SAN DIEGO — Mayor Bob Filner, in his first response to the recall movement aimed at ousting him from office, said this: "Now is not the time to go backwards."
Through his attorneys, Filner issued a statement late Monday to the recall committee set to begin Sunday gathering signatures to force an election. By city law, the committee must publish his statement in a local newspaper.
In the statement, Filner made no mention of the accusations of sexual harassment lodged against him by 14 women, including a former staffer who has filed a lawsuit.
Instead, Filner repeated the promises he stressed during his campaign and then in his early months as the city's first Democrat mayor in two decades: Better neighborhood services, improvements for Balboa Park, more bicycle lanes and a five-year contract for city employees, among other issues.
"Now is not the time to go backwards — back to the time middle-class jobs and neighborhood infrastructure were sacrificed to downtown special interests," the statement said. "We need to continue to move forward."
Recall leader Michael Pallamary rejected Filner's statement as an inadequate defense.
"Mayor Filner obviously believes his policy initiatives excuse his being a sexual predator," Pallamary said. "San Diegans want a mayor who doesn't grope and demean women."
Filner, 70, finished a therapy session last week reportedly aimed at helping him learn to respect women. He has promised to continue receiving therapy even after returning to work, set for Aug. 19.
All nine City Council members have called on Filner to resign. So have numerous state and national officeholders, and key business leaders in San Diego.
But several groups that have long been Filner supporters have not joined the call for him to resign. Organized labor and minority-group activists have indicated support for Filner despite the accusations of harassment.
"Everybody finds that kind of behavior unacceptable and atrocious," said border activist Enrique Morones, who organized a pro-Filner rally. "But Bob Filner has helped us in so many issues, we're not going to allow this lynch party to push him out."
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