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Young moves to define council-mayor relationship

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San Diego City Council President Tony Young released Friday a proposal to further define the balance of powers between the City Council and mayor.

If enacted, the ordinance would take practices agreed upon by Mayor Jerry Sanders and the City Council since San Diego permanently adopted a strong mayor-council form of government and enter them into law, restricting the powers of the mayor and increasing the council’s role in certain processes.

Whoever emerges from the November mayoral election between Republican Councilman Carl DeMaio and Democratic Rep. Bob Filner would be the first new executive elected since the city’s system of government was made permanent.

By setting expectations on issues like budgeting priorities and infrastructure expenditures, Young’s ordinance seeks to ensure the next mayor — and succeeding mayors — embraces a similar role with council as Sanders has.

Young’s ordinance is broken into 10 principles designed “for an effective, cooperative and transparent mayor-council form of government,” as described by Young in a memo to members of the council’s rules committee, which will vote to send the ordinance for the approval of the full council.

“Some of these are things we’ve learned working with the mayor, and some of the things we’ve learned haven’t been codified,” Young said. “We’ve been working through the process of things that weren’t considered by charter amendment. You can’t put everything in the charter.”

He said he sent the memo to both DeMaio and Filner the same morning he sent it to the rules committee and members of the media, with the hopes that both would publicly support its 10 principles.

By Friday afternoon, both candidates said they strongly supported Young’s proposal.

DeMaio, who will also vote on the ordinance if it reaches council, released to the media Friday a memo sent to Young affirming his support.

“These principles set the foundation for healthy working relationships and collaboration between the Council, Mayor and City Attorney’s office,” he wrote in the memo. “As you note, many of these issues have already been embraced by our City Council. Making government work for — and serve — all San Diegans is a major issue facing our city.”

Filner released a statement thanking Young for codifying the 10 principles included in the proposed ordinance, while also taking a shot at DeMaio.

“Together, they provide a foundation for a collaborative relationship between the mayor and council, which is precisely what I hope to build as mayor,” Filner said. “The willingness to collaborate and to let others take credit for progress is what most clearly distinguishes my approach from that of my opponent.”

Young’s 10 principles include both specific actions that would be required of the new mayor as well as general expectations that wouldn’t necessarily force an action.

Included in the former is a requirement to create, along with the council, an annual statement of budgetary principles that would outline roles and authority between the council and mayor when adopting the city’s budget. The council and mayor have updated the annual document each year since fiscal 2008.

Similarly, it would require the adherence to a structural budget deficit principles document passed by resolution in 2010. It outlines financial practices believed to keep the city in good fiscal health.

It would also continue to impose the mid-year budget authority ordinance, passed last July, which requires the mayor to bring projected budget surpluses or shortfalls to the council for recommendations on spending priorities, and to notify the council of any major changes to service levels.

The mayor would also be expected to report performance results of core city services throughout the year while specifying goals and results in proposed and final budgets; to present a financial outlook to council each November; to combat the deferred maintenance backlog by implementing funded projects “in a timely and cost effective manner;” to work with the council, City Attorney and Independent Budget Analyst to carry out labor policies “if the council chooses to designate the mayor as the city’s chief labor negotiator;” develop alongside the council a citywide economic development strategy; meet with the council on a monthly basis; and work with the council, City Attorney and IBA to carry out council-approved policies.

Young said the city’s system of governance is developing in an organic way and that the relationship between the council and mayor is a culture that needs to be nurtured.

“It’s important now because these are two individuals who are explaining how they’ll be more open and transparent and engaging when it comes to the public and the council, so hopefully the council supports this, but really what we’re saying is this is what we believe is important,” Young said. “The questions are, number one do you agree with those, but number two what would you do to enrich this transparent process?

“The public is listening right now, so I think it’s time for that conversation.”

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