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Myrtle Cole Wins San Diego City Council Presidency

City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole sits at the dais after her election as council president, Dec. 12, 2016.
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
Myrtle Cole Wins San Diego City Council Presidency GUEST: Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News

It's an historic election for the San Diego city Council. Myrtle Cole is the first woman to be elected president. And two bonus covering the story. Thank you so much for being here. In the coverage we purchase yesterday, we haven't heard that much about the historic nature of her election. How significant is it quick The Council President position has only existed since 2006. How significant is it? It depends on who you ask. We're supporters would say it's very significant. Not only does she lead the Council but she also would be the caretaker/Mayor if the mayor for whatever reason might resign for example to run for governor of California. Is Council President she was step in as the interim mayor. For her critics, and she does have critics, Myrtle Cole hasn't been a strong advocate for African-Americans that they may have hopes that she would be. That is exemplified by comments when she said, she may, that were basically understood as justifying racial profiling because of black on black crime. She ended up bringing those comments back and she says she condemned that condemns racial profiling's buffer critics, that was her on the self and you can't really take back something like that. She has talked about a possible alignment between Myrtle Cole and the mayor. Is there much evidence of that? What should residents be concerned about? The evidence of that alignment that I have personally seen is fairly limited. She has appeared side-by-side with the mayor of press conferences. I asked her about this very shortly after the Council meeting yesterday. She said put simply, she would not be the mayor's lackey. Were not going to compromise our principles it all. The man knows that I believe about me. Were still going to work together to make sure that the city moves forward. The concern that I've heard from progressives isn't that she will push back against Ameren certain policy issues. Is that she simply will push for word as alternative progressive agenda. She will bring forward bold ideas on fixing the city's problems. That builds on the progressive criticism of Sherry Leitner's Council presidency that she focus more on bureaucratic reforms and on the charter review and less on bold, and patience solutions to the city's problems. There are nine members on the city Council. That is technically nonpartisan. It is pretty much expected that one of the Democrats would be packed. Myrtle Cole got more Republican votes. Was going on there like It was essentially between her and David Alvarez who was the other incumbent Democrat, the other Democrats were freshly sward and so they were not likely to be elevated to this higher-level position in the Council. So David Alvarez voted against Myrtle Cole as the two other new council members. David Alvarez was held up by a lot of the speakers during public comment as the progressive leader who would push back against the mayor and offer these more ambitious alternative solutions. In his comments during the City Council Meeting he spoke of seeing missed opportunities for the Council to lead and solve problems. And watching those missed opportunities, I have also witnessed far too often group think or PR stunts to pretend things are actually happening in the city. So if I can read into those comments are way behind -- we between the lines, I think what he is saying is that the mayor has offered cosmetic changes to the city. Under the surface of this test those changes, the same problems our existing. Affordable housing, housing that is affordable. Ambitious policies to implement the city's climate action plan is something that I think he has criticized the mayor on. And that comment about groupthink, that speaks to the mayor's reputation for I think he prides himself on working in a bipartisan manner on building consensus and I think that is something supporters also saw in her butt consensus is good, but debate is also important. Disagreements are important and with the strong mayor strong Council form of government, we are supposed to butt heads and have a robust state -- debate on policy instead of going along to get along. The Democrat who voted for Myrtle Cole was a newly elected city Council member. What does this tell us about her quick It could signal that she would be willing to work more closely with the mayor or what Myrtle Cole as Council President. She started an organization called one, women, run. I think she is probably excited to see another woman in the Council presidency. But how much we can read into that one single pole, I'm not sure. Myrtle Cole represents District 4. Tell us about what she's accomplished there so far . She has certainly advocated for more development for more housing. She got a new library in her district, she also managed to get a design, money for the design of a senior center in a park in the mayor's budget this past year. I don't think it would surprise anyone to hear that in city politics there is a degree of quid pro quo that goes on. If I support your policies, you can maybe give me this in return. A lot of people say she's been a great advocate for her Council. The mayor has certainly campaign on giving improvements to those neighborhoods that have been historically neglected in southeastern San Diego is one of those neighborhoods. But the power she gains of becoming president is likely to set the agenda for the whole city. Absolutely. She said after the meeting, I am interested in listing to every city -- every single Council district. I'm not here to push my own agenda. She has to bring forward ideas that she may personally disagree with. She says she is very interested in listening to every single Council member and their ideas and bring in the forward so that they can have a debate and a vote on them. Thank you, Andrew. Thank you.

Myrtle Cole Wins San Diego City Council Presidency
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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