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New City Council Members Sworn In At Inauguration Ceremony

Swearing in ceremony for incoming San Diego city council members, Dec. 10, 2018.
KPBS Staff
Swearing in ceremony for incoming San Diego city council members, Dec. 10, 2018.
New City Council Members Sworn In At Inauguration Ceremony
New City Council Members To Be Sworn In At Inauguration Ceremony GUEST: David Garrick, city hall reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

It's inauguration day as new San Diego City Council members are sworn in. This gives Democrats the super majority on the council with Monica Montgomery Jennifer Campbell and Vivian Moreno replacing outgoing members Lori Zapf Myrtle Cole and David Alvarez. It also means the body will choose a new council president today. So to talk about the contenders and what this new city council means for San Diego is David Garrett who covers city hall for the San Diego Union Tribune. David thanks for joining us. Thanks for having me. So David you were at today's inauguration. Who else was there and what was the overall mood like the overall mood was upbeat. It shifted gears as some of the departing council members shared their memories and teared up. You got a little bit sad and then some of the new newly elected council members who are being sworn in talked about their ambitions. There was a lot of inspiration and excitement and cheering. All right were there any missing faces there. Yeah. Myrtle Cole was not there which I was surprised by. Typically an outgoing council member will talk about what they think they've accomplished and you know hand over the reins to the new person. And she was absent. It was a tough race and a tough loss for her and I guess that's the only explanation I can come up with why she wasn't there. How does their swearing in change the overall makeup of the council. While the offices are nonpartisan officially that lots of votes especially on contentious issues are along party lines before the election. It was a five to four advantage for Democrats. And now after the election it's a 6 to 3 advantage for Democrats which is key because Mayor Faulconer is a Republican. And so with that 5 4 advantage he could veto things and the Democrats didn't have enough votes they need two thirds to override a veto. Now they have that two thirds majority to override a veto. So it's a real key change. You recently profiled the newest members of the council. What did they tell you about what they hope to bring to the council and what they want to accomplish different in all cases but I think in general everyone wants to focus on housing affordable housing the city's housing crisis climate action make sure that San Diego does whatever it can to fight greenhouse gas emission increases and sea level rise and then homelessness which is the number one issue facing the city which any resident of San Diego if you go anywhere in the city is aware of the problem that the city has with the homeless the outgoing members were also at the ceremony. What stood out to you about their remarks. Is that was a very she's a Republican representing District 2 for the last four years and then District 6 before that she was very emotional. The campaign was a really hard one. It was an ugly campaign. As district too often the beach communities and a slice of Western Clairemont. But she was she was very sad. Her father died during the campaign about two and a half months ago. And then you know she was getting attack ads by her opponent. And I think you know she the emotion maybe got to her. I think she said to leave office before that she wanted to. Later this afternoon the new council will pick its new council president former president Myrdal Cole lost her re-election bid to Monica Montgomery in District Four. Who are some of the contenders. Yet it creates an interesting opening we know that the new council president. We know we're going to have a new council president. There are six Democrats it'll definitely be a Democrat. I mean that would be shocking if the three Republicans could manage to get enough votes for one of them to take it. So it will be one of the Democrats and there are three that are not brand new brainy people typically don't become council president because they don't understand the sort of the legislative inner workings of city hall. So the three candidates are Barbara Aubrey Georgette Gomez and Chris Ward. But for all indications that I've gotten around City Hall Georgette Gomez has locked it up and she's expected to become the new council president. And what does the council president actually do. What's their role. It's a very important job one San Diego shift that about 10 12 years ago to a strong mayor form of government. They tried to increase the authority of the council president as sort of a checks and balance. So the council president sets the agenda runs the meetings has just a key legislative role in the process at City Hall. So it's a really really pivotal spot. And I know you touched on it but what are some of the key issues that are expected to come before this new council. Well homelessness and affordable housing but also short term vacation rentals which has been a huge issue in the city and the city passed legislation this fall that they had to retreat from a legal situation. So that will be another key issue. And you know there's racial profiling out there. The shortage of police officers in the police department is facing a lot of issues. And so given a new democratic super majority on the council how do you see the Democrats working with the Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer moving forward. Well it certainly weakens the mayor a lot. I mean he runs the evaporation still but he's going to be under you know under watch under notice that you know he can't he can't step out of line because the Democrats have much more control and much more ability to veto things that he does. And I think the Democrats have intimated that it's going to be maybe a less developed friendly city. They feel that Falconer's may have been too cozy with developers and too friendly with them. That's their opinion. Can't say for sure that that's all your perspective but it looks like there's going to be maybe a little less of that and maybe a little bit more focus on workers and the environment. I've been speaking with David Garrick who covers city hall for the San Diego Union Tribune. David thanks so much. Thank you.

The newly elected San Diego City Council members from districts 2, 4 and 8, as well as re-elected District 6 City Councilman Chris Cate, were sworn in Monday.

Outgoing council members Lorie Zapf and David Alvarez gave parting remarks at the ceremony where incoming members Jennifer Campbell, Monica Montgomery and Vivian Moreno were officially welcomed to the 72nd City Council. Outgoing District 4 City Council President Myrtle Cole did not attend.

Campbell, a physician and a Democrat who defeated Zapf, a Republican, in District 2 with nearly 58 percent of the vote, compared the job of a council member to her work as a family doctor.

"Each profession is focused on preventing and solving problems," she said. "In both, we listen to your problem, we learn the history of it, we make a diagnosis and provide a pathway to a cure. And that is how I will serve as District 2's representative in City Hall."

RELATED: Democrats Set To Increase San Diego City Council Supermajority

Campbell flipping Zapf's seat gives Democrats a 6-3 supermajority on the technically nonpartisan council for at least the next two years.

"When we work together and we focus less on politics and focus more on the priorities of our communities, there is no challenge too great or obstacle too high that we cannot overcome," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said.

Montgomery, a civil rights attorney, ousted Cole in District 4 by painting the incumbent as a City Hall insider out of touch with her own district. Montgomery finished with 57.7 percent of the vote and received the biggest applause, by far, of the four council members taking the oath of office.

"My prayer is that I never lose sight of the community that sent me to City Hall to do one job, and that is to advocate for you," Montgomery said. "On November 6, 2018, District 4 said `no more' ... No more giving away of our community resources to special interests, no more back-door deals to decide our community's fate, no more supporting leaders who abandon our community and no more leaving out children behind."

Despite being a Democrat, Cole was Faulconer's closest left-of-center ally on the council over the last two years.

RELATED: As He Leaves City Council, David Alvarez Turns Attention To Border Relations

Moreno replaced her boss, the termed-out David Alvarez, in District 8. While she is expected by some City Hall observers to tread largely the same path as Alvarez did in his time on the council, her election signifies the first time in city history that a majority of the council members are women.

"This is an historic day for our city," said Councilwoman Barbara Bry. "We have five women — five strong women from diverse backgrounds are going to constitute a majority of our San Diego City Council."

Moreno finished with 50.9 percent of the vote, 549 votes ahead of San Ysidro school board member Antonio Martinez.

"People want to know that City Hall is working for them, not for outside interests or those with their own agenda," Moreno said. "They want to know that their elected officials listen to them and do all they can to help. To the communities of District 8, I promise to bring City Hall to you."

Campbell, Montgomery and Moreno cast their first vote Monday afternoon to appoint District 2 Councilwoman Georgette Gomez as the next council president. While rumors had previously swirled that Bry, the council's president pro tem, might challenge Gomez for the presidency, the council ultimately voted unanimously, 9-0, in favor of Gomez.

"As a council member, I worked to include the voices that are oftentimes not heard," Gomez said. "I will continue to do so as council president. ... I look forward to leading the 72nd City Council and developing stronger relationships with my colleagues."