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A Closer Look at San Diego's Strong Mayor System

by Blake Bunch, published

SD City Hall(City Hall) -- Mayor elect Bob Filner will be the second mayor to serve San Diego under the city's relatively young Strong Mayor system. The city switched from the City Manager government to the current Strong Mayor form on January 1, 2006. Under the new system the Mayor is the City's Chief Executive Officer, functioning similar to the governor or the president. The council will operate as the legislative body, ensuring a system of checks-and-balances on Filner.

San Diego Strong Mayor, Measure D, passed on the June 8, 2010 with 82,162 "yes" votes (60.53%), as opposed to 53,581 "no" votes (39.47%). Obviously San Diegans voted for their city to be run a certain way, but many may have forgotten as to what it entails.

Operating as CEO of the city, Filner will be involved in the management of daily city operations, will be responsible for drafting the FY2014 budget, as well as head up labor negotiations. City council is responsible for the ratification of the budget, so they have final say in budgetary and land use issues.

Measure D read on the June 8, 2010 ballot:

"Shall the charter be revised to make permanent the Strong Mayor form of governance; add a Ninth council seat; and, when the ninth seat is filled, increase the Council votes required to override a mayoral veto to a two-thirds vote?"

Mayor Jerry Sanders, along with attorney John Davies, were avid supporters of the measure. Sanders felt that under the City Manager system of San Diego government, that all power resided in city council.

The ratification of Measure D, as well as all prior Strong Mayor legislature, makes for the five year experiment period. Not only is the system of governance permanent, but also adds a ninth seat to the City Council changing the override of a mayoral veto from a simple majority to two-thirds the vote.

This past March 20 saw some more stipulations added to the Strong Mayor system. In a unanimous vote by city council, Mayor Elect Filner will be able to negotiate contracts up to $30 million. This is a vast difference from the prior ceiling, which was set at $1million during Mayor Sanders tenure. Of this $30 million, 99% of upcoming city projects will be covered.

Mayor elect Filner certainly has a steady role to play in December. It will take an adjustment period, as Mayor Sanders will be actively participating in the transition, all the while serving as CEO of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce .

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