreed. The EDC, Chamber of Commerce, San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and all business interests approved of Violating our State Constitution to increase Hotel Taxes 5% from the existing 10.5% TOT, to an effective 15.5% without the required public vote to raised public taxes. Pathetic. Illegal. Immoral. No Principles. Should be shamed for their civic position of hoarding the created wealth. The TMD and Hoteliers agreed to take over all Financial risks for the TMD legal strategy from the City's General Fund. Stop whining and put a 5% TOT up for a 2/3 public approval to be used solely for regional infrastructure. Including a maximum $525 million for a multi-purpose NFL Olympic stadium and Contigueous Convention Center Phase III Expansion on our Public State Tideland Waterfront. Show some leadership and stop Violating our State Constitution for private interests. San Diego has lame leaders all around.

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage subscribermember

It is worse than that. The TMA, EDC, and everyone has refuse to put the idea of a 5% TOT Increase on the Ballot. The 5% Hotel Tax Increase would pay for Infrastructure, a up to $525 million multi-purpose Olympic Chargers Stadium and Convention Center Phase III Expansion, and advertisement TMD, Sports Authority, Film Commission, etc. A legal 2/3-voter approved 5% TOT Hotel Tax Increase would give the TMD, CONVIS, and Hoteliers certainty and stability. With zero effect to the City's General Fund. The 5% increase would be in place of the existing 2% TMD and up to 3% Special Tax under control of the TMD and TMA. Instead the downtown crowed has relied on legal advice from the City Attorney and agreement with the Hotelier's private attorneys on an illegal tax to raise Hotel taxes without the need for a public vote as required under our State Constitution. Breaking State law for a select private interest. www.tinyurl.com/20130415a The downtown Leaders also refuse to confirm or deny active faulting in the Port of San Diego Planning Areas from the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal north to Laurel Street, in areas prone to liquefaction. Very dangerous. At least the City of Los Angeles is finally obeying the call from our State Geologist John Parrish to follow normal State Seismic laws and not build high-rise skyscrapers on active faults. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-hollywood-fault-millennium-20130802,0,2930877.story The California Coastal Commission has filed a lawsuit against the US Navy including outstanding Seismic Issues and Hazards at the Navy Broadway Complex (NBC). Selling out to hide seismic hazard and scientific evidence of active faulting on liquefiable State Tidelands for greed, and getting along with business as usual, is immoral. And the status quo. Costing taxpayers billions in broken utilities. Allowing the siting of our United States Naval West Coast Headquarters including private high-rise structures on presumed active faulting may be a form a treason. Only the above-the-law downtown crowd and the former Osama Bin Laden would site such an important Homeland Security site just, and ignore scientific evidence, for private profit.Skyscraper developer agrees to dig trench to look for quake faulthttp://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-hollywood-fault-millennium-20130802,0,2930877.storyThe developers of a Hollywood skyscraper project said Friday that they had agreed to dig a trench on the property to help determine whether an earthquake fault runs under it. Officials at New York-based Millennium Partners said they do not believe th...