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Analysis: The San Diego City Council will soon outline its vision for the Unified Port of San Diego.
Mayor Bob Filner largely forced that conversation when he vetoed the council’s picks to serve on the commission that oversees the port.
In a memo written days after the initial Jan. 7 vote, Filner criticized the selection process and urged the council to review it. He also called on the council to convene a workshop to establish the city’s priorities for the port, and cited concerns about a lack of participation from District 4 residents, who are currently without a council representative.
Not everyone agreed those were worthwhile reasons to postpone the appointments. Last week, Council President Todd Gloria called a vote to potentially override the mayor’s veto. That effort failed.
District 7 Councilman Scott Sherman was one of five council members who tried to override the mayor’s veto. Sherman objected to Filner’s reasoning that the appointment process should be re-evaluated, and said on the dais that process had never been discussed ahead of the initial vote.
That statement caught our attention because there was a robust discussion about process on Jan. 7. In fact, the council spent more than 30 minutes sparring over whether the vote should go forward due to confusion about the voting method and concern with the process.
Councilman David Alvarez wrote a related memo to the City Attorney’s Office on the day of the vote.
Alvarez and Councilwoman Sherri Lightner raised pointed questions during that day’s meeting.
Councilwoman Marti Emerald even attempted to postpone the vote on Jan. 7. She cited the need for a public discussion about the council’s goals for the port and the role of its representatives on the port commission.
“The council never has held a public discussion about the opportunities and impacts and goals that port operations would bring to our city,” she said on the dais. “This kind of process, I believe, would be a turning point for how we fill appointments, putting the good of the city and its residents ahead of the practices of the past.”
Sherman and other council members stressed the necessity of moving forward with the port commission vote to ensure San Diego is well-represented in current planning discussions. The council picked attorney Rafael Castellanos and businessman Marshall Merrifield for the port commission, but the mayor’s veto of those picks means two of the city’s three seats remain unfilled.
But Sherman contended that there was never a discussion about process before the vote.
That’s not true. A handful of council members made their concerns known on the very day the council voted on port commission appointments.
Sherman told us he should have been more specific: He said he was referring to Filner in particular.
“My intention was that I was talking about the mayor because that’s what I’d been doing for a few days,” he said.
Sherman’s spokeswoman shared a Jan. 24 U-T San Diego opinion piece the councilman wrote about Filner’s veto as evidence.
Here’s an excerpt from Sherman’s op-ed:
Mr. Filner knew for several weeks that this decision was coming down yet chose to stay on the sidelines until after the nomination and appointment processes were complete. The more productive approach would have been to communicate with the council and various stakeholders before the vote took place.
Filner was indeed mum on port commission selections ahead of the Jan. 7 council vote.
In fact, as our Scott Lewis wrote last month, Filner didn’t seem aware that he could veto council appointments until after the vote.
“This is purely a council decision and they will make that decision,” Filner said at a press event shortly before the Jan. 7 meeting.
Filner followed up by asking whether the council would make port commission selections that day.
A misleading statement is one that takes an element of truth and badly distorts it or exaggerates it, giving it a deceptive impression. That ruling fits here.
There’s some truth in Sherman’s statement. Filner never weighed in on the port commission selection process until after the vote, but Sherman’s council colleagues certainly did. Sherman should have zeroed in on Filner rather than making a blanket statement.
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Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.325.0528.
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