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The San Diego City Council tonight gave its preliminary approval to a package of constitutional changes to put before voters. The ballot initiatives would reshape the financial structure blamed for the city’s credit problems and its run-in with the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as make permanent the strong-mayor form of government.

The special 6 p.m. session lasted about three and a half hours, and the measures will head back to City Council next month for final approval. But here are the preliminary measures residents would be asked to approve:

  • Sunset Provision: A measure would be put on the June 2010 ballot making the strong-mayor form of government permanent. Its five-year trial period would end after 2010 if it is not made permanent.
  • Council Seats: The initiative would, if strong mayor is made permanent, add a ninth council district after the 2010 Census and redistricting to give the council an odd number of seats.

    Mayor Jerry Sanders’ Charter Reform Committee recommended adding three seats, and others suggested adding more. City Attorney Mike Aguirre said each council district is now larger than the entire city of San Diego when the current eight-district system was drawn up in 1965, making for a weaker representation for residents.

  • Mayoral Veto: It would take a two-thirds council vote to override the mayoral veto — once the council has nine seats — under the proposal approved tonight.

    Councilwoman Donna Frye feared that allowing it to go to a two-thirds veto while only eight council seats existed would make it easier for the mayor to successfully veto divisive social issues.

  • Other measures would ensure that: the council’s independent budget analyst can advise on both policy and financial issues; the IBA can exist even if strong mayor fails; the mayor’s chief financial officer would assume the role of the auditor and comptroller; the council’s Audit Committee be comprised of two council members and three members of the public; and the city establish the position of an appointed internal auditor, who would be appointed by the mayor and serve a 10-year term.

Two other measures under consideration would outlaw public safety positions from being privatized, require that the mayor and council agree on a balanced budget, and would have the Salary Setting Commission determine the City Council’s salary without final council approval.

Councilman Tony Young expressed his displeasure with many of the items tonight, and ultimately said he’d prefer an elected charter commission, whose recommendations would go directly to the ballot without council approval.

The initiatives will head back to council Feb. 4.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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