During the Proposition D campaign to make the city’s strong mayor form of government permanent, Mayor Jerry Sanders insisted the ballot measure wasn’t about him. Increases to the mayor’s power — like a stronger veto power over City Council actions — won’t take effect until 2012 when Sanders is out of office.

But a new analysis from Erik Bruvold, president of the National University System Institute for Policy Research, a local think tank, shows voters who’ve supported Sanders also supported strong mayor, which passed overwhelmingly with Sanders’ backing last month.

Bruvold overlaid election results from Sanders’ successful 2008 mayoral campaign and last month’s Proposition D vote and found significant support for both Sanders and strong mayor in Carmel Valley, La Jolla , Point Loma, Tierrasanta and College Area neighborhoods. Both Sanders and strong mayor lagged in older city neighborhoods south of Interstate 8.

“In the case of Proposition D, [voters] seemed to have based their decision on their feelings regarding the mayor,” Bruvold wrote in a policy brief. “If they were happy enough with Jerry Sanders’ performance in 2008 to re-elect him they also were likely to support making permanent the Mayor-Council form of government. If they had been unhappy with Mayor Sanders in 2008, two years later they still seemed skeptical that their interests were being served by the status quo.”

Once early returns showed the strong mayor proposition headed for an easy victory on Election Night, I asked Sanders if he believed the results were an endorsement of his time in office.

“I suppose part of it could be a reflection on my performance,” Sanders replied. “But I still think this is about the future. I think people want to see a big city, have a big city form of government, one where you actually have accountability.”

In his brief, Bruvold said Sanders’ influence and popularity could go beyond strong mayor. In November’s election, voters are expected to determine whether the city will build a new $294 million City Hall complex, which the mayor supports. Bruvold expects City Hall backers to mount a similar campaign as strong mayor and substantially outspend opponents. Base support for the new City Hall, Bruvold writes, should be found among the mayor’s geographic strongholds.


Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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