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Cole Seeks Powerful Seats Outside City Hall

San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole smiles during a council meeting, Dec. 12, 2016.
Milan Kovacevic
San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole smiles during a council meeting, Dec. 12, 2016.

Cole Seeks Powerful Seats Outside City Hall
Cole Seeks Powerful Seats Outside City Hall GUEST: Myrtle Cole, council president, City of San Diego

San Diego city Council elected a new president who will set the agenda for the Council in the coming year. And who along with Mayor Kevin Faulconer will set the tone of the city. Myrtle Cole was the first African-American women elected to city Council and is represented district for since 2017. She joins us today to talk about her priorities and what she hopes to accomplish. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for having me. It's start with your relationship with the mayor. You have collaborated with him on several occasions. How would you describe your relationship? It is a great working relationship. He wants to see progress in my district and economic development tour -- we had an economic development tour and he was on a couple years ago. We had 80 developers and district people touring our district. A lot of people did not see potential in our district that with the mayor's help the developer saw a lot of potential in Council District 4. We are working together to make sure that Council District 4 receives everything that it deserves and that is economic development, public safety, infrastructure improvements, everything that other districts have. Is the president you will be looking a little bit more broadly as to what the city needs. I wanted to ask you because you told our Metro reporter Andrew Byrne that he would not compromise your values in dealing with the mayor. Kenny's be specific about any situations where you feel you have to stand up for you believe in? Minimum wage. He does not support minimum wage but idea. Basically we agree on making sure that every single district in the city of San Diego moves forward. That is the only thing that I think we will disagree on is possibly minimum wage issues. You have already made some appointments to city Council committees and I gather that there is a group that is actually protesting your appointment to the public safety and livable neighborhoods committee. Other say there will be no representation from minority communities as a result of your appointments. Had a respond? Councilman Chris Kate will be great as chair and I also overseen and communicated with councilmember Chris Kate on certain issues that should be addressed with public safety. Trust me it is going to move forward just like it has been moving forward before. Like it moved forward under councilmember desk had some President pro tem Marti Emerald's. I think Chris Kate is a good choice. One of the big issues facing you is how to respond to the racial profiling situation in the police department. Back in July I believe you came under some scrutiny because he mentioned that profiling by police results because Blacks are the ones that are shooting. You did apologize but as Council President what steps might you take to change how the police deal with the black community? What we have done is reestablish the citizen advisory board and police and community relations. That is huge. We will make sure that you have young adults on that committee and we will communicate with them and the advisory board and with the community as well as police and making sure that we address police and community relations. That is one of my priorities as public safety issues. Public Safety has been my priority since I have been running. There are four priorities that I have. Measure G give the city Council equal footing with the mayor to regulate the citizens review board that reviews police practices. What specific reforms would you push for on that board? That is making sure that they are involved in police -related shootings and I will make sure that we communicate and discuss different issues but I just -- I trust the executive director of the advisory board and I believe that they will make great strides in progress. He wrote last week that housing homelessness will be one of your top priorities along with public safety. He said that you will call two special sessions to address those issues next year. What difference will a special session make to this problem? It is a huge problem and it keeps growing. Not just on the streets of downtown but it is growing out into the different communities. Every district now has homeless camps and I want to make sure that now we come together and address that issue saying what are we doing wrong. What are we not addressing. I want to be sure that we bring all the players together to address the issue of homelessness and see what we can do to improve whether or not this building and housing for homeless individuals but we have to not just address that one issue. The day after you became the president you joined Republicans Chris Kate and Scott Sherman to rent a letter to the charges offering them a lease of one dollar a year for the Mission Valley state -- site for 99 years. What do you think that will do to get them back to the negotiating table and similar offers have never worked? I have not been involved in that before but when councilmember Scott Sherman brought me this letter I thought this is a great idea and let's try. Let's try and have another dialect. I thought it was a great idea. Just to dialogue again. Nobody has to say yes or no but at least let's talk about how we can keep them. They have some loyal charger fans and I want to make sure that they are heard. That is true but if you gave them a free lease how is that different? They will be developing. There's 166 acres of unrealized potential that is located in the center of the eighth largest city in the nation. That is worth hundreds of millions of dollars how is that different from giving them hundreds of millions of dollars in public money? They will be developing a. When they develop what they want to develop they will make sure that they reap the benefits and also the city will reap benefits from that. I think it is a win-win situation and I just want to make sure that we at least talk about it and find solutions. The four of us and the mayor and whoever wants to sit down at the table. However they sent to represent let's just talk about it. I want to also create jobs for the people of the city of San Diego. That will create a lot of jobs for the people in the city of San Diego because I also all about economic development which in turn gives us jobs. If we can talk about them and come some kind of agreement. That's all. How would you change approaches that the city has editing for that are found in what we have now? Is the pension liability a matter of concern for you I need to get about the budget in the future? Apparently it is going to be an issue next year. I will be working with the budget chair and the mayor to be sure that we still have money to fund the different project infrastructure and other projects that we need funding. We have to continue to invest in our city but we have to also invest in our infrastructure and we will be talking about how the pension will affect that. Thank you for spending time with us. Thank you for having me. That is Myrtle Cole who was recently elected as the president of San Diego city Council. Stay with us. Up next after the break we will meet Jean Guerrero to talk about her experience of trekking into the desert to cover the search for a missing migrant. It is 12:20 you are listening to KPBS Midday Edition.

Newly elected San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole released her list of appointments to council committees and outside organizations Friday, giving herself powerful seats on two intergovernmental organizations.

Cole nominated herself to chair the Committee on Rules, which hears matters on elections, council rules and the city charter. It is the only committee seat she is seeking.

She did, however, nominate herself for seats on the board of directors and executive committee of the San Diego Association of Governments. SANDAG is a powerful countywide agency responsible for planning and funding transportation projects. Cole is also seeking to keep her seat on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Transit System, which operates public transit, and for a promotion to the agency's executive committee.

San Diego City Council Committee Appointments
San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole lists her appointments to city council committees.
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

The City Council will vote on confirming the nominations in a special session Monday afternoon. If the list is confirmed, Mayor Kevin Faulconer would retain his seat on the SANDAG board despite rarely attending its meetings.

Cole, who is a Democrat, won the council presidency on Monday in a 6-3 vote, with one other Democrat and the council's four Republicans supporting her. City Councilman David Alvarez had the support of several progressives, who saw him as more independent from the mayor's office.

Mark Kersey, a Republican, would take over the position of council president pro tem. The position would give him the authority to run council meetings when Cole is absent. It was previously held by Marti Emerald, a Democrat who did not seek re-election to the council.

Kersey would also keep his chairmanship of the Infrastructure Committee, while Alvarez would keep the top seat of the Environment Committee. All the other committees would get new chairs:

• Audit, newly elected Georgette Gomez;

• Budget, newly elected Barbara Bry;

• Economic Development, Lorie Zapf;

• Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods, Chris Cate;

• Smart Growth and Land Use, Scott Sherman.

Recently elected Councilman Chris Ward was not nominated for any chairmanship posts.