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'I'm Going to Run This Meeting'--and Mayor Did

July 15, 1986|RALPH FRAMMOLINO | Times Staff Writer

At 2:01 p.m. Monday, she took her seat at the dais underneath the large facsimile of the city's gold and blue seal, leaned into the microphone and called the meeting of the San Diego City Council to order.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen," Mayor Maureen O'Connor said. "If you'll please take your seats. Mr. Clerk, will you take the roll?"

On her 40th birthday, Mayor Maureen O'Connor convened and conducted her first council meeting.

O'Connor was elected last month to serve the 29 months remaining in the term of Roger Hedgecock, who defeated O'Connor for the city's top elected spot in 1983 but resigned in December after his conviction on 13 campaign-related felonies.

On Monday, the O'Connor era started in earnest when she called the council to order one minute after the scheduled starting time. But it was still early enough by City Hall standards to catch several of her eight colleagues, the city attorney and the city manager out of the chambers.

Once they scrambled to their seats, the meeting proved to be a more than adequate initiation for O'Connor, who last served on the council in 1979.

Her first tough task was to cut off gadfly and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Rose Lynne after her remarks to the council went beyond the three-minute speaking limit.

"Rose, Rose, Rose. The little red light," O'Connor interrupted, pointing to the signal in front of the speaker's microphone to indicate that her time was up.

The biggest challenge, however, came during a long and sometimes unruly hearing on naming a downtown street for slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.

The former girl's high school physical education teacher pounded her gavel and warned, "I'm going to run this meeting."

There were light moments, too. When the council declared a "World Police and Fire Games Week," O'Connor singled out Police Chief Bill Kolender in a crowd of city officials standing before her.

"I want to welcome Chief Kolender back from his vacation in Tahiti. We all wish we could have joined you," she said, raising her eyebrows. "Nice tan. It looks great."

And when an official from the city's Water Utilities Department explained why the council should approve a $5.6-million contract to expand the grit removal system at the Point Loma Waste Water Treatment Plant, O'Connor asked the official to state his name.

"Jim Mueller, water utilities," said the official.

"Nice to meet you," said the mayor. "I'm Maureen."

During a break in the meeting, which lasted until past 7 p.m., O'Connor said she was pleased with her first day at the helm of the council. She credited her handling of the marathon meeting to her experience as a former council member and as a San Diego Unified Port District commissioner.

"You've got to remember I've had 15 years of government experience and I think it bodes well in the long run," she said.

Earlier in the day, O'Connor's office offered another new touch at City Hall when it announced the first "Meet the Mayor" session on Saturday.

O'Connor will meet with San Diegans on a first-come, first-served basis between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday in her office at City Hall, said Paul Downey, her press spokesman. The session is the first of a series of semi-monthly meetings with the public that O'Connor promised during the mayoral campaign to hold, Downey said.

San Diegans who want to meet with O'Connor must call her office before Saturday to make a five-minute appointment. Downey said those who are scheduled will be asked to meet an O'Connor staff member in the City Hall library downstairs, where they will fill out a form describing their concerns.

The citizen will then be escorted to O'Connor's 11th-floor office by the staff member, who will meet with the mayor privately before the citizen is allowed in.

Downey said a citizen can expect to spend about three minutes talking to O'Connor. The schedule should allow O'Connor to talk to about 50 citizens, he said.

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