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There was no shortage of talk yesterday that the vaunted San Diego business community would try to force a citywide initiative in the event that the proposals of the mayor’s Charter Review Committee met resistance at the City Council.

Well, they met resistance. I wondered whether this meant that an initiative might be on the way.

The most obvious person in town to coordinate that initiative would be political consultant Tom Shepard, who is running the mayor’s reelection campaign and is no slouch when it comes to getting initiatives passed in the city.

Shepard is also helping to oversee a burgeoning pot of money that can be spent on a campaign for something like this.

So what does Shepard say?

Tom Shepard: Is there an initiative in his sleeve?

“There are a number of people I’ve talked to who have been supportive of the mayor’s reform effort who were very, very skeptical of the City Council’s willingness to put anything on the ballot that would compromise their prerogatives,” Shepard told me.

He continued.

“There have been a number of discussions about the possibility that if the council blocked those proposals and avoided their responsibilities with regard to these issues, there would be a need to do some kind of initiative,” Shepard said.

But this brings up a whole slew of questions.

The mayor himself has now said that he doesn’t want people to have to vote on the strong mayor form of government until they’ve had a few more years to look it over.

So again, like I asked before, what’s the point of an initiative now?

After all, Shepard agreed with the mayor: The time isn’t right to make strong mayor permanent.

“It’s too early to determine. Nobody can make an assessment of whether this thing is working,” Shepard said.

So why now? If the mayor’s not on board with extending it now, if Shepard isn’t and, of course, their critics aren’t, then what would be on the initiative?

Shepard made a point that was also held by Democratic lobbyist Adrian Kwiatkowski, who sat on the Charter Review Committee: Right now, there’s no guarantee that voters will get a chance to extend the current form of government beyond 2010. They said there at least needs to be something done now to ensure that the question is dealt with in 2010.

They want to put something in the charter that says have a vote on extending this in 2010.

Would that be all that the supposed initiative is about?

“My guess is if there were an initiative circulated, that would be one of the provisions of it,” Shepard said.

SCOTT LEWIS

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