Wednesday, April 19, 2006 | Just over 100 days ago, San Diego embarked on a five-year experiment in civic governance. After decades of a “council-manager” form of government, voters elected in 2004 to place their city in the hands of a “strong mayor” and a stronger City Council. Voters will ultimately decide whether or not this experiment proves successful, and whether the change should be made permanent.
On Jan. 1, Mayor Jerry Sanders was vested with new responsibilities, and I became the city’s first council president. I’m honored and humbled to serve in this important role.
These first 100 days have not been without stumbles, but by working together, the mayor and council have been able to achieve remarkable progress. Here are just a few examples of the issues my colleagues and I have addressed.
Solving the city’s serious financial problems
The major credit ratings agencies continue to believe in the strength of our economy and are pleased by the mayor’s reorganization plan. They are also encouraged by the city’s new form of government, and see it as a way to fix past problems. I’m confident they will restore our good credit rating when the audits are complete.
Returning our focus to quality-of-life issues
Protecting Our Children and Families
The city is addressing the gang problem that plagues some of our older neighborhoods. The council was pleased to support Councilman Tony Young in creating the city’s new Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, which will inform and make policy recommendations to the council.
The council is working to protect families by improving the response time of our police and fire departments. Working with Councilman Brian Maienschein and his Public Safety and Neighborhood Services committee, we will site and build new police and fire stations in newer communities and rehabilitate older facilities citywide.
Improving Parks, Trails, Beaches and Bays
Keeping our beaches, bays and parks safe and clean is a top priority for San Diegans. Councilman Jim Madaffer and I have introduced an ordinance to prohibit smoking at city-owned parks and beaches. It’s too bad we have to pass a city law to enforce something that should be a no-brainer, but some people continue to throw their cigarette butts on the ground. This new ordinance would cut down on the litter problem, as well as reduce the risk of fire in our open space parks.
Enhancing Our Neighborhoods
Growth is also happening in some of our older communities which have not received as much attention. I recently attended the groundbreaking for the first new condominium project in Barrio Logan. I look forward to working with Councilman Ben Hueso on improving neighborhoods in his district that have been too long ignored.
Funding Streets, Sidewalks and Street Lights and Serving Our Older Communities
The City Council will soon begin deliberating over the mayor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which suggests spending $20 million as a down payment on those maintenance needs. The council will face tough choices as we balance the needs of today with the need to plan for the future. I know my council colleagues share my dedication to restoring funds for street and facilities repair.
A City Council Responsive to Taxpayers
Earlier this year the council voted to change the order of business at council meetings to make it easier for citizens to attend and speak. Non-agenda public comment and city proclamations and resolutions are now done on Tuesday mornings, leaving Monday and Tuesday afternoons to focus entirely on city business items. We’re also announcing specific times for high-profile issues that attract lots of public interest. We expect these changes will speed up our meetings and make them more “user-friendly” for San Diegans who attend our council meetings.
Another way we’re working to include the public is through our city budget process, which begins this month under the leadership of our Budget Committee Chair, Councilmember Toni Atkins. The council has consolidated its budget hearings into three full days – rather than a few hours per week for eight weeks – with specific times listed for discussion of libraries, parks and public safety.
Finally, we’ve created a new Elections Task Force, which gives citizens a voice in our elections process. This was the brainchild of Councilmember Donna Frye. Nine citizens have been appointed to work with the City Clerk over the next two years to research elections topics and make recommendations to the council.
While there is still much hard work to be done to make our city great again, I am confident that we have the tools and the talent to make it happen. I hope you will join us in that effort.
Scott Peters represents District 1 at the San Diego City Council. He was elected to be the city’s first council president, which is a one-year term. He can be reached at