Public safety and pension reform have become high-level, dueling issues in the San Diego mayoral race this week.
Each candidate is accusing the other of lacking real commitment to both.
Having been painted by Councilman Carl DeMaio as a flip-flopper on implementing the pension reforms of Proposition B, Congressman Bob Filner on Tuesday unveiled a public safety plan and gathered up law enforcement supporters who bashed DeMaio's record on police and fire protection issues.
"We face a reality where our police department has been gutted to the bone, where we struggle each and every day to meet our guidelines -- which over the last few months, we met only 60 percent of the time,” Jeff Jordon, vice president of the San Diego Police Officers Association told reporters at a Filner news conference in front of police headquarters downtown. "The result within the community that we see? Crime going up … our response times are going up."
It's a theme Filner's backers sounded in connection with DeMaio's pension reform and cost-cutting efforts, which they say prompted police officers to take early retirements and move to other law enforcement agencies, leaving SDPD with hundreds of unfilled positions and one of the lowest staffing ratios among the nation's largest cities.
"During that time, and during his leadership, if you wish to call it that,” said Jesus Montana, regional chair of the Peach Officers Research Association of California, “[DeMaio] has pushed to make it difficult to retain and hire new officers. Is this really the type of mayor that this city needs? No."
Said Filner: "Carl doesn't even want to put local public safety first. He says we've got to enforce federal laws, like immigration laws. And he supports such counter-productive measures as the Arizona immigration law. This is a lack of understanding what our officers should be focusing on every day, and what they have the time, resources and jurisdiction to focus on."
To beef up public safety staffing and resources, Filner spoke of dipping into the city's public liability account -- which covers legal claims -- and tourism marketing funds, a revenue stream linked to the hotel industry’s room-rate surtax levied on guests.
Filner insisted there are legal and political avenues to make that happen.
Along with law enforcement labor groups and California Attorney General Kamala Harris, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department's rank-and-file have endorsed Filner as well, and spent half a million dollars campaigning for him.
"Now if I were his opponent, Councilman DeMaio,” observed Liam Dillon, who specializes in covering civic issues for Voice of San Diego, “I would point out 'Yes, it's not a surprise that the Congressman has support from public-sector labor unions; all of them are now lining up behind him. That should be no surprise'. At the same time, going around saying you have the support of police and fire does have a special cachet."
By way of response, DeMaio's campaign communications director issued this statement: "Carl has City Council all day and is busy working at the job he was elected to do, and unlike Bob Filner, Carl actually shows up to vote."
The statement also attributed this quote to DeMaio: "I have the utmost respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. I look forward to working with them in a constructive manner to invest in public safety."