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The election last November was bigger than one flawed man. For me, and for many of us progressives, it was a message that business-as-usual downtown was over. It was a message that all of our neighborhoods matter, north and south of the 94. It was a message that infrastructure needs and community-policing needs in District 4 were just as important as those in Carmel Valley.
While one man has let us down, we must refocus and work harder to elect a new mayor with enough integrity, enough experience and, yes, enough courage to continue to push a working-class agenda in City Hall.
As an LGBT activist, I want a mayor who has been and will continue to be a fierce and active advocate for equality. I do believe that the mayor of a large city has a certain responsibility to be active in social and human rights.
Voters last time understood that symbolic representation means nothing if a gay mayor is just going to be silent. The next mayor must continue to work with mayors around the country for the freedom to marry until we have nationwide marriage equality. He must be just as active speaking up for the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) and transgender rights. It is not enough for him to just be in a couple pride parades when he’s running for office. The mayor of San Diego must continue to be out there as our ally, helping us educate along the way.
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While I personally felt Filner’s idea for a binational Olympics was a little out there, I would encourage the next mayor to think big about regional partnerships. But, while working closer with Tijuana, we must be sure to lift up workers in both countries, instead of simply accelerating the outsourcing of jobs to non-union, poverty wages and inhumane maquiladoras.
Leadership in the mayor’s office can help pair a more efficient border crossing policy with pressure to provide humane conditions, organizing rights and living wages on both sides of the border, to lift up communities in Tijuana and San Ysidro and to provide local jobs.
As the son of immigrants, I am encouraged by recent bipartisan local cooperation with San Diegans United for Commonsense Immigration Reform. San Diegans understand we are safer when we bring immigrants into the light and stop treating anyone as “illegal.” The next mayor should continue this push.
As expected, the right has picked their man and has begun throwing money to confuse the public about his record. As progressives, I would encourage us to focus any attacks on him. But we must never forget that we can talk to rank-and-file voters of all parties and no party. The best candidate on our side is the one who can articulate our message to all San Diegans.
We must look at San Diego’s most effective progressive champion in Congress, Scott Peters. The next mayor of San Diego must also have his ability to communicate and get work done, while never compromising our values.
Our choice for mayor becomes easy when we consider that kind of viability. The messages sent loud and clear last fall will not and cannot die this fall. Our new mayor must continue to heed them. And we must all keep him or her accountable.
Matt Corrales is an LGBT community activist and elected member of the San Diego County Democratic Party. Corrales’ commentary has been edited for clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here. Want to respond? Submit a commentary.