Councilmembers Donna Frye and Carl DeMaio sat at a table at the front of a meeting room inside San Diego County's Health and Human Services Complex.
Local political and social activist groups Empower San Diego and Common Cause sponsored the "Strong Mayor Forum."
Frye and DeMaio were invited to discuss Proposition D, the June ballot measure that if passed would make the current strong-mayor style of governance, enacted in 2005 with 51 percent of the vote, permanent. The proposition would also create a ninth council district.
From the front of the room, each councilmember stated their position to the 40 people in the audience.
Councilmember DeMaio spoke first: "I want to end the debate on who is in charge. I don't believe that the strong-mayor system of government ends the debate, but it is a lot better than the old system of government. A strong-mayor form of government, I believe, is the best platform to move the city forward and adds more accountability."
Frye started her remarks with some history: "Unfortunately, the current strong-mayor form of government is still the same ill-conceived form of government that was drafted back in 2004 behind closed doors and presented at one full city council meeting."
According to Frye, if passed, developers have direct access to the mayor and will only need the votes of four councilmembers and the mayor to proceed.
As for more accountability, Frye added: "If we continue with this form of government, guess what we won't see at council meetings? The mayor. Cause he or she won't show up."
While DeMaio cited improved accountability and a bolstered executive branch that would accompany a strong-mayor style of government, Frye hammered away at the diminished access to the mayor, the cost of adding a ninth council district, the unbridled and covert mayoral power, and requiring a supermajority of councilmembers to override a mayoral veto.
DeMaio and Frye answered questions from the audience. DeMaio reiterated that Proposition D does not solve all of the issues in city government. "A lot of the issues that [Frye] and I fight on a daily basis are still going to be there despite a Prop D victory or failure."
Some anti-Prop D audience members, as well as Frye, took DeMaio's concession as an opening. "I wish we could convince [DeMaio] to come over and join us," said Frye. "I will keep pressing to get you to switch sides."
After Frye's comments chants came from the audience: "Come on, Carl. Come on, Carl."
"We'll make a deal with you, Carl," said audience member and San Diego blogger on local politics Pat Flannery, "If you oppose Proposition D, we'll make you mayor in 2012."
The meeting ended shortly after.