July 23 2013 06:42 PM

Liberals need to start coalescing around someone else

Bob Filner
Photo by David Rolland

San Diego has a mayor who's not allowed to be alone with a woman on city property. We repeat: San Diego has a mayor who's not allowed to be alone with a woman on city property. Let that sink in.

It sounds like a side-plot in a zany late-'60s comedy set in Podunk, U.S.A., and one of the kooky characters is the local deviant mayor who can't keep his mitts off the pretty girls in town. That would have been hilarious 45 years ago—much like Mickey Rooney's racist Japanese caricature, I.Y. Yunioshi, in Breakfast at Tiffany's, was hilarious to some people 52 years ago.

But this is 2013, and San Diego is the eighth largest city in the country, the second largest in California, trying desperately to be taken seriously and shake off its inferiority complex in the shadow of the much more politically influential Los Angeles.

The mayor's chief of staff, who's supposed to serve him and help create an environment conducive to success, is tasked with making sure that he doesn't prey on women. His security detail, whose job is to protect the mayor from those who might harm him, is charged with protecting female city staffers and members of the public who might be harmed by the mayor. San Diego is a sad, sick joke, manna from heaven for cynics who like to giggle at politicians' pratfalls. 

CityBeat two weeks ago called for Mayor Bob Filner to resign amid charges that he's a serial sexual harasser. They're merely allegations, but they ring awfully true, and his initial accusers—former City Councilmember Donna Frye and progressive lawyers Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs—carry oodles of credibility. In any other professional environment, a person accused of such behavior would be suspended pending an investigation. There's no mechanism for suspending the mayor; there's only resignation, felony conviction or recall. 

When you sincerely believe that a man can't control his sexual urges, you do whatever you can to separate him from potential victims; when you sincerely believe that about the leader of the city, you do whatever you can to separate him from his position of power—both to protect women who have little choice but to interact with him, and to serve citizens who deserve a leader with a capacity to move the city forward.

Understandably, some folks weren't as eager to oust Filner. Some of them needed more than vague accusations from intermediaries; they needed to hear from real people with real descriptions of unacceptable behavior. They got one on Monday, when Irene McCormack, Filner's former communications director, appeared alongside the splashy feminist civil-rights lawyer Gloria Allred, and described a vile work environment. (Please, let's not get caught up in Allred's arrival on the scene; she's not the story here.)

As a witness, McCormack is as solid as they come. She has decades' worth of high-profile history in San Diego, as a longtime daily-newspaper reporter, an executive with the Port of San Diego and an enthusiastic employee of the Filner administration who took a large pay cut in order to serve the new mayor. McCormack said Filner suggested she work without wearing underwear, kissed her without permission, put her in the now-infamous "Filner headlock" so that it was difficult to separate herself from him and said they should "consummate" a hypothetical marriage. We believe McCormack is merely the lead victim; we believe there are many more women with horror stories of their own. 

Other skeptics say that even with identified first-hand accusers, it's unfair to call for Filner's resignation before he gets his "due process." They need to keep in mind that Filner's calling the shots. Given that he doesn't plan to resign, he's in power until he's recalled or convicted of a felony, which both qualify as "due process." 

Liberals who can't bear to consider life after Filner need to get a grip. He's not nearly as inspiring or effective as they portray him to be. We suggest they start to coalesce around someone who can pick up and carry the mantle, who isn't crippled by severe personality disorders. As McCormack said Monday, "A man who lacks character makes a mockery of his ideas." Filner has good ideas about how government should serve its citizens, but he's stripped himself of the credibility needed to see them to fruition.

Please think about it again: He's not allowed to be alone with a woman on city property.

What do you think? Write to editor@sdcitybeat.com.


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