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Unwritten Rule May Fall by Wayside at City Hall

Speculation at San Diego City Hall is that Councilman Bob Filner is on the verge of breaking an unwritten rule of the City Council: Thou shalt not give aid and comfort to a colleague’s opponent during election time.

Council members are free to blast, scratch and leak on each other, but attempting to defeat one another at the polls is considered unseemly--a code that even Mayor-for-a-Decade Pete Wilson, a veteran at hardball politics, was loathe to violate.

But a recent meeting in Filner’s office between Filner, political consultant (and former Hedgecock co-defendant) Tom Shepard, and weekly newspaper publisher Larry Remer has led other council members to speculate that Filner is helping real estate agent John Hartley against Councilwoman Gloria McColl.

Filner, Shepard, Remer and Hartley are allies from the fight in favor of electing council members by district. Shepard is advising Hartley in his bid to unseat McColl; Hartley helped Filner in his own council race in 1987 and says he greatly values his fellow Democrat’s political advice.

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Filner says the meeting in his office did not concern McColl-Hartley but declines to say what was discussed. He says he has too many problems running his own office to get involved in an outside race, but he quickly adds that he has not ruled out endorsing Hartley, whom he calls a “a very good candidate.”

And he repeats what has become the conventional political wisdom: that McColl is highly vulnerable under the district-only system. She’s a Republican in a mid-city district where Democrats hold a 55%-32% edge, and she’s fresh from a failed run for the state Assembly.

For Filner, it would be a chance to settle a score from 1983, when, in his first council try, he placed well ahead of McColl in the district primary but lost out in the citywide runoff. (Four years later he switched districts and beat attorney Mike Aguirre, who was backed by McColl.)

Beyond getting even, Filner could have another motive for trying to pull Hartley aboard: as a move toward building bridges where few now exist.

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A recent poll of lobbyists, reporters and City Hall staffers rated Filner as one of the council’s most-intelligent and hard-working members but also one of the least effective, partly because a lack of tact has alienated many of his colleagues.

Collegial hard feelings aside, backing Hartley would not be risk-free. Not only would it further chill relations with McColl, it would also place Filner squarely at odds with McColl’s close friend, Mayor Maureen O’Connor.

McColl professes to be unconcerned about whether Filner will help Hartley and declines to speculate how that might influence the race this fall.

“Traditionally, council members have not endorsed in cases like this,” she notes.

Dishing It Out at Ranch

The Rancho Santa Fe Art Jury, the ritzy community’s equivalent of a planning commission, likes things on the ranch to be quiet and understated, like the subtle sound of old money.

Recently, the jury turned down a request from a homeowner on Paseo Delicias to install a satellite dish. The reason: The dish would have been visible from the nearby golf course.

“Too obvious,” the jury said.

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It Takes All Kinds

Television lawyer shows like “Perry Mason” and “L.A. Law” rarely build episodes around the tedious process of jury selection. But real-life lawyers say cases can be won or lost during voir dire , and they spare no effort in seeking insight into the minds of prospective jurors.

Take the proceedings last week in San Diego Municipal Court. The defense attorney asked would-be jurors to name the historical figure they most admired.

Answers ranged from Einstein and Wendell Willkie to John Wayne and Mark Twain. One man named the judge. And one woman said her thinking has changed over the years on the issue of what constitutes an American hero.

“In history . . . I think Eisenhower,” she said. “But now I think Kenny Rogers.”


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