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Perhaps nobody was more angry about what happened last week when Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher and the Centre City Development Corp. just decided themselves to extend the life of redevelopment downtown than City Councilwoman Donna Frye.
Not only has she been demanding CCDC begin paying back the loans from the city that got downtown redevelopment started in the beginning, she’s also been sticking her neck out for Proposition D, the tax increase paired with 10 financial reforms.
Her alliance with the mayor, once an arch rival, on that has been rather inspiring to see. But like a lot of us, she was startled to learn of the news from Sacramento that the deal had been done.
On Tuesday, she came up with the idea to send the governor a letter asking him to veto the legislation. As it turned out, the governor had yet to sign that part of the budget and she figured that if the city of San Diego officially sent him a letter asking him not to, he actually might not.
But it didn’t happen.
Why? I told the story earlier of Councilman Kevin Faulconer grappling with the issue. He, like Frye, was so incensed by what Fletcher did that he just … well … couldn’t bring himself to undo it.
But that ended up being dwarfed as a display of insecurity by what Council President Ben Hueso did. He had supported the idea of sending the letter to the governor but when the opportunity to try came again — after Faulconer killed it — he balked.
Well, he didn’t balk. He ran away. Seriously. After expressing his concern about it and saying he thought everyone should relax a little, he called a recess on the meeting and then disappeared. Since he runs the City Council meetings, Faulconer had to take over the dais.
Whatever bug Hueso caught also, then, landed in Councilman Todd Gloria’s donut. Gloria suddenly decided that the discussion they’d been having about how outraged they were was enough for him. That is, just them bloviating in council chambers was enough to send a message to the state that they aren’t going to take getting undermined like that anymore.
Message: Don’t mess with us or, or, or we’ll talk about it and be mad!
So, as quickly as it had come, Frye’s bright idea to communicate to the governor that the city didn’t want this “gift” and wanted to go through its own process was dead.
And Frye was angry. When I talked to her on the phone after the tumultuous day, I told her that I thought people might feel like they couldn’t trust city leaders right when they’re asking people to have faith in their pledges about how extensive the Prop. D reforms will be.
“I don’t blame them,” she said.
So she understands how people might feel?
“Absolutely. And that’s why this needed doing.”
She went on.
“We sat through a very lengthy public process to assure the public that there would be a full blight study and a public process they could participate in. Not only was that not true. But at nighttime, they essentially went behind the back of the redevelopment agency members — which means the public — and completely thumbed their nose at the process and that is wrong.”
She said she still believes in Proposition D and after I tweeted about our conversation, she wanted to emphasize that and e-mailed this:
Prop D requires verification, not just trust; the reforms must be verified as completed by the City Auditor before any tax can be levied.
Wednesday, the letter went out, authored by Frye and Councilwoman Marti Emerald:
The public interest demands that the local legislative branch of government, the City Council acting as the Redevelopment Agency, and the public be included in decisions, before, not after the fact. To ensure that the public does not lose faith in their local elected officials, the San Diego Redevelopment Agency has a responsibility to stand up for the public’s right to know, the public’s right to participate and the public’s right to be heard.
They can write all the letters they want. But for now, the majority of the City Council is fine with the fact that it was completely undermined.