As San Diego Mayor Bob Filner prepares to return to office following his early departure last week from a stint in what he referred to as a “behavior counseling clinic”, calls for Filner to resign continue.
The current number of accusers standing at 16, Mayor Filner refuses to step down.
Although last week Filner issued a response to the recall effort that said, in part, “Now is not the time to go backwards.” The letter continued to highlight Filner's accomplishments, plans and ended with Filner stating, “As your Mayor, I am committed to moving San Diego forward!”
Calls for Filner’s resignation have come from both parties and both local and national politicians. California Senator Barbara Boxer wrote an open letter to Filner earlier this month, in which she declared, “Now I must say this directly to you: Bob, you must resign because you have betrayed the trust of the women you have victimized, the San Diegans you represent and the people you have worked with throughout your decades in public life.”
Mayor Filner’s decision not to leave office is the right one.
Stupidity and Selfishness at the Core of Recall Effort
The calls for Mayor Filner to step down are rooted in stupidity, selfishness and a lack of social responsibility.
Anyone with at least a modicum of intelligence would be able to understand the rudimentary concept that calling for the removal of elected officials from office as a knee-jerk reaction to sudden, unproven, allegations is a clear path to victory for lawlessness, their political opponents and is the antithesis of the very core of our legal justice system.
The people supporting recall efforts because they feel the scandal has made Filner unable to lead cannot seem to process the reality that, it is not Filner that has made himself unable to lead, but rather those who continue to go to the media to give interviews and hold press conferences, perpetuating this scandal, that are putting roadblocks in the way of Filner’s leadership.
Those asking Filner to step down are like children who do not understand that there is a process and just because someone said something about someone else, it does not make it true. They do not understand that it is irresponsible to fly off the handle and jump to conclusions, especially without proof.
There are quite a few people who like Mayor Filner. I am one of them. I like him personally and I like him as a politician. In December, I sat down with the newly elected Filner and his then-fiancée for a lunch interview. Having run into him in the past, at a community event he attended as a Congressman and a candidate for Mayor, I was familiar with him but still a bit intimidated and did not know what to expect. I quickly found him to be just as kind, charismatic and sincere as he appeared. I found myself immediately at ease as he made jokes that calmed the mood and gave genuine responses to questions. An inquiry about posing for a photograph was met with shock as if it was even a question as to whether or not he would, he then immediately began to try to figure out how we could all fit in the picture. Even in subsequent run-ins at everything from high-end galas to church anniversaries, he was the same with me and others.
I like that he is a fighter. He fights for those who need fighting for, he is not about the status-quo. He has fought for civil rights, veterans, victims of sexual abuse, etc. and as recently as July, he fought for tax-payers and hotel employees in a $6 million stand-off with the San Diego Tourism Authority and the Tourism Marketing District (who stood to benefit from him signing a contract left unsigned by former Mayor Jerry Sanders as he left office), telling the SDTA, the TMD and their wealthy beneficiaries to “stop whining”.
Possibly my favorite thing that Filner has done since he took office was the deactivating of traffic light cameras and tickets being issued as a result of “photo-enforced” intersections. I found the cameras to be ineffective and frankly a bit Orwellian. Filner took little interest in the $1.9 million the city received in fiscal year 2011 from the tickets and rather focused on its impact on San Diegans and tourists.
There is a running theme in what Filner has done in the short time he has been in office (it hasn't even been 10 months) and that is showing a constant support of San Diegans over big money. A marked change for this city. It does not take much to see that, for some, these recall efforts may be less about women’s right and alleged sexual harassment and far more about the financial interests, for which Filner legislatively appears to have little concern.
San Diego has major issues (infrastructure, jobs, homelessness, etc.) and these issues have persisted or gotten worse under decades of Republican Mayoral leadership and now that there is a change in priorities and the political party in the Mayor’s office, calls for resignation surface.
These calls come from those who think that voters are not entitled to see the person they voted for, govern. They come from those who believe the elected person, party and ideals should be subverted, simply because accusations have been brought forward. They believe that being accused of a crime is enough - no proof or conviction necessary.
The Presumption of Innocence
Lost in all of this needless nonsense has been the presumption of innocence and the concept of due process.
One of my biggest pet peeves about the national dialogue on many subjects is that we constantly allow the wrong people to guide the conversation. Topics are always taken over by extremists on both sides, leaving reasonable people in the middle either scratching or shaking their heads.
The situation with Filner is no different. Have there been quite lurid and shocking accusations? Yes. Filner’s is alleged by his accusers to have done everything from dragging women around the office in a headlock and requesting that they work without undergarments to slobbering on their faces and publicly patting their behinds. It’s fair to say, yes, we have shocking and lurid covered. A logical person then must ask themselves this question: Have any of the accusations been proven? The answer is quite simply, no. Not an ounce of proof has been brought forward to support any of the claims made against Filner. As a matter of fact, the media firestorm, ensuing outrage and calls for resignation started before any charges were filed and any accusers were shown.
Those calling for Filner to abandon office are seeking to set a dangerous precedent. Their actions look to create a society where the law, the people’s votes and a person’s basic rights under the law, are all pushed aside for a trial by public opinion poll. That is a very slippery slope. We must never allow ours to become a culture where allegations override due process and a presumption of innocence, particularly as it relates to our government. An elected official’s political opponents would then need only to find someone to make an accusation that's lurid or juicy enough with a minor (if any) amount of truth to it, to restart and circumvent the voting process - the accused person's reputation being collateral damage.
Nobody Likes A Scandal
“This is becoming a international. It's embarrassing,” one woman whispers to another in the parking lot of my gym.
“This is getting ridiculous,” a man says to his server as she takes his order at a local restaurant where I occasionally get breakfast.
These things were said as if somehow getting rid of the so-called embarrassment of a scandal is more important than waiting for all of the information to become available and conducting a full-fledged investigation.
This, in many ways, is what is wrong with the function of our government. Politicians are continually rewarded and punished for the wrong things by an incomprehensibly immature, reactionist electorate.
As a result of watching a recent anti-Filner rally I found myself needing to be reminded that San Diego is not a village and those people were carrying protest signs, not torches, as it seemed a witch-hunt mentality had kicked in.
Though the concept is frightening to some, I have always been partial to taking people at their word until there is proof of a reason not to do so. I view this as both logical and the intention of our justice system.
For Mayor Filner to resign would be to hand the Mayor’s office, the people’s vote and the presumption of innocence over to any person and/or group that may not like a candidate that wins public office. This lends itself to anarchy and it is simply not the way a civilized, mature society operates.
To Be Completely Clear
To be clear, I am not saying that what these women have alleged happened or did not happen. I am simply saying that an allegation is simply that until it is proven and until that takes place, the system cannot be sidestepped and a person’s reputation destroyed as a byproduct.
At its worst, that is dangerous and at the least, it is quite simply, foolish.