Call him "Master Amender," cousin twice removed from comic hero Captain Avenger. Deputy Mayor Ralphie Inzunza Jr. has been the City Council's amendment king of late, leading the charge last week in whittling down the city's new medical-marijuana guidelines, then whisking in this week to close the deal on his time-sensitive alterations to the Ethics Commission's new campaign-auditing lottery.
In between, toss in a mini-tantrum about how the tight ethics rules binding his new $100-per-meeting gig on the new Airport Authority have put a crimp in his pursuit of the never-ending free lunch, and-whammo!-this is one Action Jackson who can take as well as get!
Taking full advantage as figurehead sidekick to Mayor 10Goals, Inzunza clearly has goals of his own in mind, although many in the council-observing game hope one of those is not thinking mayorally.
Clearly, the council's 6-3 decision last week to give police, residents and medical-marijuana users alike some guidelines as cities grapple with balancing the rights of California voters, who overwhelmingly support medical-pot use, against the draconian angst of the Bush administration, which overwhelmingly doesn't, has observers noting that San Diego suddenly is strapping on progressive wings.
As one city staffer put it, noting in addition the council's recent approval of a trial needle-exchange program: "Maybe it's a bellwether for things to come. It's ironic, considering county supervisors not only refuse to deal with these health issues, as they should, but they're busy kicking task forces off of county property."
But, alas, Master Amender couldn't help but haul out a truck-full of changes to those guidelines, including the elimination of a 72-hour waiting period to avoid what he called "handcuffing" police, cutting the amount of pot a medical-marijuana user can possess from three pounds to one and eliminating outdoor pot growing, which some advocates believe will have a significant economic impact on low-income users.
In the end, Councilmember Toni Atkins, who spearheaded the medical-marijuana cause, accepted a total of 11 amendments to the guidelines, including her own to require that patients receive medical OKs from San Diego County physicians only.
"It's exciting that this passed in San Diego, a city that many people still view as a conservative backwater kind of place," the staffer said. "I think it's kind of a wake-up call that the city is a lot more progressive than people give it credit for."
As for progressive election-campaign reform, the jury is still out on whether city leaders really want it. Certainly, the Master Amender isn't so sure. As a member of the city's Rules Committee, Inzunza has had a virulent hand in the crafting of the new auditing guidelines for city election campaigns. Greg Vega, a member of the city's Ethics Commission, told council members this week that the idea behind the new guidelines is to "engender public confidence in the election process."
Arguing that council members are already under too many bright lights ethics-wise, Inzunza persuaded his colleagues on the committee to set a cut-off date of July 1, 2001, for review of political activities.
The actual language, approved by a unanimous council this week, reads as follows: "The commission shall not audit any action, or events, that occurred prior to July 1, 2001, or any record thereof, whether or not that action or event was disclosed or reasonably should have been disclosed after that date."
Inzunza also made sure that the method used to pick at random the political committees-whether candidate-controlled or otherwise, such as PACs or ballot-measure groups-that will undergo scrutiny in the year following an election cycle were as favorable as possible to council members like himself.
The Ethics Commission proposed setting up four categories of campaign committees-candidate committees raising $10,000 to $74,999, candidate committees raising $75,000 or more, non-candidate-controlled committees raising $10,000 to $74,999 and non-candidate-controlled committees raising $75,000 or more.
If one of those categories had five or fewer to draw from during a given auditing year, the commission suggested lumping the low-numbered category into another category, then selecting two committee names from the hopper.
But Master Amender wouldn't have any of that. "Part of my motion will be, if there is five or less in a candidate-controlled committee, then it would go to the other category that has more than five, but that only one name would be selected rather than two names." A nifty way to lower the odds of selection, it would seem.
Mayor 10Goals, anxious to put to bed at least one of his goals, appeared tense. "Wouldn't it make more sense just to say we're going to do one from each of the four categories, and if there's three people, too bad," he inquired.
But Master Amender stood his ground-although for this year's auditing cycle the council was informed that there will be more than five committees to choose from in each category. The drawing will be held April Fool's Day.
The monkey wrench that could throttle the city's plans is what the state Fair Political Practices Commission decides to do later this month. The state commission is gearing up to conduct random audits of various cities, counties and other government agencies. That selection will occur Feb. 25.
Vega said the FPPC told the local commission that the city's "chances of being randomly selected are good," and he added with a hint of humor that "of the 10 largest cities, only one of them was run by a Republican."
Noted Mayor 10Goals, the Republican in question: "That's a bad sign."