San Diego's Squatter in Chief

It's time to get get rid of city mayors who think they should have unchecked powers.

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San Diego, Calif., Mayor Bob Filner announces his intention to seek professional help for sexual harassment issues on July 26, 2013. (Bill Wechter/Getty Images)

Last night, five New York City mayoral candidates participated in a televised debate and, generally, they weren't interested in discussing Anthony Weiner's lurid online activities.

The reason: Weiner's losing. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows him garnering the support of just 10 percent of likely Democratic primary voters. He's soon to become just an embarrassing footnote in the city's history.

San Diegans aren't so lucky.

While Weiner's scandal broke during the campaign, the sexual harassment allegations put forward by (now) 14 different women and the lawsuit against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner did not come to light until this summer. Elected to office in November 2012, Filner's term is not set to expire until 2016. Despite numerous pleas from fellow Democrats to resign and a voter recall effort, Filner refuses to leave office. Even more galling, he had asked the San Diego City Council to pay for his legal defense (it refused).  

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

Filner's decision to become a political office "squatter" is not only unconscionable, but also incomprehensible. He says that he wants to move San Diego "forward," but his alleged sexist and potentially illegal behaviors have taken the city backwards to the time when women were more regularly considered playthings for powerful men.

His political capital and personal credibility are gone. He's even been informed that he won't receive food or beverage service from the women employees at San Diego locations of Hooters. Filner is sinking lower every moment and dragging the city down with him.

But what's worse is that in situations like this, there's often not much that can be done. Recall statutes are designed to make gathering the support for special elections rather difficult. And few city charters provide council members with the legislative authority to initiate mayoral impeachment proceedings. Consequently, Americans have recently endured a string of mayoral scandals from New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. In former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's case, it actually took two felony convictions to get him to resign.

In the twenty-first century, mayors should not retain the unchecked power of Gilded Age party bosses. If cities are truly changing our world, then it's high time that we get control of our mayors.

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