SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego mayoral candidates, Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, and City Councilman Carl DeMaio faced off Tuesday on topics ranging from pension reform to the city's homeless, although recent vandalism to Balboa Park's lily pond was a hot topic during the debate.
Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, accused City Councilman Carl DeMaio's partner Johnathan Hale of promoting a midnight water fight -- whose participants are believed to have caused extensive damage to the 97-year-old pond -- on the website for the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, which he publishes.
An article in the publication Thursday, which focused on another event, later mentioned the water fight in a list of unrelated weekend happenings.
Filner told the debate audience at the Marriott Gaslamp Quarter that it showed "an incredible lack of judgment and character" by someone who would serve in the DeMaio administration.
DeMaio fired back, stating he believed the city's next mayor should not take such incidents and "use them to attack and try to ruin innocent people's lives," and that as mayor he would "make sure that we rise above mean-spirited, nasty, divisive politics."
The mayor's race had been on summer's back-burner until the fallout from the Balboa Park incident hit, resulting in an exchange of barbs between the two camps.
City Councilman Tony Young sent a tweet after the debate that noted the explosive rhetoric.
Young wrote that he expects "civility" in the race for mayor. "We have worked hard to focus on the relevant issues. Both candidates would do well to do the same."
DeMaio said the voter-approved Proposition B, which requires the city to offer new employees other than police officers 401(k)-style retirement plans rather than enrolling them in the pension system, "makes San Diego the model for how we deal with runaway, out-of-control pension costs that are bringing every level of government to its knees."
Filner opposed what he called a "badly written proposition," but said he was the only one who could implement it, although the only real cost-savings would come from a five-year limit on the type of compensation that could be later used for pension payouts.
The candidates also discussed the city's Connections Housing homeless shelter, set to be completed at the end of the year.
Filner cited a zero-tolerance plan for veterans' homelessness and said the homeless could be taken off the street if housing came first.
"Let's get people out of the violence, the insecurity and the economic issues that they cause off the streets," he said.
Homelessness was a priority to DeMaio during his City Council tenure, he said.
"These are individuals and we need to provide the services to break the cycle of dependency, to get these individuals services in mental health, substance abuse, job training, permanent health care programs and housing so that we can put them in better lives -- help them move forward," DeMaio said.
The candidates also discussed using union contractors, expanding the San Diego Convention Center, state building regulations and non-renewable forms of energy.
DeMaio said he was running for mayor on a record of getting things done, citing his actions while serving as a councilman.
"A vision of prosperity, a style of bringing people together on controversial issues, on tough issues, but bringing people together from all sides to get results for San Diego, I'm running on that record," DeMaio said.
"This campaign ought to be about the issues that matter to working families and to San Diego taxpayers. Unfortunately, Mr. Filner is not keeping the debate focused on those important issues," he said.
Filner said the election should be about accomplishments, citing his time on the Board of Education, in the City Council and as a congressman.
"Let's talk about a record that goes back for years and years in so many different fields versus holding press conferences and exploiting the problems that we have in our city," Filner said, comparing himself to his opponent.