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Bob Filner was sworn in as San Diego mayor Monday morning and promised greater ties with Mexico. The 10-term congressman later resigned his congressional seat, which was won by state Sen. Juan Vargas in last month's election.
Vargas will be the first Mexican-American to occupy the congressional post.
Filner's inauguration was attended by a host of Mexican dignitaries, including a six-member delegation from Los Cabos in Baja California Sur. Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante was unable to attend because he had spent Sunday night in Toluca cheering on the Tijuana Xolos soccer team to victory in the Mexican soccer league championship game. Filner said "my good friend Carlos Bustamante" was to attend, in San Ysidro, one of five community gatherings Filner planned to go to tonight. Update: Bustamante did attend and said Filner is a friend of Mexico.
"¡Felicidades ciudad campeona de Tijuana! ("Congratulations championship city of Tijuana!") ¡Que viva los Xolos! ¡Que viva los Xolos!" Filner said. "Yes, we've got the soccer champ of the whole country of Mexico ... nuestro equipo regional ('our regional team'). Thanks so much for bringing us that championship."
Update, Dec. 21: Filner wears a Xolo uniform to welcome Xolos to a training session at Petco park. Story, photo, Frontera (PDF).
After starting out his 17-minute speech by saying "Good morning," Filner immediately cut to Spanish, saying, "Buenos días a todos."
He thanked those Mexicans in attendance, starting with Consul Remedios Gómez Arnau, saying, "Bienvenidos amigos de México." Also attending were Tecate Mayor Javier Urbalejo Cinco, whose city was just named a "pueblo mágico" ("magical community"), former Tijuana Mayor Héctor Osuna Jaime, considered a top National Action Party possibility for governor of Baja California next year, Baja California tourism minister Juan Tintos Funcke, COPARMEX business leader Jorge Escalante, Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante's brother Alfonso, and the mayor's ex-wife, TV executive Carolina Aubanel, among many others.
"We're going to tap into the vitality and potential of our neighbors to the south," Filner said. "In part through a new border affairs office we're going to establish in Tijuana, and to strengthen every day our cross-border ties."
Paraphrasing Sen. Bobby Kennedy's "Why not?" speech, Filner said, "Why not make the San Diego-Tijuana region the incubator for a new innovation-based economy that provides good-paying jobs for all of our citizens in both countries?"
Filner, accompanied by his fiancee, Bronwyn Ingram, was sworn in at the Balboa Park Club before a capacity crowd by state controller John Chiang, who called Filner "our great mayor" who is "uniquely qualified to lead San Diego in the 21st Century."
Also in attendance were the candidates Filner defeated to win the mayor's race, Carl DeMaio, prosecutor Bonnie Dumanis and former state legislator Nathan Fletcher. DeMaio, whose last day as a council member was Monday, later spoke.
Filner said he would push for a major solar initiative for public buildings and for an overall goal of creating 50,000 good-paying jobs in the city during his term.
He said, "We are going to expand our convention center" and "We're going to make sure that the Chargers stay in San Diego and we're going to have a wonderful celebration of the crown jewel in which we sit now as we celebrate Balboa Park's centennial anniversary in 2015." That year will mark the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama–California Exposition held in the park, whose land was set aside in 1868.
Filner said his fiancee would be working with him very closely, "as a volunteer, of course," particularly on her key issues, disability and homelessness. Fletcher wound up sitting next to her.
Also among those who took office Monday was new council member Mark Kersey, who was sworn in by Jerry Sanders, who had just finished his term as mayor. Kersey, a Republican who will represent DeMaio's District 5, said he had recently been in Mexico meeting with business leaders. He told the Mexicans present, many of whom he said he had met, "Juntos vamos a dirigir el mundo en innovación y comercio. Gracias por su amistad" ("Together we are going to lead the world in innovation and commerce. Thanks for your friendship.")
Afterward, Kersey said he had been on the two-day trip to Tijuana and Mexicali with DeMaio. The trip was part of DeMaio's mayoral campaign. Kersey, who ran unopposed in the June primary, said he had just gotten a Sentri fast-crossing pass so that he would be able to quickly make trips across the border.
One other council member used Spanish. Former TV newswoman Marti Emerald, elected in the new District 9 in November, said "¡Sí se puede!" ("Yes we can!"). She proudly spoke of the new Democratic majority on the council, saying the city had never had both a Democratic mayor and a Democratic-leaning council until Monday.
U-T San Diego's Matthew T. Hall's take on Filner and Mexico: "Filner scores with Xolos, Chargers talk"
The Los Cabos delegation attending Filner's inauguration consisted of, from left: Oswaldo Murillo, the síndico; Alicia Cota, foreign relations; José Antonio "Tony" Abundez Montaño, mayor; Ana María Wilson, councilwoman; Jesús Druk, environmental director; and Gerardo Manríquez, treasurer.
Former state Sen. Denise Ducheny motions toward former Tijuana Mayor Héctor Osuna Jaime in front of the Balboa Park Club before San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's swearing-in Monday.
A Michelle Obama cutout outside the Balboa Park Club says "Go Bronwyn!" A nearby Barack Obama cutout said "Go Bob!"