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Yesterday, one of the unfunded opponents of the city of San Diego’s strong mayor form of government told me those who oppose strong mayor were intimidated into not starting a financial campaign against it.

City Councilwoman Donna Frye agrees.

“I think part of the reason is that people are fearful of being kicked out of the inner circle if they stand up against what could be perceived not as the form of government but the current holder of that particular government office,” Frye said. “I think there’s some, in my opinion mistaken, loyalty to a person rather than a form of government.”

San Diego only has known one strong mayor — the current one, Jerry Sanders. Back in 2004, Frye and Sanders were on the same side, both signing the ballot argument against the form of government. But that was before they were mayoral rivals. Sanders has switched sides and now is one of strong mayor’s, um, “strongest” supporters, trumpeting the system’s increased accountability. Frye remains opposed and said she would have signed the ballot measure to end strong mayor rule if she was in the mayor’s chair, a possibility had courts not thrown out her write-in campaign in 2004.

But if intimidation were an issue, why did the San Diego Police Officers Association sign the ballot argument against strong mayor?

Frye said the police union hasn’t made a bigger issue out its opposition to strong mayor because the Mayor’s Office made it known it was unhappy.

“I have heard that the Mayor’s Office was not pleased with the Police Officers Association,” Frye said.

(I have a call into police union head Brian Marvel.)

For her part, Councilwoman Marti Emerald, also a strong mayor opponent, said she hadn’t heard of any threats against anyone for opposing the system. She did, however, liken her stance on the issue to being on the wrong side of an incumbent.

“I recognize the way the system works and I’m going to let the chips fall where they may because this is what I believe,” Emerald said.

She added she didn’t know why other organizations haven’t contributed to fund an anti-strong mayor campaign.

“It wouldn’t be responsible for me to guess,” she said.

I asked both Emerald and Frye why neither has spearheaded a financial campaign against strong mayor unlike the ballot measure’s proponents.

They both said they were too busy with City Council issues to have the time.

Frye insisted that personalities played a large role in how donors, especially those in the development community, were spending their money to support the measure. I asked if she thought developers would be contributing to the pro-strong mayor campaign if she was mayor.

“I doubt it,” Frye said through a guffaw. “I have a feeling there might be a lot of money being pushed into getting rid of the system. I think it might be a lot easier to collect money than it is now.”

♦♦♦

Yesterday, I embedded a video from the pro-strong mayor campaign in one of my posts. This video was a television advertisement that’s running as part of the well-funded operation to make strong mayor permanent. My point was to highlight the financial disparity between the pro-strong mayor campaign and the unfunded opposition.

Local filmmaker Dan Soderberg has produced an anti-strong mayor video on his own dime. Cue ominous music.

— LIAM DILLON

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