Filner Wins Battle Over Port Appointments
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has won the battle over the city’s Port appointments. The City Council today failed to override the mayor’s veto of two appointments.
The City Council needed six votes to override Filner’s veto. A City Council majority had appointed attorney Rafael Castellanos, a Democrat, and businessman Marshall Merrifield, a Republican, out of a field of six candidates on Jan. 7.
City Council President Todd Gloria subsequently expressed support for the nominees and scheduled the override vote. The council voted 5-3 to override the vetoes, but needed six votes in favor.
Filner said the appointments should have waited until the vacant District 4 seat is filled and a more definite process for making appointments was established. Democratic Councilwoman Marti Emerald supported Filner’s position and did not vote to override him.
"I won’t mince words, sometimes these appointments are made for people who write checks to politicians without regard to their depth of knowledge," she said. "And the city, I think, needs to have some minimum qualifications for these boards that really do require seasoned professionals."
Emerald said she wasn’t implying Catellanos and Merrifield were not qualified, just that the process needs to be fixed.
But the Republicans argued that if everyone believes the men are qualified, their appointments should stand and then the process should be fixed. Republican Councilman Scott Sherman said he believes this was a purely political vote.
"Here we have two very, very qualified candidates who went through the process, who we nominated," he said. "The process was never brought up once before the outcome of the vote. The mayor himself even said that there was an election and there should be two Democrats in this post. That’s what this is about."
Councilman Kevin Faulconer, a supporter of the override, said letting two of San Diego's three seats on the board remain vacant is a disservice to the city. He accused the mayor of wanting to delay full representation at the port.
"The rest of the world will still move forward,'' Faulconer said. "Millions of dollars of San Diego's waterfront projects won't be delayed, opportunities to create maritime jobs at the port won't be delayed, and critical decisions about San Diego Bay and the environment won't be delayed. The point is, the port will not wait for the city of San Diego.''
The two men were appointed after Gloria, a Democrat, voted with the four Republicans on the City Council to approve them. Councilwoman Sherri Lightner was seen as the swing vote on the override issue. She ultimately decided to back the mayor and not override his veto.
Lightner has scheduled a March meeting of the Rules and Economic Development Committee, which she chairs, to sort out some of the issues in the city's approach to the port.