La Jolla was the site of two recent mayoral debates — the first hosted by the Rotary Club of La Jolla and the second by La Jolla Country Day School, in collaboration with the Preuss School, City Club of San Diego and the National Conflict Resolution Center.
Candidates Carl DeMaio, a Republican city councilman serving San Diego’s fifth district, and Bob Filner, a Democratic congressman serving California’s 51st district, squared off Sept. 4 during the Rotary club’s weekly luncheon at La Valencia Hotel.
Noting that the DeMaio- backed and voter-approved Proposition B — which would replace pensions with 401(k)-style retirement plans for most new city hires and freeze pensionable pay for five years — could be tied up in the courts for some time, moderator Pat Stouffer asked what the candidates would do in the meantime to solve the city’s fiscal crisis.
Filner said if the measure was still in legal limbo when he is mayor he would put a cap on six-figure pensions for city management.
“I invited Carl to join me in supporting that; he’s never favored it or not,” Filner said, adding that the only cost-saving aspect of Prop. B is the five-year pensionable pay freeze.
“I’m the only one who can implement that immediately; I’ve already talked to the employee groups,” Filner said. “If Carl goes into any negotiations with the people he has said are the enemy of San Diego, he goes into these negotiations as the declared enemy.”
Before answering the question, DeMaio took the opportunity to wish Filner a “happy 70th birthday,” evoking some gasps from those in attendance, to which Filner later responded, “I appreciate the birthday wishes, but like my favorite president, Ronald Reagan, said when he ran against Walter Mondale, ‘I will not use the youth and inexperience of my opponent as an issue in this campaign.’”
Speaking to the issue of Prop. B, DeMaio said, “Our pension payment went from $48 million in the year 2000 to a whopping $238 million this year. ... We have to reform pensions, which is why I didn’t wait to be in the mayor’s office to tackle this important issue. I helped to create Proposition B, and worked with a bipartisan coalition to get things done.
“Prop. B is not tied up in the courts,” DeMaio maintained. “The unions have filed a number of frivolous lawsuits and they have not succeeded in getting any judge to say that we cannot implement it.
“And I have not called the employee unions the enemy,” DeMaio added. “Mr. Filner, you need to stop trying to misrepresent my positions in a very divisive way.”
Asked how the candidates would determine funding for quality-of-life issues such as the arts, DeMaio said his “fiscal reform agenda” would create money to revive programs that have been cut, such as library and park and recreation center hours, code compliance programs and water quality management.
“As we increase our hotel tax revenues over the next eight years, which we expect to double, we will also double the funding for arts, culture and science programs,” DeMaio said.