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— Saying the rich potential of cross-border relations has not been
tapped, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner on Monday pledged to promote
increased ties with Tijuana at every level — from cultural initiatives
to student exchanges to joint lobbying trips with his Mexican
“We have to strengthen the sense that we are one, that we don’t just give lip service to dos ciudades, una región
(two cities, one region) but actually make it true,” Filner said during
a meeting hosted by the Tijuana Economic Development Corporation, or
event marked Filner’s first formal public appearance in Tijuana since
he took office in December, staff members said, though he has crossed
south on two other occasions since becoming mayor.
for U.S. federal funds to relieve congestion at San Diego’s border
crossings is a priority for Filner. “It’s the biggest obstacle to our
relationship, for commercial things, for business,” he said. Together
with Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante, “we’re going to travel to Mexico
City and to Washington together to try to make the case that this is so
important to both countries, both cities, both peoples.”
recent weeks, Filner has announced moves to increase cross-border
contact with Tijuana, including the establishment of a telephone hotline
linking his office directly to Bustamante’s. He has appointed a staff
member, Mario López, to focus full time on border affairs.
he plans to open San Diego’s first office in Tijuana next month. In its
initial phase, the city will operate out of DEITAC’s offices in the
city’s Río Zone, where the business group has offered space free of
One way to truly
become a binational region, Filner said, would be for Tijuana and San
Diego to share the same area code — a move that would not only save the
cost of calling long distance but also offer a powerful symbol.
had broached the idea while serving as a U.S. congressman representing
California’s border with Mexico. “Technically, it’s a trivial matter,
you throw a few switches,” he said Monday. “Politically, it’s more
John Eger, a
telecommunications lawyer and professor at San Diego State University,
promoted such a proposal in the 1990s. “It’s important that we find a
way to blur the border, and one way to do that would be to establish a
common area code,” Eger said. The proposal failed, he said “for want of
support in Mexico City.”
Monday, members of Tijuana’s business community urged the mayor to take
action on other fronts. David Mayagoitia, the president of DEITAC, said
a good first step would be supporting the rebuilding of rail links on
both sides of the border — a move he said would help spur growth for the
region’s automotive industry.
future also depends on improving the city’s reputation in San Diego and
beyond, Mayagoitia said. “We need San Diego to help us overcome the
said he hoped Filner could continue the relationship developed with San
Diego’s previous mayor, Jerry Sanders, and “take it to a new level.”
Proponents of closer
collaboration have said the mayors might want to take some pointers from
a previous era — the 1990s with San Diego Mayor Susan Golding and
Tijuana Mayor Hector Osuna Jaime, when their administrations forged a
memorandum of understanding and staff members consulted regularly on
issues such as public safety, sports, culture and the environment.
D’Garay, who served as the Tijuana’s public relations director at the
time, said the formal arrangements, approved by the U.S. State
Department and Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, helped keep the efforts on
track. “Otherwise, you run the risk of turning into a social affair.”