City Council members have long jockeyed over SANDAG appointments behind closed doors but the battle went public in a big way on Tuesday, transforming a rote afternoon City Council meeting into an explosive event furiously chronicled on Twitter.

Mayor Bob Filner made his recommendations for key posts on the regional planning agency’s boards in a Thursday memo. Council President Todd Gloria followed with a memo of his own on Friday.

Their selections didn’t match up.

At Tuesday’s Council meeting, Gloria said Filner had verbally signed off on the council president’s recommendations.

“That was a misstatement of fact,” Filner retorted.

That set off a tense exchange.

Filner argued that the city’s rules required the two to come to an agreement, and that Gloria hadn’t gotten his approval. He urged Gloria to hash it out with him rather than have staffers broker a deal.

“Mr. Mayor, I am sorry, I am running the council meeting at this time,” Gloria said.

Filner’s reply? “Give it to someone else to run, or meet another day. I am telling you this is not a staff issue.”

Council member Sherri Lightner temporarily took over as the two met behind closed doors. They returned 30 minutes later with no deal but agreed to discuss the issue at next Monday’s council meeting.

Twitter lit up as political watchers from across the city collectively gasped at the heated display.

Chris Cate, vice president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association who once worked for Councilman Kevin Faulconer, tweeted: “My jaw is literally on the floor right now…uh-mazing. #SDCouncil.”

One council staffer created a hashtag, #SANDAGcliff.

The chairman of the county Republican Party gleefully weighed in on the bickering between the two Democrats:

Somebody please video/tape the backstage exchange between @toddgloria and #loopy @bobfilnermayor. PLEASE! #disgrace

— Tony Krvaric (@TonyKrvaric) January 8, 2013

Here are the key takeaways from Tuesday’s exchange.

This mayor won’t be pushed around.

Mayor Bob Filner isn’t exactly known as someone who plays well with others.

In a November post, Voice of San Diego contributor Randy Dotinga described Filner as “loud, abrasive and about as liberal as you can get without running an LGBT studies department.”

That side of Filner was on display Tuesday.

He chided Gloria for pressing ahead without an agreement.

“Because SANDAG asked for it doesn’t mean we have to do it,” he said. “We have our own rules.”

Filner and the City Council need to figure out how to handle appointments.

In the past, former Mayor Jerry Sanders held a series of behind-the-scenes meetings with the council president and then the two submitted a joint memo listing their recommendations for the regional posts, a move the city attorney’s office decided was kosher.

Council aides and others were well aware of any inside-baseball arguments but residents missed out on that drama. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday.

Confusion over the appointment process also emerged at a Monday meeting where the City Council selected two new commissioners to represent San Diego on the Unified Port of San Diego board.

The two appointment processes follow different protocols but it’s clear there’s room for review.

Perhaps Filner will be willing to work in a similar fashion on future votes but that certainly didn’t happen Tuesday.

Two Democratic leaders doesn’t necessarily spell harmony.

Our Scott Lewis predicted potential conflicts after the election:

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.

Lewis got it mostly right: A rivalry seems to be emerging. It won’t necessarily be friendly.

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at or 619.325.0528.

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Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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