By Doug Porter
In the June primary election voters in the City of San Diego were presented with seven ballot measures aimed at what Council President Sherri Lightner called ‘house cleaning’ for the City Charter. All passed.
The November general election has eight more charter amendments for voters. Some of them go beyond housecleaning into the realm of political agendas. Today, I’ll cover four housecleaning measures in one column. In coming days the more controversial ballot items will get some individual attention.
For those of you with short attention spans– Vote Yes on Measures E thru H. There is no known opposition for any of these items. They’re not necessarily perfect, but nothing there rolls back the clock.
A Little Background
It had been a while since the city’s foundational document was updated. San Diego changed from a city manager form of government to a strong mayor system. Much of the language throughout the charter still referred to the old framework.
Computers and smart phones happened. Vinyl recordings of music went away and came back.
The existing charter uses dated language when referring to gender, i.e., saying “firemen” as opposed to to “firefighters.
And then there was the saga of Mayor Grabby. The city council discovered they had very little legal recourse short of a criminal conviction or a citizen-driven recall election.
Charter Amendment Regarding Qualifications,
Vacancy, and Removal for Mayor, City Attorney, and Council.
Call this the OMG, we can’t ever let Bob Filner happen again measure.
It updates the reasons and method for removing certain local elected officials, stipulates that the City attorney has to actually be a lawyer and so forth.
A yes vote defines what constitutes a “vacancy” is for elected offices, creates procedures for the removal of elected officials, determines situations a special election should take place to fill a vacancy, and requires the city attorney to have been licensed in California for ten years when seeking office.
A no vote is a vote against changing laws regarding vacancies and special elections.
Since the potentially controversial language here would be the part dealing with removing elected officials, here’s the language provided by the City Attorney’s office:
If approved by voters, this measure would amend the Charter to clarify how an elective officer forfeits office for certain contracting and fraud offenses; define who exercises authority during vacancies and the scope of such authority; and add a requirement that the City Attorney be licensed for ten years in the State of California.
The Charter currently addresses vacancies occurring after the death, resignation, or recall of Councilmembers and the Mayor. If approved, the Charter amendments would define vacancy for all elective officers, and add mental or physical incapacity, felony conviction, and removal as additional causes of vacancies.
The amendments also would add a procedure for removing elective officers for malfeasance or dereliction of duty. The City Clerk would notify the Council of an elective officer’s conviction of a misdemeanor involving official duties or moral turpitude, or a court’s ruling that an elective officer failed to perform official duties after a court order.
After notification, three-fourths of the Council (currently seven of nine members) may call a special removal election; voters would be asked to remove the elective officer by majority vote. The Council would be required to adopt a complete procedure for removal elections in the Municipal Code. This could include limitations on elections when officers are already running for reelection.
Charter Amendment Regarding Required Term of Service
for Certain Terminations and Suspensions of Deputy City Attorneys
I got this one wrong in my “sneak peek” column earlier this season. I mistakenly said Measure F made it easier to fire Deputy City Attorneys.
The way things are currently, new hires at this position can be booted without “good cause” for the first two years of employment.
Voting yes on this charter amendment changes that term down to one year. This is probably a good thing, both from the point of view of newly hired lawyers looking for more certainty and taxpayers looking for less political bs everytime here’s a change at the top.
If you vote no on this, the old way of doing things remains.
Nothing more to see here.
Charter Amendments Regarding the
Citizens’ Review Board on Police Practices
A watered-down version of what civilian oversight of law enforcement should be in San Diego.
Two dozen citizen groups pleaded with the city’s Charter Review Committee last spring for substantial changes, including subpoena power, the ability to hire independent investigators and independent legal council.
As SDFP editor Anna Daniels reported:
They note that “City taxpayers paid out $9.4 million in court awards and claims for misconduct by SDPD officers, but there’s no money for independent investigators and legal counsel with subpoena powers?”
How bad is it? Read this Voice of San Diego story about the “processes” used following the officer-involved fatal shooting of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad. We know that officer Neal Browder wasn’t interviewed by anyone in the district attorney’s office or in SDPD’s internal affairs only because Nehad’s family is suing.
What we’re being offered here are two small changes:
- A name change from Citizens’ Review Board on Police Practices as the Community Review Board on Police Practices.
- A requirement that the board to review all deaths occurring while someone is in the custody of the San Diego Police Department and all police officer-related shootings?
Sadly, this new board will still be limited in its investigations to whatever access and evidence the San Diego Police department chooses to provide.
This weak sauce charter amendment is a testament to just how much power the police department has over San Diego politicians and how little they (both) view themselves as “public servants.”
The City of San Diego has (or will be shortly) mostly rejected the findings of the 2015–2016 San Diego County Grand Jury Report on Citizen Oversight Boards of Police Behavior issued earlier this year. Among other things, the report suggested using outside legal counsel and some form of compensation for board members.
From the Reader:
On September 28, the San Diego City Council’s Public Safely and Livable Neighborhoods Committee was set to discuss rejection of jury recommendations. The proposed response stated the city attorney’s office provided legal services since 1988 “without the incidence of a conflict of interest. In Fiscal Year 2017, the city budgeted $25,000 for outside legal counsel…in the event a conflict of interest arises.”
As for pay, compensation “runs counter to the volunteer board concept,” and board members can park for free in the Evan Jones Parkade.
I guess we’ll just have to wait for the next Justice Department investigation to hope for more.
A quarter of a loaf is better than none, I suppose…
Charter Amendments Regarding
Purchasing and Contracting Processes for the City of San Diego
This really is housecleaning of the City Charter. City staff involved with the procurement and contracting processes have asked for the sometimes duplicative rules in the Charter, the San Diego Municipal Code, and Council Policy to get brought up to date.
If passed, the Municipal Code would be the primary document to provide specific requirements for City contracting. Ordinances changing the City’s contracting processes would be subject to referendum.
Functionally, not much else changes. Requirements to publish notices in printed and officially sanctioned newspapers would be updated to be consistent with state law, which allows for other methods of notification.
FYI– Prior coverage of local measures
For information on the November 2016 General Election, see our San Diego 2016 Progressive Voter Guide
Next Week: The controversial City measures further down the ballot.
On This Day: 1775 – The Continental Congress ordered the construction of a naval fleet. 1934 – The American Federation of Labor voted to boycott all German-made products as a protest against Nazi antagonism to organized labor within Germany. 1957 – Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra introduced the Ford Edsel on an hour long special.
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