Filner Scandal Casts Shadow Over California’s Efforts at Recovery

So long, Bob.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner spent much of the summer jockeying with New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner in the race to become 2013’s biggest political train wreck. Meanwhile, America’s Finest City stood by, watching the leadership of its local government fall apart.

While UCSD students were on summer break, Filner’s sexual harassment scandal escalated from a sprinkling of whispered rumors to a brigade of women who came forward accusing the first-year mayor of a variety of offenses. As incoming freshmen finished registering for classes, Filner had struck a deal to leave office with some city assistance to help fight sexual harassment lawsuits.

Filner’s repeated refusal to resign amidst the growing number of accusers stretched out a battle that could have only led to the same outcome — which will end up costing taxpayers around $6 million for a special election.

By mid-August, 81 percent of San Diego residents polled by U-T San Diego felt that Filner should leave office. Dueling recall efforts from LGBT Weekly Publisher Stampp Corbin and land-use consultant Michael Pallamary quickly merged and seemed to be an easy Filner-be-gone recipe.

But by the time Filner actually left, the damage to the city’s reputation, efficiency and piggy bank had already been done.

The Filner debacle is particularly disheartening considering the strides California as a whole has made over the past year. An Aug. 29 Rolling Stone story lauded California Gov. Jerry Brown for fixing a broken system and working to set the state back on track after several years of budget gaps and funding issues.

The governor’s combination of tax planning and cautious cuts has left California with its first balanced budget in years. University of California students saw another year without tuition increases and actually will receive more state funding this year than last — thereby undoing a streak of cuts.

With California showing the early signs of recovery, we’re cautiously optimistic about a return to glory days. But issues with leadership in the state’s second-largest city threaten to disrupt recovery efforts. The better part of two months was not spent on making San Diego or the local community any stronger.

Filner’s early departure marks the fourth elected mayor out of eight since 1963 to leave office early in disgrace. One former mayor left office to seek higher political office, and yet another became embroiled in scandal 20 years after serving as mayor.

Nineteen candidates have qualified for a primary election to replace Filner and interim Mayor Todd Gloria in mid-November. While a runoff seems imminent, voters should make every effort to become informed on the real issues that affect our city and state and elect a candidate who will actually work toward fixing the city.

Admittedly, we share some of the blame for Filner’s rise to power. In November 2012, we endorsed Filner on these pages as “the lesser of two evils” in his race against former City Councilman Carl DeMaio

Policies aside, Filner’s conduct was unacceptable and was harmful to those around him and the city as a whole.

Here’s hoping San Diego gets its leadership right this time around.