Dec. 11 2013 10:06 AM

For whatever reason, San Diego's interim supreme leader isn't ready to endorse in the mayor's race

Todd Gloria, after his royal tram ride
Photo by John R. Lamb

"My advice to you concerning applause is this—enjoy it but never quite believe it."

—Robert Montgomery

You might ponder the intestinal makeup of someone embracing three jobs while only getting paid for one, but newly reappointed San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria seems to be basking in the inconvenience.

Fresh off a "humbling" job-performance gush-fest courtesy of his council colleagues on Monday, Gloria brushed off a jab from council provocateur and recent mayoral candidate Hud Collins, who fretted over Gloria's growing political power. The city charter allows the council president to fulfill the duties of the mayor when the office is vacated, and Gloria stepped in with gusto.

"You are not King Gloria! Although I'm sure you would like that title," Collins bellowed, protesting a council decision that effectively puts Gloria at the head of both the legislative and executive sides of upcoming labor negotiations.

"Believe me, Mr. Collins, there would be no one happier to do one job than this guy, and doing three at the moment is a bit much. I only get paid for one. I need a union!" Gloria responded in typical firm-but-punch-line-centric fashion, counting council member as a third job.

Then came the soliloquy: "The fact of the matter is the city charter… provided me with the opportunity to serve as mayor because I'm the council president. I can't resign that position and continue on with the duties of mayor."

Gloria noted that important discussions with city employees regarding issues like healthcare, disability and death benefits and managed competition cannot wait until a new mayor is elected sometime in February.

"So, we'll continue to do that work, and, obviously, when the new mayor is selected by the voters, this responsibility will go to that person, and I will happily go back to doing two jobs instead of one," he concluded.

The verbal exchange may have flustered Andrea Tevlin, the council's independent budget analyst, who, on a later matter, opened with, "Thank you, Council President Gloria. Interim council president. Council president, interim mayor," before surrendering to a laugh.

"Todd's fine," Gloria interjected with a smile.

The city charter doesn't specifically rule on how one is to address a council president who also keeps the Mayor's office functioning and the seat warm for a future elected mayor. Gloria's sharp and dedicated team has settled on "interim mayor," or "iMayor" for short.

He possesses fewer weapons than an elected mayor, most notably no veto power over council decisions. But the perks remain, including a security detail, sweet chauffeured travels in a bulbous black SUV and the ribbon-cutting / speech-giving circuit.

Monday's itinerary included the unveiling of the much-anticipated new trams now available—for free!—at Balboa Park. The sleek, bright-green shuttles will run daily from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. on a loop from the Inspiration Point parking lot east of Park Boulevard into the park interior.

Spin Cycle joined Gloria on the inaugural—and somewhat jerky—tram ride into the park, along with a few dozen other city officials, park enthusiasts and Ace Parking employees who will operate the tram system under a contract with the city.

Before Gloria could hop on a tram, a voice from the bank of media cameras asked about that day's big news: the home-confinement sentencing of departed Mayor Bob Filner, the man whose ouster created the additional workload— and notoriety—for Gloria.

The iMayor noted the ongoing fallout: "We are in litigation for at least one case at this point in time," Gloria said. "We'll deal with it appropriately in a way that's respectful to both the victim [former Filner Communications Director Irene McCormack] and to the city's taxpayers."

While the driver was getting a feel for the challenges of the undulating roadway along Presidents Way, Spin asked Gloria about the surreal nature of presiding over a city on a day when the media airwaves buzz with the courtroom fate of the previous mayor.

"I didn't watch it," he said of the morning's frenzied coverage. "It's just a relief, because we couldn't have gone on that way. I mean, as progressives, this was not the way to go."

The conversation naturally turned to council colleague and fellow Democrat David Alvarez, the progressive who is actually running to replace Filner, and the perplexing hesitancy Gloria has demonstrated in endorsing him.

What's the holdup? 

"Well, I think part of it is, well, I haven't made up my mind," he sputtered uncharacteristically as the tram lurched. The statement frankly blew Spin's mind, so much so that a follow-up question—about whether the decision involves choosing between a Democrat or Republican Kevin Faulconer or just to remain neutral—never materialized.

Gloria seemed to indicate the former when he added, "I think we should just see how they campaign and what issues they're going to focus on." He said he's made it clear he wants to know how the candidates would "maintain fiscal discipline—that was one area where Bob was terrible," prioritize infrastructure needs beyond mere talk and address homelessness.

Is Gloria looking for something specific from the candidates? He scrunched his face and shook his head.

Should his quick denouncement of shipyard interests seeking legal disembowelment of the council-approved Barrio Logan Community Plan update championed by Alvarez be a signal of his holiday intentions? Gloria wouldn't bite, instead simply noting about Alvarez on this issue, "He's right."

Gloria then pivoted back to the previous question. "Listen," he said. "If this was about my own ambitions, I'd have run for office. Part of the hesitation on the endorsement was to try to spend this time running the city in a way that's sort of devoid of politics.

"The best thing I could do was come in, fix the mess and run the city confidently as a progressive to show that a progressive can run the city," he added.

That sounds like an endorsement to Spin!

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