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By Nadin Abbott

September 6, 2012 (San Diego)-- Mayoral candidates Carl DeMaio and Congressman Bob Filner met at the Photographic Museum in Balboa Park in a lively debate hosted by Innovation Alliance, moderated by Erik Anderson of KPBS this week.

The candidates sparred over innovation, the arts and education issues, offering clear choices for voters.

DeMaio cited his business experience, repeatedly stressing that this needs to be done with “fiscal responsibility” while avoiding “mistakes of the past” made when politicians over promise.

Filner reminded the audience of his work first on the San Diego Unified School Board, where he helped to “save the music programs,” and later his leadership in development of the Gaslamp Quarter and Hillcrest while on the City Council—projects that have successfully boosted tourism as well as attracting local residents.

When asked how each would promote the arts, DeMaio stated that he will do this by “growing the pie.” He emphasized that this has to be done in a fiscally responsible manner and we need to finish fiscal and pension reform.

Filner countered that a city has to fix its potholes and its pension system, but if that is all we do, “This is inspiration for mediocrity.”  He added that we need to be committed to civilization as well, and the arts enhance civilization. He reminded the audience that when one lands at Lindberg Field one has no idea that this city supports the arts. His formula calls for enhancing the quality of life and attracting investment.

Both were also asked how will the city accelerate commercialization of the world class research done by our universities.

According to DeMaio, the “major issue is the heavy burdens in moving an idea from research to manufacturing.” He added that we need to cut the red tape. We also need to create the environment “where people want to invest in production,” and we need to fully participate in the binational economy, he said.

Filner pointed out that his experience in academia as a historian of science allows him to understand the relationship between academia and the real world. He has been in both worlds, from teaching to serving in the U.S. Congress, and understands the interaction between the two. He would bring together these experiences and ask, “How can the city help you?”

Filner suggested that the city could even give short term contracts to innovators to help them get off the ground, helping a small business by giving them a leg up.  

DeMaio kept charging Filner with being a man who has done nothing over his political career, and who has no real world experience. He closed by reminding people that he has started businesses which Filner has not. In his closing statement he also accused Filner of being a tax and spend Democrat.

Filner countered those charges with his solid experience serving as councilmember, vice mayor, and on the school board. He emphasized that he has both academic experience and real world experience required for innovation—including helping the children of San Diego. He noted that when he was in City Hall the city enacted a program to bring children to Balboa Park; if elected he aims to expand the ability of young people to find employment and internships in San Diego.

View full debate:

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