If you follow San Diego City Hall, you should keep your eyes open for a coming polemic. Council President Scott Peters is driving in the fast lane on the way to lame-duckville. He will need to be replaced, not just by the new representative of District 1, but also by a new council president.

So here’s the question: Who the heck is that going to be?

‘Hmm … carry the one, three, four … I have exactly 118 days until I’m a lame duck’

That will be interesting to watch. But another controversy will arise as we wait. After all, who gets to decide? The president has been chosen, the last three times, in November. But if that happens this year, it will be one of the last actions of four members of the City Council who are being termed out. Should they get to choose the leader of the council that they won’t be a part of?

It’s a great question. City Councilwoman Donna Frye has made it known that she wants the new City Council to vote on the choice, which would mean the vote would have to be put off until at least December. City Attorney Mike Aguirre said city law only requires the choice to be made before the first session in January.

But would the four departing council members like to leave their mark on it for the next year?

Some great questions. But the best one is trying to get your mind around who could be City Council president. Frye obviously would have a shot. But so would others.

She said she would be very happy to be the City Council president but she also wants to “de-politicize” the selection of the post.

What does that mean? That would mean that, like the chair of the county Board of Supervisors, the title would rotate every year between City Council members.

I don’t personally think that’s such a good idea. I asked her if that would mean that the position would lose some of its power. Unlike the council president, the chairmanship of the county board of supervisors is almost wholly a ceremonial position. It hardly matters that they rotate it. The City Council president, however, comes with staff. The president gets to set the agenda and serve as the head of the legislative body, who, with the mayor and city attorney, is one of the most powerful people at City Hall.

If each member of the City Council got to be the council president at some point — and there would hardly be a way to ensure that all eight of them all got to do it when they all serve only four year terms — then the power of the post would be diluted. Each person would have to get to know the true potential of the position for a time before maximizing their effect.

By forcing the council president to have gotten the support of a critical majority of his or her colleagues, you ensure they learn a bit about building a coalition.

And it would not be a bad thing for Frye and the others to show they can do that.


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