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Yes! Someone’s listening!

The city’s Independent Budget Analyst has put some common sense into an official City Hall memo.

You may remember that we’ve been aggravated for some time about the awkward and hasty crafting of potential reforms to the city’s charter.

This an excerpt of an August editorial criticizing the mayor’s Charter Review Committee for one product of this stumbling:

There is little political will to revert to the old form of government wherein the city manager acted at the behest of a City Council that never quite understood what its role really was. Voters will have to approve any extension of the arrangement and if they don’t put anything on the ballot in 2008, the city might come too close for comfort to reverting back to the old system should an early 2010 vote fail.

In order to avoid this eventuality, the committee has now officially recommended that the city extend the strong-mayor form of government. But fearful of critics, the group tried to make it somehow more palatable. The official recommendation reads that, if implemented, the “strong-mayor” form of government would still be a temporary experiment until it automatically becomes permanent in 2014.

Don’t worry, it’s just temporary — except when it automatically becomes permanent.

In her report released today, Andrea Tevlin, the city’s independent budget analyst, agrees: If you’re going to make something permanent, just go ahead and say that is what you’re trying to do.

The IBA wishes to point out that, although the committee has characterized this as an extended trial period, it is actually being made permanent through this proposal. Generally in a trial, a decision on the question is required at the end of the trial period. This provision does not require the question to be called at the end of the trial, which effectively means it is permanent if passed by the voters next year. The recommendation does allow that the voters may act to alter or terminate this at any time, however this is a right of the citizens regardless of the permanent or temporary nature of any provision in the Charter.

The IBA suggests it would be more candid to let the public know that this is effectively making the Strong Mayor form permanent, if this recommendation is approved.

Right on.

Tevlin’s team also picked up on the awkwardness I did the other day when the City Council swore in Jay Goldstone as the city’s chief operating officer. First off, there’s no chief operating officer position in the city’s official structure. Second, the mayor is the city’s manager according to the city charter and so, third, why in the world would the mayor have to appoint another city manager and ask the council to approve it?

At the meeting of October 15, 2007, the City Council confirmed the Mayor’s appointment of Jay Goldstone as Chief Operating Officer for the City of San Diego. During the discussion, a point of possible conflict in the City Charter was raised. While Article XV confers all the duties of the City Manager on the Mayor, it later allows the Mayor to appoint, direct and dismiss the City Manager (Section 265(b)(7) — (9)).

Because this creates confusion, and because the current Mayor does not use the term City Manager, we suggest that the Council may wish to replace the words “City Manager” in the aforementioned sections with “Chief Operating Officer” or a similar term.

While the IBA’s team recognizes the awkwardness, they stop short of offering a good solution. Here’s what I say: If you are going to make the mayor the city manager, just leave it at that.

Anyway, nice to have another voice recognizing that this thing has been presented in a not-so-candid way.

SCOTT LEWIS

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