A member of the committee that recommended recent City Charter changes adding a ninth City Council district says city officials are misinterpreting the charter as they try to phase in that new district.
Adrian Kwiatkowski, one of 15 who sat on Mayor Jerry Sanders’ Charter Review Committee, said the committee did not intend for residents of the new 9th District to go a year without a council representative. The City Charter wouldn’t require that, he said, despite what Council President Tony Young said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
“That wasn’t our intent, and we thought the language was pretty clear,” Kwiatkowski said.
In the coming weeks, San Diego’s Redistricting Commission will adopt a new map of City Council district boundaries, including a new 9th District.
The City Charter says the new districts will go into effect 30 days after the commission adopts the map. It also says the council will have eight members until a ninth council member is elected and inaugurated in 2012.
Combined, that language has led city officials to conclude that suddenly there will be a new district without a council representative until its residents elect one next year.
On Thursday, Young said he was working with the City Attorney’s Office to find a way for residents of that new Mid-City district to continue having representation. He said he would propose that council members currently representing neighborhoods drawn into the new district should still represent those neighborhoods, along with the responsibility of their newly configured districts, until the new councilmember is inaugurated in December 2012.
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But Kwiatkowski said the charter was supposed to make the transition much simpler.
“They’re looking at this the wrong way,” he said. “Our intent was, basically, the existing eight council members continue to represent the existing districts until the ninth council member was elected.”
The new district lines do go into effect 30 days after their adoption, he said, but only to allow incumbents to know where to target their reelection campaigns and to insure they live within the new district’s boundaries. For the purposes of representation, he said, districts should look exactly the same until the 2012 inauguration. “The 9th District shouldn’t go live until the election for that district,” he said.
Jill Esterbrooks, a spokeswoman for Young, said that conflicted with what her office has understood up to now.
“That’s not the interpretation that’s come down from the City Attorney’s Office to date,” she said. “The way it’s being interpreted at this point is that as of Sept. 25, that’s the day the boundaries go forth. Some of those things are not easy to interpret,” she said.
She said conversations between Young’s office and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith are ongoing.
Kwiatkowski insisted there shouldn’t be any confusion and said it might have been averted by including more specific language in the recent charter amendments, clarifying that until the ninth councilmember was elected, the city would not only have eight council members — but also eight districts.
Esterbrooks said Young’s office has spoken with Kwiatkowski to understand the spirit and intent of the City Charter. But she said Young would go forward with the plan he outlined Thursday, based on a literal interpretation of the charter’s language.
“Council President Young wants to assure citizens in the new district as well as those in the others that they will continue to receive good representation,” she said. “We’re going by what the charter clearly states: 30 days after it’s adopted, it becomes a done deal,” she said. “It’s very clear. There’s no mistaking that’s what’s in the charter.”
Adrian Florido is a reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He covers San Diego’s neighborhoods. What should he write about next?
Contact him directly at email@example.com or at 619.325.0528.
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