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When I used to ask staff lots of questions, it wasn’t because I didn’t trust them. It’s because government is a big complex enterprise and in every big, complex enterprise, mistakes are made and they are subject to human foibles. Political enterprises especially are subject to constant pressures to deliver something to someone without checks and balances.

In public systems especially, maintaining a decent, fair, and honest system requires checks and balances in order to do accomplish the overall public good — and to prevent the system from being reduced to a delivery method for well-funded special interests.

Even with checks and balances it still happens. So it is folly indeed to reduce checks and balances on our city government, and especially to invest one political position, the Mayor, with less oversight.

If the argument is that you don’t want to reduce the efficiency of the city’s operations by requiring additional public hearings, I would point out that our city’s precarious financial situation is due, in large part, not to doing too much of the public’s business in public, but from not doing enough of the public’s business in public. 

In the end, insider negotiations and decisions made behind-closed-doors have cost this city, the public and this Council more time and money than having more hearings to vet changes could ever cause.

If you are correct that the mayor deserves a higher threshold for making decisions with public funds without any public input, and there’s really no need for public input, then the item will be passed quickly on your consent agenda. I’ve seen that happen every week in these chambers, so I don’t even see that there’s any real argument for it being more efficient vs. the risks involved. All it really does do is cut the public out of the loop on an undetermined range of things and allows you to get away without having to take public input. But maybe, in the end, that is the point.

By reducing public input they would achieve some form of streamlining, streamlining making decisions without having to listen or deliberate in public on millions of dollars of cuts negotiated behind the scenes. Is that what “strong mayor’ is really about? To eliminate public input and review?

In sum, and especially given the recent history of San Diego’s financial problems, and still missing the controversial accurate audits, this is not the time to provide less input and oversight.

In the end, by not providing even the possibility of public review of a specific and lower threshold of fiscal decisions by the Mayor, the Council would not be abiding by the critical democratic values that are required to deliver a fair or transparent process for the public.

Both AO proposals are being heard next Monday, Donna Frye emailed to say:

“there are TWO items being heard on Monday, March 19th:

The compromise language – Item 200

The original budget ordinance that was heard Feb, 5 and received 5 votes. If

it passes on Monday, March 19th, it will be final since it is the second

reading of the ordinance.

Bottom line: BOTH are coming forward this Monday. My recommendation is

OPPOSE Item 200 and SUPPORT Item 201.

Also to the best of my knowledge because both would amend the annual Appropriations Ordinance, they would NOT to subject to a mayoral veto …

— CAROLYN CHASE

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