Rep. Bob Filner went to Congress almost 20 years ago with a newfound understanding of the challenges facing veterans. They ended up being one of his signature causes. The individual problems of his constituents have gotten plenty of attention too.

But, as our Liam Dillon in a review of the congressman’s time in D.C., Filner has faced big obstacles, some of them caused by a man by the name of Bob Filner. “When he came to the nation’s capital, Filner said building relationships with his colleagues would be the key to his success,” Dillon reports. “By his own admission, he has struggled.”

What’s been the problem? A reluctance to play well with others, especially if they don’t share his political views.

Filner says he’s gotten better than in those olden days: “I was more of an abstract thinker, It was the ideas. I didn’t care about personalities and being friends with people, doing the small talk and all that. I was more of an intellectual. And I had to learn that lesson.”

Fortunately for him, he has plenty of fans — including veterans, among others — who continue to stand by him and could be helpful as he makes his bid for mayor.

• On one side you have one of the most liberal members of Congress. On the other is a councilman who’s union-bashing ways make him a hero to many local conservatives.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the mayoral election: Both guys are sounding mighty moderate.

Dillon, our City Hall reporter, has been keeping score. He offers a Reader’s Guide to how the candidates have evolved over the summer.

Stockton Pension Bonds Questioned

We’ve been following the drama in the city of Stockton, which is going through bankruptcy. The New York Times has picked up on a story about the city’s reckless decision to borrow money to invest in its employees’ pension fund.

Stockton is coming to the conclusion it was duped when it decided to borrow the money. City leaders are hoping bankruptcy will allow the town out of obligations to pay it back.

“Financial analysts and actuaries say essentially the same pitch that swayed Stockton has been made thousands of times to local governments all over the country — and that many of them were drawn into deals that have since cost them dearly,” writes the Times.

Filner, running for mayor here, has vacillated on whether he will push to do so-called pension obligation bonds in San Diego.

Quick News Hits

• “San Diego Assemblyman Marty Block has been put on the defensive over a procedural vote he cast involving stalled legislation that aimed to make it easier for school districts to fire teachers accused of lewd acts against students,” the U-T reports.

• The U-T says it was just kidding when it named George W. Bush and his father to the list of the top five presidents, ever. “We can now admit that while we believe both the senior and younger Bush were good presidents who will be treated more kindly by history than by current analysts, their inclusion on the list was a provocative effort to stimulate community discussion – and it certainly did.”

• At the same time, the U-T doubled down on its presidential election prediction: “Barack Obama will be, as this editorial board predicted a month ago, a one-term president. And, we repeat, in the end it will not even be close.”

The U-T’s publisher, Doug Manchester, has given more than $118,000 to Romney’s campaign or his Super PAC since August 2011, the Reader reports.

• The New York Times says there’s reason to be optimistic about the Padres and the future under new ownership.

• Old-time single-screen movie theaters (like Chula Vista’s The Vogue, my go-to moviehouse as a kid) have become hard to find in San Diego County thanks to the rise of the multiplex. But not all have been converted into bookshops or furniture stories. The Ken Cinema, one of the stalwarts, is a century old this year, KPBS reports.

It’s hardly the most comfortable theater in town, but it’s introduced plenty of San Diegans to classic films, arty movies and, of course, rice-, lighter- and newspaper-ridden midnight showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”  

The theater’s manager said the Ken was designed to be an alternative to the downtown theaters, where I assume the clientele were a bunch of swells: “This was built as sort of a ‘boonies’ theatre… Downtown at that time was about 10 cents a film and here it was cheap, a bargain at 5 cents.”

• Click here and you can listen to an audio archive of me talking about writing, publishing and journalism on UC Irvine’s public radio station. I appeared on the “Writers on Writing” show last week.

• If you missed the link to it in Saturday’s Morning Report, take a moment to check out the amazing “America’s Finest Timelapse” video of San Diego by Kevin Andrew Falk. It’s a beautiful fast-motion film of many of our most treasured places, set to music. Trust me: It’s a stunner.

What’s your favorite view? I’m torn between Nate’s Point dog park, the old Point Loma lighthouse, and the nightime downtown views with the planes and the pelican.

San Diego Poet Finds ‘Blankness’ in SD

Pulitzer-prize winning poet Rae Armantrout, an Allied Gardens native who’s described the San Diego neighborhood as “an example of the pathology of ‘Middle-America’ at mid-century,” continues to live here in our city even though she has plenty of issues with our community.

In a Voice of San Diego interview a couple years ago, she told me about the “irony” of our town as both military center and “happy-faced tourist place.” (For more of her thoughts, click here and here.)

Now, in Newsweek magazine, she rips into our fair city’s “blankness”, notes our “inferiority complex” and compares living here unfavorably to her halcyon days in San Francisco, where “half the people I knew edited small magazines.” A sampling of her critique:

• “To many people, San Diego looks like a fat comma hanging down below Los Angeles.” (Who are these people, exactly?)

• “I might even be able to give San Diego a kind of backhanded compliment by calling its lack of charisma ‘mysterious.’” (Sounds more like an un-compliment.)

• “In my mature years I have come to appreciate the blankness of this town.”

Wow. Talk about blank.  

Reaction on Twitter was not kind. “If there’s any $ left in the Lily Pond Repair Fund after they fix it, that should go towards moving expenses for Rae Armantrout,” tweeted local arts maven Susan Myrland.

Well, it could be worse for Armantrout. I won’t tell her about Orange County if you won’t.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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