San Diego Strong Mayor System Undermines Democracy

Did you know that the San Diego Mayor has greater veto power than the California Governor or the U.S. President?

According to the San Diego City Charter, in our Strong Mayor Form of Government, Mayor Kevin Faulconer can not only veto budget items that the City Council has approved, but also move money around to his liking. Only a supermajority of the City Council can override his budget modifications.

On June 9th, 2017, Mayor Faulconer used his veto power to fund his priorities and punish voters and their representative who disagreed with him. He put money into a special election for 2017 that voters do not support and stripped away funding from Council Districts whose representatives led the opposition to the special election. The money that Mayor Faulconer stripped from the districts is used for things such as community centers, Little League, homelessness prevention, and clean energy programs. This retaliation is an abuse of the Mayor’s veto power and sets a dangerous precedent that creates an imbalance between the Executive and Legislative branches of the city.

The Strong Mayor Form of Government gives extraordinary power to the Mayor to “approve, veto, or modify any line-item approved by the Council.” (City Charter Article VII, Section 69(g))

In contrast, the Governor of California may only “reduce or eliminate” budget items approved by the Legislature, but cannot modify as he wishes. (California Constitution Article IV, Section 10(e)) The President has even more restrictions and can only approve or veto the entire budget from Congress, and does not have line-item veto power. (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 7)

The limits on line-item veto power provide necessary checks and balances between the Executive and Legislative branches that prevent abuse of power. The City of San Diego is out of step and out of balance. In using his veto power to retaliate against members of the Legislative branch, Mayor Faulconer is undermining our democracy and tarnishing the Office of the Mayor.

It’s time for a change that will restore balance to the City Charter and limit the power of the Strong Mayor to achieve a Strong Democracy.