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Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 | The San Diego City Council is the very model of diversity. Just compare it to the United States Senate’s 100 members, of whom only 15 are women, three are Latino, none are African-American and nobody — at least nobody who is “out” — are from the LGBT community. District representation permits San Diego’s diversity. This was also a key to former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk’s election in 1978. The Senate’s composition in contrast, does raise questions about just how tolerant Americans in general are when they vote, but that is a topic for another letter. The main point is that voting by district does help us to have City Council representation that promotes diversity. That is an upside in my view.
But there is a potential downside as well (isn’t there always?) The culture of the City Council has been distorted by a “you-scratch-my-back, I’ll scratch-yours” ethos. The wishes of an individual councilmember are generally indulged by the others. This is very evident when one considers just how many development projects favored by a councilmember get rammed through despite massive community opposition, even concentrated local opposition in the district.
Your piece on new City Council President Ben Hueso noted how focused and successful in the past he’s been in advocating for his own district. But the job of a councilmember is, in theory, to represent the entire city, otherwise by leveraging on a single representative, powerful interests will continue to have their way with the council, effectively disenfranchising most of the voters. I am very interested in seeing whether Hueso will continue the parochial legacy of the previous council majority, or break new political trail to foster a culture that honors their obligations to the entire electorate.