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When the voters approved a trial run of a strong mayor form of government, very few thought they were voting for diminished representation on boards and commissions in the city.  Yet, under Mayor Jerry Sanders, that is exactly what is happening.

Thankfully, earlier this week the City Council prevented the mayor from pushing through an Independent Rates Oversight Committee because, among other things, it lacked any representation from districts 3 , 4 , 6 or 8 and had three recommended members who lived outside the City.  

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first important board that had appointments from outside San Diego, but neglected particular communities in our city.  The Mayor’s Charter Review Committee also suffers from selective representation.

Of the 15 individuals who were given the responsibility to rewrite huge portions of our city’s constitution, four don’t even live in the city.  Of the remaining 11, none live in Districts 4 or 8, none are people of color, and none represent underserved or poor communities.  This is why we have advocated for an elected Charter Review Commission, one that could better represent the ideas and priorities of all of San Diego’s neighborhoods.

Selective representation is just one of the unforeseen problems with the “strong mayor” form of government.  With a strong mayor making virtually all appointments to boards and commissions in this city, there appears to be a preference to appointing individuals from areas that are voter and donor rich.  As a result, the representatives on the most important city boards disproportionately hail from districts 1, 2 and 5.

A number of community members and groups have urged a more careful look at the policy recommendations and changes coming out of the Charter Review Committee.  Strengthening strong mayor and making permanent an uncertain form of government that has not even completed its experimental time frame could have unknown consequences.   Mayor Sanders has made one thing clear, however: aggregating power reduces our individual and neighborhood representation.

— JERRY BUTKIEWICZ

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