San Diego's Mayor Is One Strong Mayor

Nearly one year after voters approved making the “strong mayor” form of government permanent, councilmembers that favored the measure are seeing just how strong a strong mayor can be.

During the January 26 meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee, deputy city attorney Paul Prather commented on a January 7 report from his office regarding midyear revisions to the budget. In the report, the city attorney's office opined that midyear revisions to the budget needed to follow a process similar to the one used to create the annual budget. That means the mayor is responsible for presenting the budget before councilmembers can make any modifications to it. And if the mayor does present budget changes, the council can only amend that specific item or dollar amount.

"That's a different assumption than we have been operating under for the last couple years," responded councilmember Kevin Faulconer, a supporter of the strong mayor system of government.

Elaine DuVal, representing the Office of the Independent Budget Analyst, said her office has been working with the mayor's staff to make it easier for the council to offer amendments to the budget. "What we're finding is that if the mayor isn't in agreement with something that the council wants to initiate, then it's really his call to do that."

Councilmember Carl DeMaio, who campaigned for making strong mayor permanent, had questions regarding the ruling from the city attorney's office. "Can the city council add conditions or encumbrances to funding for individual programs or individual departments?" DeMaio asked.

"Each condition would have to be reviewed carefully to make sure that it doesn't infringe upon the duties of the mayor," responded Prather.

"So, if we wanted to implement a reduction in the number of public information officers and program analysts in the City of San Diego to save $1.63 million...that's something that we can't do unless the mayor takes action, right? asked DeMaio.

"That's correct," responded the deputy city attorney.

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The city attorney opines and the councilmembers make assumptions. Do any councilmembers have the rule book? Or care?

If the council has been "operating" based on assumptions, why stop now?

Thanks for this report, Dorian. It's good to be reminded that we have such a dopey local government.

This whole cockamamie concept is now being revealed for what it was, a means of having to influence only one person in city government rather than a full council. Checks and balances? Fuhgedabouddit! If Sanders really pulls out all the stops to assert power, the council (including the supporters of the "strong mayor" concept) might find themselves virtually powerless.

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