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Cole Reshuffles Committee Assignments, Shifting Power To Democrats

City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole sits at the dais after her election as council ...

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

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

San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole unveiled a list of nominations to committees, moving some higher-profile positions in the city government from Republicans to Democrats.

San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole on Friday unveiled a list of new council committee assignments, shifting some higher-profile positions from Republicans to Democrats.

Among the most notable switches was the chair position of the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee, which reviews changes to housing and transportation policy before those issues reach the full City Council. Councilman Scott Sherman, a Republican, would keep a seat on the committee but lose the chair position to Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, a Democrat.

The council is scheduled to vote on the new slate of committee assignments Wednesday.

As chair of the committee, Sherman has pushed policies that would ease the approval of new housing construction. He has found an ally in the committee's vice chair, Councilman David Alvarez, one of the more progressive Democrats on the council.

Gomez is currently a member of the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee, and has largely gone along with Sherman's agenda. She has also pushed for a pilot program to cut back on the high fees homeowners have to pay to build so-called "granny flats" on their property.

Sherman was the only council member to vote "no" on the reelection of Cole as council president at the council's Dec. 4 meeting. Prior to that vote, he pressed Cole on how she would make the committee assignments. Cole declined to go into details during the meeting.

Chairs are responsible for setting the committee's agendas and work plans and can initiate policy discussions that make their way up to the full City Council. Although City Council positions are officially nonpartisan, party affiliation often plays a role in how the council votes on controversial issues.

Cole has been characterized as a more moderate Democrat, and was elected council president last year with the support of all the council's Republicans. She is up for reelection next year and has been under pressure from some unions and Democratic activists to prove her loyalty to progressive causes. A number of union leaders spoke in favor of keeping her as council president.

Gomez is also being nominated for a seat on the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, which oversees the police department. Critics last year said the committee lacked diversity and needed a council member who represented lower-income and majority-minority neighborhoods most affected by police policies. Gomez's district includes City Heights, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in San Diego.

Councilwoman Barbara Bry, a Democrat, is nominated for council president pro tem — a prestigious sounding position that has little real power. The current president pro tem is Mark Kersey, a Republican.

Cole also nominated Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, to a seat on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Transit System, the main public transit operator in San Diego County. His alternate would be fellow Republican Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who already serves as Faulconer's alternate on the board of the transportation planning agency SANDAG. Faulconer rarely attends those meetings, instead sending Zapf in his place.

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