A lot of folks who care about city policy are focusing on Bob Filner, the mayor-elect. The lobbyists are lining up to pay their respects.
Darren Pudgil, chief of communications for outgoing Mayor Jerry Sanders, tweeted this the other day:
“I love to watch all the post-election politico shuffling — ie, lobbyists sucking up & fawning all over the guy they tried so hard to defeat,” he wrote.
Must be quite a sight. Those lobbyists’ best shot will come when the mayor-elect holds his post-inauguration fundraiser Dec. 6 at the Hyatt Mission Bay. Actually it’s a “debt retirement reception.”
You see, Filner owes a lot of vendors who helped him get elected a lot of money. By city law, he has six months after the election to pay that debt off with campaign contributions. If he fails to raise the money, he’ll pay out of his own pocket.
The new mayor thrilled local progressives with his hire of Vince Hall as chief of staff. And he thrilled others with his announcement he would not immediately replace the city’s chief operating officer, Jay Goldstone. The mayor may be technically in charge as the chief executive of the city, but the COO has become the true city manager since the switch in governance in 2006.
As Filner gets his bearings as a chief executive, he may find himself dealing with the wake of City Councilman Todd Gloria.
I’m going to presume that Gloria becomes City Council president now that Tony Young has decided to give up the job and his council seat to lead the local Red Cross.
There’s a chance that, on his way out, Young, a Democrat, could make a deal with the right-of-center coalition on the City Council and support Republican Kevin Faulconer as council president. But that would be a huge shock, a final and dramatic stand against progressives and labor leaders who have been unhappy with Young.
I don’t see it happening. So let’s assume it’s Gloria.
He will have a defining opportunity to make a mark on the city. He will be the City Council member who represents downtown and mid-town and as president he’ll be the man who sets the agenda. That’s basically the position that mayors of the past had, before the strong-mayor switch in 2006.
When you think of all that someone like former Mayor Pete Wilson put through during his term, it’s good to remember he did it from a position more like Gloria’s than Filner’s.
More importantly, though, Gloria’s in a much better position to frame the city’s issues, than Filner is. The new mayor spent the campaign learning about the city’s problems and admittedly recycling long-held views about the city from when he was a council member decades ago.
Gloria put it to me perfectly:
“The guy with the 80-page plan lost the mayor’s race,” he said. The guy with the 80-page plan of what he’d do when he won the mayor’s race, Carl DeMaio, did lose.
The guy who won, Bob Filner, does not have a plan. He strung together a series of promises that were both massive and vague. Things like expanding the port and putting solar panels on all public buildings. They’re years-long projects, not anything you can throw together in a couple months.
Filner acknowledges he’s never been a manager of a big organization. He may spend many months grappling with the fact that he’s now the boss of 10,000 city employees, that he made some big promises and that he has a lot to do to put in the people who can help him frame San Diego’s debate.
While all this goes on, Gloria and the City Council may be busy framing the debate.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a rivalry — maybe friendly, maybe tense — arises between Gloria and Filner.
Gloria understands the city and its policies much better right now. He’ll be the Council member both representing an area with major projects in the pipeline and others it wants.
More importantly, Gloria gets to be the guy who decides which of the mayor’s proposals go to the Council. It is, after all, the Council that controls the budget.
Yes, Sanders, a Republican, often had his way with the City Council. But this is a different City Council and we don’t know how persuasive Filner can be.
No doubt, Gloria is a proud, liberal Democrat, just like Filner. But he earned a “D” grade from the San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council. And while Filner was blasting many of the projects and plans that the city’s right-of-center establishment was promoting — primarily the Convention Center expansion — Gloria was on board and a key vote for them.
The idea that Gloria will submit to a Filner agenda quietly is not realistic. Neither is the idea that Filner will submit to Gloria’s agenda.
But Gloria’s definitely more likely to have one in coming months.
I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you’d like at email@example.com or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):
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