Rep. Bob Filner now has a veritable stranglehold on public safety-related endorsements in his bid to become San Diego’s next mayor.
He accepted endorsements Tuesday from the San Diego Police Officers Association (SDPOA), the San Diego County Deputy Sheriffs (SDCDS) and the Police Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), adding them to endorsements he received last week from the city’s lifeguards and fire department.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris, a fellow Democrat, also endorsed Filner’s candidacy.
Filner’s opponent, Republican Councilman Carl DeMaio, took the announcement in stride, releasing a statement thanking the city’s police officers for their service.
"I have the utmost respect for the men and woman who put their lives on the line to keep us safe,” DeMaio wrote. “I look forward to working with them in a constructive manner to invest in public safety."
Filner took the endorsements as an opportunity to release his public safety plan, which specified a few priorities he’s recently mentioned on the campaign trail.
His plan says he’ll introduce the police department’s five-year staffing plan as a starting point for restoring appropriate service levels.
He’ll also use unexpected revenue sources, such as the $27 million windfall settlement the city received from San Diego Gas & Electric, for public safety funding. Specifically, he’d use that payment on a one-time capital improvement cost associated with updating the police department’s communications system.
Filner’s plan also calls for diverting half of the money generated from an extension of the hoteliers-approved tourism marketing district (TMD) tax to pay for public safety initiatives.
This isn't the first time he's called for using TMD funds to pay for public safety, but he did for the first time provide an argument for how the arrangement could be found legally viable.
The tax takes 2 cents per dollar that visitors spend in hotels with more than 30 rooms and uses the money, which adds up to $1.2 billion over 40 years, and spends it on out-of-town marketing programs.
Filner said he opposes the TMD because it allowed hotel owners to approve a public tax, and hopes it’s invalidated by courts so it can be put to a public vote.
“I want it to go to a public vote so we can put public money into public safety,” he said.
But if courts uphold the current tax structure, Filner said he’d use his role as mayor to ammend the District Management Plan that outlines how the funds can be used to include public safety.
“It was created, so it can be modified by human beings,” he said.
He went on to explain the rationale for using the funds on public safety, given that Proposition 26 specifies that the funds would need to benefit those who pay the fee— hoteliers.
Because police officers, lifeguards and fire fighters divert resources to hotel guests and tourists — for drugs in rooms, prostitution, and fights, among other things, according to Filner — money generated by hotel owners could be spent on "visitor-serving public safety," he said.
Filner says the $15 million this would generate each year would cover the roughly $11 million needed under the department’s hiring plan. The plan intends to reverse current retention issues and increase new hires to return to 2009 staffing levels by 2018.
SDPOA Vice President Jeff Jordon said the department has been gutted to the bone and crime is beginning to increase as a result.
“We are struggling as a department,” he said, before calling Filner the best option to lead the city and make public safety a priority.
Filner said he was humbled by the endorsement and said he received it because the officers know he will respect their profession and treat them as valued members of the city.
“(Jordon) is being honest with you,” he said. "We haven’t had that kind of honesty at City Hall in years… How long can you keep minimum staffing?”
Filner also pledged to create a permanent endowment for the families of officers killed in the line of duty. The endowment would be funded by donations from private individuals, foundations and corporate sponsors.