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Smile San Diego!

If only we were on Candid Camera

By Erin Chambers Smith

Smile San Diego! You’re on Candid Camera.

If only that were true.

A lot of people are tuned in to our city, though. San Diego is visible in a tiny sliver of the national spotlight. Since we publish a monthly magazine, we have the luxury of time–four whole weeks, sometimes five–that allows us to pay keen attention to what people outside our city are saying, reading and thinking about us. We often share the things we find with you. Hey, so-and-so in Boston said we have great beer! A big national travel magazine found Coronado to be the best beach!

This week, it wasn’t beaches and beers.

This week, the few million people that read the New York Times heard about our mayor Bob Filner and how he doesn’t respect women and needs sexual harassment training. And so did the readers of New York Magazine (which is the smarter, funnier friend of the NY Times, so those readers got a double dose of the story). The viewers of ABC News, like the Diane Sawyer ABC news, not the Kimberly Hunt 10 News version of ABC News, heard about it. And everyone in a city that has a newspaper that publishes AP reports (which is a lot of people). And CNN. And USA Today. And The Atlantic. And the Huffington Post. And on and on. The Anchorman references flowed through many.

But you all already know this, right? You’ve all gotten the emails or text messages from family members with some form of “WTF?” in the subject line, right? On one level it’s kind of nice. College friends, former colleagues, all checking in. A chance to network! Except I fear too many smart, cool people that live here are going to reconnect with their old colleagues this week, and decide to go join them elsewhere.

Because here’s the thing, Mr. Filner:

If you have “disrespected” women in a career that’s spanned many decades and states, and it’s taken a public shaming for you to admit it, then it’s done. You say you’re seeking help and sexual harassment training (I’m not a lawyer, but if there was ever a clear way to admit you sexually harassed someone, it’s to admit you need sexual harassment training). Great. Have at it. I hope you do get treatment and join us in the land of the living equal people. But do it on your own time, and on your own dime. Not ours. When you clock in and clock out at city hall, and whiz around town from community meetings to ribbon cuttings, you’re on our time and our dime. And we’ve got more important things to do and, unfortunately, many bigger problems to solve.

What you’re not getting, sir, is that this job is not about you. It’s about serving US. It’s about keeping us safe, secure and progressing forward.

By my count, the already-too-long election cycle, these first months in office, an interim mayor period, a special election and transition period – it’s all shaded. Soured. A lull in the timeline of our history. A stall. Like when someone’s car breaks down on the 805 and stops traffic. Only this isn’t the morning commute. It’s two years. A two-year-long eye roll. And no matter if you’re a young person trying to start a business or start a family, or an older person trying to leave a legacy, or someone surviving in the middle, no one wants to live in America’s Finest Eye Roll, let alone run a business here or serve on its government.

And if all of this sounds indignant, then good for you. At least some portion of your brain that’s supposed to perceive tone, intent and propriety is working.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner

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