"Popularity should be no scale for the election of politicians. If it would depend on popularity, Donald Duck and The Muppets would take seats in the Senate."-Orson Welles
Spin Cycle is going out on a very short limb here to predict that the coming new iteration of the San Diego City Council will provide a good deal of bluster and outrage and brow-knitting-and a fair amount of entertainment.
Not that being a smoldering shell of our former economic selves is entertaining, mind you. No, not funny at all. But it's how our leaders of tomorrow decide to tackle these challenges that will be the telling gauge of this new council. In Spin Cycle's book, one council member who seems to be slipping more comfortably into a leadership role is Tony Young, who of late has demonstrated more piss and vinegar about council behavior than ever before. The usually sedate Young last week blasted as "pathetic" and "manipulative" the behind-the-scenes maneuvering to get termed-out Council President Scott Peters a seat on the Port Commission, where he presumably would remain in the public eye until the next political opportunity (mayor?) avails itself.
"It doesn't create a situation where the public has more confidence in what our motives are, but less confidence in what our motives are," Young told his council counterparts.
It likely didn't help elicit confidence when Peters, who recused himself from the deliberations, sat his ass down in the front row of council chambers next to incoming Port Chairman Steve "Iron Fist" Cushman and Labor Queen Lorena Gonzalez.
Not surprisingly, the appointment drew howls from members of the public that day and suggestions that perhaps the new council, set to take the wheel in December, might revisit this appointment. Spin Cycle tried its darnedest to determine if such a re-vote is possible, let alone legal. City Attorney Mike Aguirre, possibly still licking his wounds from an Election Day drubbing, stayed silent on the subject despite several prods. Even City Hall insiders were hard-pressed to say whether an appointment can be taken away once it's granted.
Activist Ian Trowbridge has tried his best to research the question, and he, too, has come up scratching his head. He did hear back from the City Clerk's office, and while the response did seem to leave open the option of reconsidering the appointment, it did suggest seeking advice from the City Attorney's office.
"It's extremely complex," acknowledged Bonnie Stone, deputy director of elections and information services in the clerk's office. "There may be some combination of Robert's Rules [of Order] and the [council's] permanent rules that I'm simply not familiar with."
The unanswered question is just how many votes it would take to overturn Peters' port appointment. Some think six votes, the number necessary to suspend the council's permanent rules, one of which requires that re-votes take place on the same day of the original vote. Others say simply a majority vote of five could push a motion to reconsider onto the table.
Stone also pointed out that under the city's municipal code, mention is made of requiring that such reconsiderations made later than the same day of the original vote "must be processed and re-docketed by the clerk." In addition, Robert's Rules of Order-the bible of parliamentary procedures-suggests that a motion to reconsider can be made only by a council member who voted on the prevailing side of the original vote. In other words, a Peters port-appointment supporter would have to emerge as an appointment opponent-not likely.
Stone, a long-time City Clerk employee, couldn't recall an instance where an incoming council voted to overturn a previous council's action, particularly an appointment, so this is clearly new territory in a city that seems dedicated to finding new ways to do things, both good and ill.
Councilmember-elect Carl DeMaio, who first alerted Spin Cycle to the maneuverings of the port appointment while Peters' staff pleaded ignorance, sounded less than confident that the vote would be undone. "Do the math," he said. "Labor won this election. Labor wants Scott Peters on the [Port] Commission. My understanding is, it would take six votes, plus you would need a council president willing to docket the item. I just don't see the votes there."
Of the new councilmembers-elect, only DeMaio and Sherri Lightner told CityBeat that they would like a revote on the Peters appointment. A spokesperson for Todd Gloria said in milquetoast-y fashion that a re-vote isn't a top priority, "but should the issue come up, he will certainly deal with it then."
Councilmember-elect Marti Emerald, heading out of town for the week to comfort a sister whose home was destroyed in the Montecito fire, said she thinks the departing council president might actually make a good commissioner, although she acknowledged she was disturbed by the back-room dealing that brought it about.
Speaking of council president, rumors were swirling at press time Tuesday that Councilmember Ben Hueso had secured the necessary five votes to become leader of the council pack, despite pronouncements in the media that the selection would be left for the new council.
Said one City Hall insider Tuesday, "Labor's been on the phone since last night, pushing for Hueso. It appears they have the votes."
Last time we checked in on this divisive matter, it appeared that not enough council votes existed to tip the job Hueso's way. Even Peters recently opined in a memo that the matter should be left to the incoming council.
By early Tuesday afternoon, a labor source was grumbling about how behind-the-scenes angling for council committee appointments was hampering any chance for a clear-cut winner that day. "I don't think you're going to get five people to support anyone to be council president today," the source predicted."We'll have five votes by Dec. 8."
And sure enough, Hueso headed off a potential chamber melée by proposing that the vote be delayed until Dec. 8, pushing it off to the new council. The rest of the council agreed, save for a briefly absent Toni Atkins (who returned in time for a subsequent affordable-housing vote).
In addition, the council selected Young as interim president for the first item on the Dec. 8 agenda-namely, choosing a new council president. Beyond that, who knows? But Spin Cycle looks at it this way: If you're in the chair, it's your chair to win.
A beaming DeMaio declared, "We are on a roll!" after Peters also agreed to docket for Dec. 8 or 9 the council-rules reforms he and Councilmember Donna Frye have been trumpeting.
The question is, have the accommodations granted by Peters quelled any interest by the new council in challenging his port appointment? If it's any indication, CityTV 24 earlier aired a jazz-instrumental version of Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing."
Oh yes, we're in for entertaining times.
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