During this afternoon’s vote against allowing City Council members to more easily place an item on the council’s agenda, Councilman Carl DeMaio said the topic “struck to the issue of whether the minority voice can be heard in city government.”
“Ironically, it may be the members from the minority districts who will lend and lead the charge against this reform,” DeMaio said. “And I don’t think it makes sense. It stands in stark contrast to the decades of struggle for full access and full participation of the residents of those districts.”
The proposal from DeMaio, one of two Republicans on the council, and Councilwoman Donna Frye failed on a 5-3 vote. Councilwoman Sherri Lightner joined the duo in support of the item, which would’ve allowed an item to be placed on the council agenda as long as three members agreed, instead of the current four. The proposed change was part of a package of reforms proposed by DeMaio and Frye.
Councilman Todd Gloria noted that a recent report found that so-called minorities made up 55 percent of the city’s population.
“We are not minorities,” he said. “I actually represent a majority of the population now and I’m very proud to do that.”
In an interview after the meeting, Gloria said he didn’t see the connection between lowering the threshold for docketing an item and the “ethnic composition of my district.”
“I just don’t think they’re related,” he said.
Gloria cited a reason common to the council members who opposed the measure, who said it’s not clear this is a problem with the new council and president, Ben Hueso. Even Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who signed the memo with DeMaio, Frye and Lightner to docket the item, said this was a “new council” and people don’t seem to have “their heels dug in.”
“We did get four signatures, so the system does work,” Emerald said.
Hueso said the fact that the docketing item was placed on the council agenda despite being voted on and failing to get out of a council committee was a testament to why it was a bad idea.
Frye interjected to note that there was no vote, but that her motion at the committee level failed to garner a second.
Hueso replied that there were four other committee members who refused to support the measure. “You are absolutely correct that there was no vote, but there was a de facto vote,” he said. “You can spin it any way you like.”
Council members also voted 7-1, with Hueso opposed, to have a committee study a scaled-down proposal for more evening council meetings, with Frye proposing six meetings a year starting at 6 p.m. or later instead of one a month starting at 4:30 p.m. They also voted unanimously to select a council president in early December, after the new council has been sworn in.
The City Council did not vote on a proposal to end the transcription of personnel items during closed-session meetings.
Hueso, who floated the idea, explained that the measure would not apply to labor negotiations but only to items concerning individuals — namely, the few employees employed directly by the City Council, including the city clerk and the independent budget analyst.
Hueso said the council typically votes to waive the rule requiring transcription for individual items, but sometimes only after a transcriber has already been hired and paid for. “I’m just trying to save the city money here on that issue,” he said.
Several council members said they would not support the measure and it never went to a vote. Councilman Kevin Faulconer suggested the council vote the week prior to a closed-session personnel meeting to waive the transcriber on a case-by-case basis, thus avoiding the issue raised by Hueso.