By Ron Donoho
Former Congressman Bob Filner edged out Carl DeMaio to become San Diego's first Democratic mayor since 1992. Like his recent predecessor, Jerry Sanders , the new mayor wants people to address him by his first name. "During the campaign, bus and taxi drivers would say, 'Go get 'em, Bob,'" he says. "They knew I was on their side." Filner is 70, lives in a downtown condo and has a fiancée who he plans to marry in late 2013. Didja know he plays the piano? Here's more:
What was the first thing you did after you got official word that you won the mayor's race?
I kissed my grandchildren. I was more humbled than exhilarated at first.
What's this about you pledging to work on Saturdays?
I work seven days a week, so it's no big deal. But what I said was that the mayor should be available to citizens on Saturdays so people without appointments can stop in, talk to me and have a cup of coffee. I want to be available to people who aren't part of the establishment.
If you could only fix one problem in San Diego, what would it be?
The economy is always the biggest thing. Then everything else can work.
Do you feel like political change brings a new optimism? Is the economy ready to swing upwards?
New people have to justify optimism from the beginning. Is there a sense of change? Yes, but new people are tested. But I do think change brings a hopeful context.
What's your take on Tony Young resigning his city council seat mid-term to take a higher-paying job at
The Red Cross
I'm sorry he left. He was a great councilperson. He has some kids in college and he needs to provide for his family. He was offered three times the salary for doing something that probably isn't as difficult as what he was doing. It says something about good people being able to support themselves on public salaries.
On the political scale of jobs, is going from the House of Representatives to the mayor's office a lateral move?
[Laughs.] I think it's a big step up, which is why I did it. On the one hand, I loved the job I had in Congress in Washington. But being a member of the House in the minority party is very difficult. I believe that being the head of the eighth biggest city could help my constituents and also be a role model for the rest of the nation. My goal is to solve homelessness in San Diego. If we did that, it would have national implications.
How big a role will maverick former city council member Donna Frye have in your administration?
Donna will be head of a department we'll call Open Government and Community Engagement. She will make sure people are involved in the process, and that neighborhoods are taken seriously and respected.
You were born in Pittsburgh; what made you move to San Diego?
I got my doctoral degree in history of science at Cornell. I applied for jobs and got six offers. One was at San Diego State University. It was the farthest from where I was, so I decided that's where I should go.
What are your favorite San Diego restaurants?
I live downtown, so I love the Gaslamp Quarter. I like neighborhood restaurants more than fancy places. We go to SoleLuna a lot. We go to Zanzibar. In Little Italy, Café Zia - the cook makes me a special pasta dish with garlic and oil. We stop in the Indigo Café on Sixth Avenue, too.
You met your fiancée, Bronwyn Ingram, during a Congressional meeting. How did you follow up on that?
I was so impressed with her effort to protest something the state was doing regarding her agency's ability to reach out to people. I was impressed with her leadership, so I asked to talk to her more. We ended up having lunch, and then dinner. I love her political commitment and energy, which grew to...fiancée-ship.
Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?
[Pause] I guess not.
If there was a movie made about your life, who would play you?
[Laughs] People say I look like Kevin Costner . But in his early days, I would have loved to have been played by Sean Connery.
Who would play your fiancée?
Bronwyn is a beautiful blonde. Somebody glamorous. I think Sharon Stone.
San Diego's new Mayor shows up at "Christmas on Crystal Pier," December 1 in Pacific Beach.
Head Coach Bob Filner?
Maybe the San Diego Chargers should hire Bob Filner as their coach. His record speaks for itself - he's 26-1 in political elections (school board, city council, Congressional, mayoral).
That'd be an amazing single season for a college basketball coach; and a great nearly two-year run in the NFL. And it's possible that during Filner's four-year term as mayor of San Diego a decision will be made about the future of our local pro football team.
How does Filner plan on making the Chargers and the taxpayers happy about keeping the team and not having the public pay for a new stadium?
"It's going to be hard to do," he says. "I think we can. I am a big Chargers fan. We cannot spend taxpayer money on this. Taxpayers have not gotten good deals in the past. But I think there are ways to build something that gives money back to the city."
And what about Filner's record?
"Not bad - I think I could take Norv Turner's job with that record," he says, with a chuckle.
He adds: "I'm humbled by that record, not arrogant about it. I am the employee of the voters."
Plane & Simple
The easy way to the orient
According to Google Maps, directions from San Diego to Tokyo get tricky around entry Number 19: "Sail across the Pacific Ocean." In case your sailboat is out of commission (or doesn't exist), Japan Airlines (JAL) has a solution: frying there. Sorry, make that "flying."
Using it's fleet of Boeing 787 "Dreamliners," JAL is now helping America's Finest citizens get authentic sushi fixes without the hassle of transferring flights. Nonstop service from Lindbergh Field begins at about $1,300 for a Value Saver Fare. That's roughly 107,000 Yen, if you're big in Japan. Business class starts at ¥330,000. If you don't have a "¥" on your keyboard, it may be time to start saving for a boat.