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San Diego’s City Charter Under Review

Photo caption:

Photo by Angela Carone

San Diego City Council members Todd Gloria and Sherri Lightner share a stage during the council inauguration ceremony, Dec. 10, 2014.

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The 149-page San Diego City Charter acts as the city's constitution. It sets the rules for government and defines the roles and responsibilities of the mayor, city attorney and City Council.

But there is at least one missing provision that would have been handy in 2013, when then-Mayor Bob Filner was accused of being a serial sexual harasser. There was no way to throw him out.

Council President Sherri Lightner chairs the committee that has taken on a more than yearlong review of the charter. She has said she does not anticipate major policy changes coming from this process. Her focus is mainly on cleaning up archaic language, including references to a "city manager" — a position the city got rid of when it went to a strong mayor form of government.

The committee will, however, deal with how to remove someone from office. As written, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has said that if a mayor is in a coma or sent to prison, the person can stay in office unless recalled. The mayor also could resign, as Filner eventually did.

Councilman Todd Gloria has advocated for a major policy change. He wants to craft new rules on how to qualify measures for the ballot. He also thinks the City Council should consider changing the referendum process to include a requirement to make public who funds the efforts to qualify measures for the ballot.

"The city could improve the disclosure requirements so that more information would be given to the public in a timely fashion," he said.

Gloria also said he'd like to explore allowing proponents and opponents of a referendum to be present while signatures are being verified. Currently, only those who sponsor the referendum are present.


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