Lawsuit requires cost disclosure for strong mayor system proposal


City News Service

Ballot language for Proposition D, which would make San Diego’s strong-mayor form of government permanent, will include wording about the costs of creating a ninth council district, under a lawsuit settlement approved Friday.

Councilwoman Donna Frye filed the suit to force the mayor’s office to concede that it would cost the city a considerable amount of money to fund the new council seat.

The original language for the June 8 ballot measure, after describing the extension of the strong-mayor system, read, “The fiscal impact of adding an additional council district would be $0 up to $1,072,000 annually depending on whether the city absorbs some or all of the costs of the new council district in the city’s budget.”

The new wording will say that one-time expenses of up to $100,000 are anticipated for furniture and equipment for the new council office at the City Administration Building, and annual costs of up to $971,500 for staff salaries and supplies.

Additionally, the city will have to pay more for elections every four years.

“The mayor’s office tried to mislead the public by saying the cost of a ninth council district was zero,” Frye said after a brief Superior Court hearing.

Saying there might be no cost associated with the proposal was “just plain wrong,’' Frye said.

Frye is an opponent of the strong-mayor system, which was approved by voters in 2005 for a five-year trial. The trial will expire at the end of this year unless Proposition D passes.

Under the current system, the mayor has the duties formerly held by a city manager, such as hiring and firing department heads and proposing the budget.

The mayor ceased being a voting member of the City Council but can veto council decisions.

Proposition D would also increase a veto override from a simple majority to a two-thirds vote of the council.

The proposed ninth council district would be formed, for the most part, to avoid tie votes.

Judge Richard Strauss approved the settlement and awarded Frye $10,000 from the city for legal costs.