The 70-year-old Filner spent 20 years in Congress. A reliable and articulate liberal—with high marks on his AFL-CIO, ADA and Sierra Club scorecards—he’s a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and was a “Freedom Rider” during the early 1960s civil rights movement, spending two months in jail for “disturbing the peace and inciting a riot.”
Among his first actions as mayor, Filner took on the powerful San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), accusing the investor-owned utility of failing in its commitment to alternative energy. He also has promised to pay more attention to the city’s neighborhoods, which many residents believe have been shortchanged by civic officials who are obsessed with developments downtown and in the “Gaslamp Quarter.”
As the first Democratic mayor of San Diego since 1992, Filner comes into office just a few months after voters passed two measures strongly opposed by unions. One prohibits project labor agreements on publicly funded construction projects; the other forces new city employees into 401(k)-style retirement plans.
Filner insists that he will respect the will of the voters on these matters. But he hasn’t yet told his friends in the labor movement exactly how far he will go to implement them.