By Carl DeMaio
Councilmember, San Diego District 5
Prop D would enhance accountability at City Hall by making the strong mayor/strong council form of government permanent.
This form of government creates clear roles and responsibilities. The mayor would serve as head of the executive branch, overseeing management of city departments day-to-day. The City Council would serve as an independent legislative branch formulating policy, making appropriations and conducting oversight.
In 2004 voters approved a trial experiment in this form of government. Unless Prop D is passed, that trial would end – and the city would revert back to the outdated and discredited city manager form of government where there is little accountability or balance.
Prop D does not just make permanent the strong mayor/strong council form of government. It makes significant improvements to how San Diego achieves that form of government.
By giving the mayor a real veto, subject only to override by a two-thirds vote of the City Council, Prop D will bring important checks and balances to city government. With a real veto, the mayor will be able to check the parochial spending desires of each individual City Councilmember.
This system of government provides balance in another important way. The mayor, who is elected citywide, would run the executive branch while City Council members, elected by each individual council district, would run the legislature. San Diegans need to have both perspectives represented in their government and Prop D accomplishes this.
Proposition D adds a ninth seat to the City Council to allow for a simple two-thirds vote for a veto override. While opponents of Prop D complain that the addition of a ninth City Council seat would cost money, adding a ninth seat will help ensure that important smaller neighborhoods – such as North Park, South Park, University Heights, etc. – continue to get a voice as the city’s population grows.
The ninth seat can also be added without increased costs if we commit to splitting up the existing council budgets equitably. I have joined with Councilmember Kevin Faulconer to sponsor legislation that ensures a new council seat will be “cost neutral” in the city’s budget.
Prop D would also prevent a return to the days when city bureaucrats were allowed to negotiate costly labor contracts with other city bureaucrats. Under the old city manager form of government, labor negotiations would be conducted by unelected city bureaucrats who personally benefit from the labor contracts they negotiate. This conflict of interest would be eliminated by Prop D – with the mayor serving as the city’s lead negotiator in labor negotiations.
San Diego is still reeling from bad decisions made in city labor contracts that spiked pension benefits, increased salaries and awarded other costly perks. We should not go back to the form of government that facilitated those bad decisions.
If Prop D does not pass, taxpayers will face higher city spending on a number of fronts.
If the city returned to a city manager form of government, a duplicative bureaucracy would have to be created and added back into the city’s organizational structure.
San Diego needs to make a number of reforms to restore its financial health and get back to providing the kinds of services our neighborhoods deserve. Prop D is one of those important reforms that voters should make on June 8.