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Myrtle Cole Wins San Diego City Council Presidency

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole sits at the dais after her election as council president, Dec. 12, 2016.

Myrtle Cole Wins San Diego City Council Presidency

GUEST:

Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News

Transcript

The freshly inaugurated San Diego City Council took its first official action Monday in electing Myrtle Cole as council president. She beat out David Alvarez, who has had a more combative relationship with the mayor.

The San Diego City Council voted 6-3 on Monday to elevate Myrtle Cole as council president.

Cole joined fellow Democrat Barbara Bry, who was sworn in earlier in the day, and the council's four Republicans in supporting her for the job.

"What I plan to do is work with every single individual on this dais...to move their district forward and to move this city forward — that's all I want to do,'' said Cole, who represents neighborhoods in Southeast San Diego.

Democrats have a 5-4 majority on the council. Although city council members are officially nonpartisan, it's a tradition for the majority party to choose one of their own as council president.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, released a statement after Cole's election saying: "She has repeatedly delivered for her district over the past three years and I have no doubt she will make an excellent Council President and bring similar results to the entire city."

Many of the 30 or so public speakers, including members of organized labor and environmental groups, backed Councilman David Alvarez and pushed for a more aggressive pursuit of progressive policies. Alvarez has had a more combative relationship with the mayor, while Cole has appeared alongside the mayor at several occasions.

New council members Georgette Gomez and Chris Ward joined Alvarez in voting against Cole for council president. Alvarez said prior to the vote that he had seen too many missed opportunities for the council to lead and solve problems.

"In watching those missed opportunities pass us by, I've also witnessed, far too often, groupthink — or PR stunts to pretend things are actually happening in the city," he said.

The council president position comes with considerable power. Cole, who succeeds Sherri Lightner in the post, will shape the debate over civic issues, set the panel's agenda, run the council meetings, determine committee assignments and appear often with the mayor in a ceremonial role.

Earlier in the day, Faulconer, City Attorney Mara Elliott and the three new City Council members took their oaths of office in a ceremony at the Balboa Theatre in downtown San Diego.

Faulconer completed the term of scandal-plagued Bob Filner, who resigned in 2013, so is embarking on his first full four-year term. He was reelected in the June primary.

"It is truly an honor and privilege to serve as mayor of this great city, and I am grateful and humbled that San Diegans have placed their trust and confidence in me,'' Faulconer said. "It is with a great sense of optimism and responsibility that, together, we begin this new chapter.''

Elliott, a Democrat who defeated Deputy District Attorney Robert Hickey in the general election last month, helped create a culture that made the City Attorney's Office successful, according to her predecessor, Jan Goldsmith.

"She will improve up (the culture) with her own style and own priorities,'' Goldsmith said. "She is tough, tested and ready to lead.''

Elliott told the audience that she would be an independent city attorney accountable to the people, and fight for the interests of the city and residents. Her office defends the city against lawsuits, ensures that municipal policies are implemented legally and prosecutes misdemeanor crimes.

"San Diegans need to know that this office will protect them, and criminals need to know that we will prosecute them,'' Elliott said. "There's no better way to measure our success.''

Bry represents Carmel Valley, La Jolla and University City. Gomez represents the College Area, City Heights and Southcrest. Ward's district covers downtown, Hillcrest and North Park.

Mark Kersey, who represents Rancho Bernardo and Scripps Ranch; and Scott Sherman, whose district covers territory in Linda Vista, Mission Valley and San Carlos, took the oath of office for their second terms after being reelected in June.

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