Editor: Pat Flannery writes a blog – Blog of San Diego – that focuses on the inside deals of San Diego politics. Here’s his latest.
by Pat Flannery / Blog of San Diego / May 6, 2010
I went to a strong-mayor forum (Prop D) last night at the San Diego County Health Complex sponsored by Common Cause and Empower San Diego, with guest speakers Donna Frye and Carl DeMaio. It was well attended, informal, with lots of great comments and questions. Carl and Donna are a great double act and the crowd loved it.
For me, what emerged was a pointed reminder of the continuous struggle between a secretive privileged elite and the rest of us. Carl DeMaio, who by temperament should identify with the forgotten masses, seems to yearn for acceptance by San Diego’s ruling elite. It will never happen. Those of us who have lived here long enough know that San Diego is an elitist closed shop.
Carl doesn’t seem to realize that Strong Mayor = Insider Deals. Unwittingly he is supporting a Prop D that will condemn him to permanent outsider status just like the rest of us. No matter how faithful a servant he may become, he will never be the choice of San Diego’s ruling elite. They already have their yes-man – Kevin Faulconer. Ironically, DeMaio could actually be a popular mayor under the old system. His instincts are for open government, not Sanders-style insider dealing.
Frye argued passionately against the insiderism of a strong-mayor system. She contrasted the ready responsiveness of the old city-manager-style staff with the present bunker mentality of the strong-mayor system. She told how previously cooperative staff are now terrified to talk to Councilmembers for fear of being fired. Everything is routed through the Mayor’s office. Every staff member remembers how Jim Waring, an arch-insider and land use attorney, was fired for talking to Donna Frye about Sunroad. Jay Goldstone told him he was “not political enough”.
The fact is that powerful business interests already control City Hall. Prop D would just make it permanent and cheaper for them. Look at its financial supporters . It reads like a “Who’s Who” of San Diego’s insiders with McMillan and Sudbury topping the list. Under Prop D business interests would only need to own the Mayor and four Council Members to run the city. Control of local government is a business gravy train. It issues their permits and funds their projects.
A key part of Prop D power is the mayoral veto. It would expand City Council from 8 to 9 members which in turn would require 6 votes (not 5 as at present) to override a mayoral veto. Four compliant Councilmembers is all business would need to achieve a headlock on all city legislation.
Here’s how a strong-mayor would work. He/she would veto an item passed by the Council 5 to 4. A super-majority of 6 to 3 would be required to override that powerful veto. Insider money would easily own 4 of the 9 votes. They already do: Faulconer, DeMaio, Young and Gloria (the Lincoln Club just bought Young’s vote). The City Council would be effectively emasculated. That’s what a strong-mayor would mean. That is the plan.
Thus a bought and paid for Mayor and four bought and paid for City Councilmembers could deliver billions of our tax dollars to special business interests such as the Chargers, while we the citizenry go begging for city services. But first they must get Prop D passed!
Will an insider elite succeed in persuading enough ordinary San Diegans to vote for an insider regime that is the very antithesis of citizen services? It would be like turkeys voting for Christmas. I sincerely hope the citizens recognize Prop D as the developer Santa Clause that it is and reflect on the stuffed socks of those four bought and paid for City Councilmembers.