Barack Obama wasn’t the only politician campaigning for change last year. San Diego city councilmember Donna Frye and then-councilmember-elect Carl DeMaio spent most of last summer canvassing the city, holding public town-hall meetings, asking San Diego residents for their input on ways to change the way the city council operates.
This correspondent attended one meeting in Clairemont, where dozens of residents gathered on a hot Saturday morning and offered up some reforms for local government.
On that day, they told Frye and DeMaio that holding the meetings during the evening, instead of during the middle of the day when many people are at work, would help get more of the public involved in the political process and bring transparency to city government.
After other similar neighborhood meet-ups throughout the city, Frye and DeMaio drafted the Council Governance Report, aimed at “improving the openness, effectiveness, and independence of the city council through reforms.”
Some of the suggestions from their report were heard on Wednesday, January 28, during a meeting of the Rules Committee.
“I’d like to make a motion, forwarding to council for full consideration, the expanded use of evening and district meetings,” said Frye near the end of the meeting, when the committee heard the agenda item.
“And that would change the Monday meetings from 2:00 to 4:30?” inquired Rules Committee chairman and city council president Ben Hueso.
“Okay, well I won’t be supporting that.”
“But this is just to forward to city council for full consideration. And no one will support that?” asked Frye, looking over at councilmembers Todd Gloria and Kevin Faulconer.
“Yeah, I understand that. I understand that,” answered Hueso. “I think that has a fiscal implication that I’m not prepared to support. We’re going to have to pay overtime for staff.”
Frye asked why the extended hours for the budget committee meetings were approved without examining the fiscal impact, then she said, “I’m certainly happy to support anybody that wants to try and expand the access of the city council meetings. I got to tell you I’m extremely disappointed that...council meetings...are held up because of fiscal analysis…”
“Okay, Ms. Frye,” interrupted Hueso. “Do you have another motion?”
She did. Frye motioned to bring to the full council a proposal to change the number of councilmembers needed to docket an item from four council members to three.
Councilmembers Gloria, Faulconer, Hueso, and Tony Young were silent.
To see more of the same from San Diego’s city council, take off from work early and get down to City Hall every Monday afternoon starting at 2:00 p.m.