A group that helped draw up the strong-mayor form of government met Saturday morning to continue its study of extending and tweaking new system, which went into effect nearly 14 months ago.

The group spent most of its meeting discussing whether it would be best to simply eliminate the sunset provision of strong mayor — which calls for the experiment to end on Dec. 31, 2010 — or to seek an extension alongside a full package of reforms. The other reforms include providing the mayor with an enforceable veto, increasing the number of City Council members, establishing an Audit Committee as envisioned by Kroll consultants and creating some official body to hammer out additional changes to the city’s constitution.

In the end, the group chose to put off action until Mayor Jerry Sanders compiled his charter committee.

“Some changes are coming. What changes, we don’t yet know,” said civic booster George Mitrovitch, one of the group’s organizers.

The group expressed concerns that action needed to be taken quickly so that a ballot initiative can be prepared for 2008 to at least eliminate the sunset provision. Former Assistant City Attorney John Kaheny said waiting until 2010 could be cutting it too close.

“The sooner the ball gets moving, the better,” he said.

Political consultant Adrian Kwiatkowski argued that that ballot measure eliminating the sunset provision would have a better chance of success if it were simple and left a majority of the reforms for a later date. “More weight will sink us,” he said.

He proposed eliminating the sunset provision, changing the size of the City Council and the mayor’s veto, as well as creating a Charter Review Commission every decade to address the remaining issues.

Herman Collins, also a political consultant, lobbied for a more comprehensive initiative that resolved the power struggles that have emerged between the mayor and the City Council in the government structure’s first year.

“It’s nothing but a patched flat tire … and I don’t think we should sell it to voters,” he said.

Others thought tossing what could be a bitter battle into the mix could turn voters off and cause them to do away with the whole strong-mayor system altogether.

A number of the group’s members were instrumental in crafting the strong-mayor initiative and Kwiatkowski said it was their responsibility to keep working on it.

Also in attendance were: Joanne Pastula, president and CEO of Junior Achievement; Mark Mitrovitch; Jerry Butkiewicz, head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council; SDSU professor emeritus Glenn Sparrow; and Jeff Gattas of the Mayor’s Office.

The group caused a political stir earlier in the month with its first meeting because representatives of four council offices attended and the Mayor’s Office was not invited. This time, no council offices attended, members of the media were invited, and organizers said they invited the mayor and city attorney.

Two of the group’s lead organizers, real estate mogul Malin Burnham and UCSD professor Steve Erie, didn’t attend Saturday’s meeting.


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