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Filner makes his mayoral pitch at Greater San Diego Business Association luncheon

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Congressman and San Diego mayoral candidate Bob Filner slammed his opponents' proposals to eliminate pensions for city employees, suggested public ownership of the San Diego Chargers and presented his stance on the Occupy movement during a speech to the Greater San Diego Business Association Tuesday.

The GSDBA, a small business association for gay and lesbian professionals, hosts monthly luncheons featuring a range of speakers and hopes to hear from all four mayoral candidates, said its chief executive officer, Tom Luhnow. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis spoke at an association luncheon in October, but state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher and City Councilman Carl DeMaio have not yet been scheduled to speak.

Filner started his speech by telling the audience he has always been on the side of civil rights.

"It's ironic, because the current mayor was the police commissioner and I started my career in jail," he said, referring to two months he spent in the Mississippi State Penitentiary as a Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights Movement.

Filner presented his job creation strategies, including paying private companies to install solar panels on all public buildings, expanding the port and making border crossing more efficient to allow families from Mexico to come to San Diego as tourists.

His opponents' support of a pension reform initiative, which Filner said was "really a pension destroying initiative," blames city employees for all the city's problems, Filner said. He proposed instead a $125,000 cap on city workers' pensions.

Filner also promised as mayor he would give one or two small things to each city neighborhood that would improve its residents' quality of life, like lights above a soccer field in Sherman Heights.

When asked by an audience member for his stance on the Occupy movement, he said he was empathetic and thinks a balance could be struck between allowing free speech without disrupting use of the Civic Center.

By sitting down with protesters and showing them respect, Filner said he could convince them to make room for theater-goers and other Civic Center guests.

In response to another question about a new Chargers stadium, Filner said while he loves the Chargers, he does not support using public funds to pay for a new stadium.

"But if they want to give us part ownership, I'll sit down with them," he said.

Filner suggested the Chargers could be like the Green Bay Packers, which are publicly owned. When an audience member pointed out the National Football League no longer allows public ownership of football teams, Filner responded, "We can change the rules."

"We're legislators, we can change the laws," he said. "We can tell them, unless you give us public ownership, we'll go after your antitrust stuff."

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