Flush from their victories in Tuesday's election, the four incoming San Diego City Council freshmen on Wednesday began formulating an early wish list of priorities on district and citywide issues that they will carry with them to City Hall next month.
Clearly relishing the prospect of assuming the offices that cost nearly $2 million and months of campaigning to achieve, the four councilmen-elect quickly began preparing to, as 2nd District winner Ron Roberts put it, "hit the ground running . . . at full speed" when they are sworn in next month.
"There's a lot to be done and we don't have the luxury of slowly sliding in to the job," 4th District victor Wes Pratt explained. "We've got to get to it starting on Day One."
High on their list of priorities are approval of a new city growth-management plan, possibly reversing the council's decision to spend as much as $1.5 billion on a secondary sewage treatment plant, and finding a new method to honor slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in the wake of voters' decision Tuesday to change the name of Martin Luther King Way back to Market Street.
The impending 50% turnover on the council also raises obvious--and, at this point, largely unanswerable--questions about how the new members will mesh with the existing members, perhaps alter the council's philosophical balance or affect Mayor Maureen O'Connor's ability to control a working majority on the council.
Recognizing that their election constitutes the most dramatic reshaping of the council in a decade, the four victors, far from giving the impression that they might be timid or deferential in their early months in office, are acutely aware of their forthcoming clout.
Indeed, 8th District Councilman-elect Bob Filner suggested that the key question is not how well the four freshmen will get along with the existing council members, but rather how well the existing council will get along with the freshmen. In short, the four freshmen may arrive at City Hall as a voting bloc to be reckoned with in their own right, Filner said.
"We're going into office as a coalition of sorts," Filner said. "People may wonder how or where the mayor and the current council members might get votes from us. But, on the other hand, with four of us coming in, we only need to pick up one vote to do what we want, too.
"We've just come through a very intense experience together. For the past seven weeks, we've been together every day. We got to know each other pretty well, we've learned from each other, heard and borrowed ideas from each other, and have developed a lot of mutual respect. There's also a general consensus among us on the major issues. That's a coalition-forging experience that I'd like to continue in some way."
To "maintain the cohesiveness" among the incoming members, Filner hopes to persuade the three other councilmen-elect to join him in a "freshman caucus" that would meet later this month--an idea that appeals to his colleagues.
"We have developed a camaraderie, an esprit de corps," Pratt said. "We've got much more common ground than differences among us. This might be a good way to take the feelings that developed among us in the campaign and keep it alive."
Although O'Connor endorsed only Roberts, the mayor, eager to develop a rapport with her other soon-to-be colleagues, predicted Wednesday that she would be able to work well with them.
"When you were listening to the candidates, they were really mirroring most of my personal philosophy as it relates to the issues," O'Connor said at a City Hall news conference. "So, I'm very comfortable with the ones who got elected if they vote the way they talk. There's going to be absolutely no problem, because our philosophies are basically the same."
Final unofficial results from Tuesday's election showed that:
- Roberts, former chairman of the San Diego Planning Commission, defeated public relations consultant Byron Wear, 90,023 votes (54.2%) to 76,015 votes (45.8%), in the race for the 2nd District seat being vacated by retiring Councilman Bill Cleator.
- Pratt, executive assistant to County Supervisor Leon Williams, swamped the Rev. George Stevens by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, 122,228 votes (74.5%) to 41,838 (24.5%), in the 4th District to succeed former Councilman William Jones, who recently resigned to attend Harvard Business School.
- Henderson, a lawyer, narrowly defeated lawyer Bob Ottilie, 84,335 votes (51.5%) to 79,402 votes (48.5%), to win the 6th District seat now occupied by Mike Gotch.
- Filner, a professor at San Diego State University and former San Diego city school board member, defeated lawyer Michael Aguirre, 92,191 votes (54.2%) to 77,980 votes (45.8%) in the 8th District, now represented by Celia Ballesteros.
In accordance with remarks that they frequently made throughout the campaign, each of the four new councilmen on Wednesday identified development of a new city growth-management plan as their top priority.