The San Diego City Council appears to be on perched on the precipice of capitulating to Mayor Jerry Sanders in two important ways—and for no good reason.
Tonight at 6 p.m., the City Council will consider placing on the June ballot a handful of measures ostensibly aimed at fixing the current form of municipal governance. Council President Scott Peters and Councilmembers Jim Madaffer and Kevin Faulconer made a series of recommendations last week including two that would seriously strengthen the mayor's hand when it comes to what should be a healthy adversarial relationship between the executive and legislative branches.
Among other recommendations, Peters, Madaffer and Faulconer want to make it harder for the City Council to override a mayoral veto, and they want the mayor to appoint a city auditor.
There are currently eight members of the City Council. It takes five of them to pass a law. The mayor can veto a law, but the same five members of the City Council can override the veto. That's not ideal, but the math is not set up for a sensible veto override threshold. Peters, Madaffer and Faulconer think the City Council should have to come up with six votes to override. That amounts to a three-fourths vote of the City Council, and that's just too high a hurdle. It would mean the mayor would need to convince just three of eight members of City Council to agree with him in order to kill a law. Why would the council agree to that?
A better course would be to wait until the council has nine members, which is another recommendation the council will consider tonight, and then implement a six-vote override threshold. That would amount to a more typical two-thirds percentage. The mayor would then need to convince four members of the council to back him (or her).
The other recommendation with which we don't agree is to have the mayor appoint the city auditor. The city auditor is the necessary check against the executive branch's handling of the taxpayers' money. As such, the mayor—the head of the executive—should have no involvement is choosing or overseeing the city auditor.
Under the recommendation—which was endorsed by both the mayor's Charter Review Committee and the City Council's independent budget analyst, Andrea Tevlin—the city auditor would report to a committee made up of people the mayor did not select, which is good, but there's no reason not to add another layer of protection. The auditor should either be elected by the people or appointed by a majority of the City Council.
There's good reason to believe that Councilmembers Donna Frye and Tony Young will vote against these unnecessary and dangerous recommendations. We doubt there's any chance Brian Maienschein will see things our way. So, we need Toni Atkins and Ben Hueso to join Frye and Young in standing up for the legislative branch, the people's representatives.