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Councilmembers Donna Frye and Carl DeMaio sat at a table at the front of a meeting room inside San Diego County's Health and Human Services Complex.

Local political and social activist groups Empower San Diego and Common Cause sponsored the "Strong Mayor Forum."

Frye and DeMaio were invited to discuss Proposition D, the June ballot measure that if passed would make the current strong-mayor style of governance, enacted in 2005 with 51 percent of the vote, permanent. The proposition would also create a ninth council district.

From the front of the room, each councilmember stated their position to the 40 people in the audience.

Councilmember DeMaio spoke first: "I want to end the debate on who is in charge. I don't believe that the strong-mayor system of government ends the debate, but it is a lot better than the old system of government. A strong-mayor form of government, I believe, is the best platform to move the city forward and adds more accountability."

Frye started her remarks with some history: "Unfortunately, the current strong-mayor form of government is still the same ill-conceived form of government that was drafted back in 2004 behind closed doors and presented at one full city council meeting."

According to Frye, if passed, developers have direct access to the mayor and will only need the votes of four councilmembers and the mayor to proceed.

As for more accountability, Frye added: "If we continue with this form of government, guess what we won't see at council meetings? The mayor. Cause he or she won't show up."

While DeMaio cited improved accountability and a bolstered executive branch that would accompany a strong-mayor style of government, Frye hammered away at the diminished access to the mayor, the cost of adding a ninth council district, the unbridled and covert mayoral power, and requiring a supermajority of councilmembers to override a mayoral veto.

DeMaio and Frye answered questions from the audience. DeMaio reiterated that Proposition D does not solve all of the issues in city government. "A lot of the issues that [Frye] and I fight on a daily basis are still going to be there despite a Prop D victory or failure."

Some anti-Prop D audience members, as well as Frye, took DeMaio's concession as an opening. "I wish we could convince [DeMaio] to come over and join us," said Frye. "I will keep pressing to get you to switch sides."

After Frye's comments chants came from the audience: "Come on, Carl. Come on, Carl."

"We'll make a deal with you, Carl," said audience member and San Diego blogger on local politics Pat Flannery, "If you oppose Proposition D, we'll make you mayor in 2012."

The meeting ended shortly after.

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Comments

ScottRich May 7, 2010 @ 1:36 p.m.

Donna Frye brought up a really good point regarding the costs of establishing a ninth council district. Not only would taxpayers have to pay the salary of this new councilmember, but also the staff, equipment, resources and office space that it would require. I personally hate how the strong-mayor government has overly politicized all the city departments, and having to add a ninth council district as part of a strong-mayor government just adds to the problem. I'll be voting no on Prop. D.

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David Dodd May 7, 2010 @ 1:47 p.m.

Could someone educate me on why the two proposals are linked (adding a ninth district AND making strong-mayor governance permanent)?

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Dorian Hargrove May 8, 2010 @ 1:29 p.m.

Refried,

The creation of District 9 prevents any future deadlocks on the council. According to the proponents, it provides better representation for residents and also creates a two-third (6 councilmembers) override of a mayoral veto. Overall, it strengthens the council. I believe that is why they are linked.

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David Dodd May 8, 2010 @ 3:28 p.m.

Thanks, Dorian. So, in other words, the Mayor would no longer be the tie-breaking vote, which makes valid Donna's concern about the Mayor not having to show up. Seems that the city could accomplish that by eliminating a district (combining two into one) and save money in the process.

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Grasca May 10, 2010 @ 5:16 p.m.

Refried is on the ball with his solution. The Strong Mayor concept has not been an advantage for the average taxpayer. Maybe the Mayor could also slim down his staff ? He hired someone from the UT and started that staffer at $140,000 per year if I recall correctly. And that is just one example of the Mayor's staff and their pay which would also include Cadillac health care benefits.

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Grasca May 10, 2010 @ 5:25 p.m.

Director of Special Projects - starting salary - $140,000 per year. I believe that the department was created especially for this staffer.

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Grasca May 10, 2010 @ 5:31 p.m.

Director of Special Projects has a degree in Journalism from SDSU.

In the Mayor’s office, the director will assist and advise in the framing of policy matters, including water conservation and reliability, disaster preparedness and other issues requiring public outreach. The director will also work with city staff to identify internal roadblocks and assist in developing solutions.

I wonder what an "internal roadblock" is ?

Nice that a journalist can multitask and transfer those skill sets to an important political post.

Great decision on the part of our Strong Mayor.

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monaghan May 13, 2010 @ 3:13 p.m.

In recent memory there has never been a tie vote on City Council that needed breaking. The expensive and unnecessary addition of a ninth Council member, office and staff has been designed to secure the "Strong Mayor's" power.

Nine Councilmembers would require six Council votes (two-thirds of nine) to override a mayoral veto, rather than just five, as at present. Prop D backers Demaio and Faulconer recently tried to counter public criticism of this scam/plan by proposing to pay for the ninth Council seat at the expense of the other eight Council offices, as if that would really help anyone other than their ambitious selves.

Prop D "Strong Mayor" is a bald attempt of the usual San Diego special interests to capture the Mayor's office by pushing through this permanent change to the City Charter. Downtown developers and real estate interests and their friends in related industries have bankrolled Prop D with more than $100,000 to date, and it was a mayor-appointed committee working in splendid summertime isolation that dreamed up the idea two years ago. If Prop D is successful, the business elite will elect the 'Strong Mayor" with their limitless money and campaign consultants and PR flacks, and they alone will have the Mayor's ear henceforth.

If Prop D passes, the community will never again see its Mayor at a regular public Council meeting, where he/she directly hears people's concerns and comments and has to respond and vote on issues of the day. Are we in North Korea?

If Prop D passes, City departments will be run by friends of the Mayor or friends of his backers, rather than by knowledgeable and competent civil servants. Hello Detroit.

If Prop D passes, all public information normally provided on request to Council staffs, to community groups and to the press will be monitored and rationed by the Mayor's office. Information will be released based on what's good for the Mayor's image, never mind the common good. Everyone who needs access to "public information" will have to invoke the time-consuming and fee-laden Freedom of Information Act to get it. This is America?

If Prop D passes, we will see downtown development and its evil twin, so-called redevelopment, rammed through at the expense of neighborhood needs and fiscal stability --no more public parks, open libraries, clean beaches, streetlight and water and sewer and sidewalk and road repair. Business as usual in San Diego.

Prop D is a ticket to an unlivable near-bankrupt city dominated by special interests and their elected political puppets. I don't want this, so I'm voting No on Prop D "Boss Mayor."

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David Dodd May 13, 2010 @ 6:50 p.m.

Interesting presentation, monoghan, although much what you propose will happen if Prop. D passes is already going on and goes on in just about every large city. Although, before the "stong mayor" system was implimented, San Diego had plenty of issues, and since the City Manager had so much power and so little accountability to the public, reliance on the City Council as a whole meant that the individual needs of the different districts weren't met.

If I remember correctly, Frye was an opponent of "strong mayor" system (someone correct me if I'm wrong about that). Presuming this is true, then back then she couldn't have cared less about the Mayor's accountability, so that part of her argument is odd unless she sees this as a way to go back to empowering the City Councel as a unit, and that didn't work swimmingly well for various reasons. I think that the best argument against Prop. D is the cost and needless addition of government. With the mess that San Diego is in, I would hope that people would see that using the opposition of this Prop. in order to pave a path back to Jacksonian-type government isn't going to help San Diego until the massive debt and other issues are resolved. Once the City is stable again, then perhaps a do-nothing style of government would be a relief for a while.

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historymatters May 26, 2010 @ 12:24 a.m.

D is for Disaster and Dictatorship

Look no further than who is pushing Prop D. Doesnt everyone wonder why the "yes on D" campaign seems to have SO MUCH MONEY!? Its not because its a good proposition its because it is being pushed by the building industry and specifically McMillan Land Development, which already enjoys a WAY too cozy relationship w/ the mayor by having their lobbyist Kathy Riser head up his "technical advisory committee".

Why do you think Pro D signs are on every construction site....every fence surrounding a previously slaughered craftsman home wants you to vote for D. This Prop is WAY worse than we know. No ON D!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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