It’s becoming fun to watch Bob Filner’s mayoral campaign narrative unfold. The congressman already revels in his status as the only major Democrat in the race. He takes every opportunity to dub the pension reform initiative he opposes as the “DeMaio/Dumanis/Fletcher plan,” branding it after the last names of his three opponents.
And when those opponents and current Mayor Jerry Sanders decried last week’s state Supreme Court decision to eliminate redevelopment, Filner baldly took the other side.
“The fact that all these power brokers and the mayor are so upset means it must be the right thing to do,” Filner told the U-T San Diego. “The mayor called it a money grab by the governor and I say ‘No, we’re stopping a money grab from downtown special interests.’”
We’ve already noted the stark contrast between Filner and one of his competitors, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, on redevelopment.
Even before last week’s court ruling, Filner wanted to “abolish” the powerful downtown San Diego redevelopment corporation and focus instead on revitalizing outlying neighborhoods. Fletcher, meantime, engineered a last-minute deal that would have funneled a significant share of an estimated $6 billion in property taxes downtown over two decades.
That deal, which California’s best known political columnist likened to one made in “some tin-pot Third World dictatorship,” cost Fletcher considerable political capital. Now, the Supreme Court’s decision has made Fletcher’s big play meaningless.
Other candidates are pouncing. Councilman Carl DeMaio blamed Fletcher, in part, for redevelopment’s demise.
“The midnight deal absolutely contributed, and probably resulted in the end of redevelopment,” DeMaio told the Daily Transcript.
“That left a sour taste in many people’s mouths, and some saw redevelopment as a pork fest, and people said it’s nothing but a boondoggle, something to eliminate,” he continued. “It was done in exchange for support on the budget, and it undermined the credibility and the benefit of redevelopment agencies in the public’s eyes.”
DeMaio is proposing a statewide initiative to restore redevelopment. For those scoring at home, that’s three ballot measures DeMaio wants to sponsor over the next year: pensions, city street repair funding and now redevelopment.
What I Missed Last Week
I spent the holidays with my family in Philadelphia, the land of cheesesteaks and underachieving sports teams. I missed some good journalism.
• California Planning & Development Report, a trade journal, offered the best take on the redevelopment decision and the future of the state’s urban renewal system:
It’s not about redevelopment. It’s about money. And if all sides in Sacramento can resolve the money issue, the legal status of redevelopment will be practically irrelevant. There is every reason to believe a deal will be struck. It’s just not the deal that the California Redevelopment Association and League of Cities were hoping for when they filed suit four months ago.
The journal also detailed the too-complicated-to-think-it-will-actually-happen plan that’s supposed to unwind redevelopment agencies. My bet instead is on a new law that will revive redevelopment, but significantly curtail its power and financial clout. Think more affordable housing, less football stadiums. (My view isn’t universal. Local think tank head Erik Bruvold thinks redevelopment will die because of the continued tenuousness of school funding.)
• Those following the mayor’s race should read a couple interesting stories on Filner.
A South Bay cross country star has grabbed widespread attention because she’s facing deportation as an undocumented immigrant. ESPN detailed her situation and mentioned that Filner is sponsoring a bill that would keep her here:
“This story cries out for humane treatment,” Filner told ESPN. “She is the All-American girl. I don’t feel as if she broke any laws. She came here, not of her own volition. … She’s been here 20 years, she’s an exceptional young woman with no ties to Mexico, yet she was in jail for five days and was very, very close to being sent there.
“She has done everything right, her entire life. She does not deserve this treatment.”
Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, took a lengthy look at Filner’s time on the House of Representative’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee, an interesting role for a liberal who had never served in the military:
Veterans’ groups generally agree that Filner’s brash and abrasive in-your-face style of politics helped secure the significant funding increases the VA has enjoyed over the past several years. They also agree they need an advocate, such as Filner, to protect their interests as budget realities begin to catch up with programs once considered untouchable.
Correction: This story originally overstated the projected benefit to downtown San Diego from Fletcher’s legislation. We said Fletcher’s deal “would have funneled an estimated $6 billion downtown over two decades. It has been corrected to say “a significant share” of $6 billion. We regret the error.
Liam Dillon is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?
Please contact him directly at email@example.com or 619.550.5663.
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