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Proponents of the city of San Diego’s strong mayor form of government are pushing back most of all on charges that the system costs the city more money.

Mayor’s Office spokesman Darren Pudgil called an analysis by Councilwoman Donna Frye showing the mayor’s staff costs $1 million more annually than it did before the system changed “highly deceptive” and “ridiculous.”

The Mayor’s Office has organized and added departments under its jurisdiction since switching to strong mayor and eliminated six positions for a $500,000 cost savings, he said.

“This is not apples to apples, Pudgil said.”It’s apples to watermelons.”

But Frye did exclude some current positions, like CityTV employees, from her calculations. Her analysis showed that the Mayor’s Office averaged fewer employees now than it did under the council-manager form of government. They just cost more.

That couldn’t be true, Pudgil said, because Mayor’s Office employees took a 6 percent pay cut last year. A pay cut, he added, Frye’s staff didn’t take.

The Mayor’s Office did not plan an in-depth analysis rebutting Frye’s argument.

“We’re too busy carrying out the people’s business to play politics right now,” Pudgil said.

Frye also has decried the $1 million addition of a ninth City Council district, which is part of the strong mayor ballot proposition. Councilmen Kevin Faulconer and Carl DeMaio have proposed making the new council seat cost neutral by cutting the budgets of all eight council members.

At a press conference yesterday, Frye said she opposed Faulconer and DeMaio’s proposal because less funding for council members meant more power to the mayor.

— LIAM DILLON

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