For the four new members of the San Diego City Council who took office on Monday, the first day on the job was an exhilarating but also sometimes confusing and frustrating experience.
Hours after being sworn in at a mid-morning ceremony at the Civic Theatre, the four council freshmen--architect Ron Roberts, former county supervisorial aide Wes Pratt, lawyer Bruce Henderson and college professor Bob Filner--got their first taste of the real world of City Hall during the council's afternoon session.
Roberts' public career got off to a somewhat inauspicious start when he slinked into the 2 p.m. meeting about five minutes late.
Moments later, when the new council cast its first official vote--a declaration of the last half of December as "Helping the Homeless Days" in San Diego--the lights next to Roberts' and Pratt's names on the council's vote total board remained unlit even as green lights appeared next to each of their colleagues' names.
"The vote is unanimous with Mr. Pratt and Mr. Roberts not knowing to push the buttons yet," Mayor Maureen O'Connor said jokingly.
Shortly afterward, Filner made his inaugural council speech. His first words, however, may be lost to posterity because he forgot to turn on his microphone.
By mid-afternoon, Henderson began wandering around the council's raised platform while speakers addressed the body--showing a quick mastery of the time-honored council technique of not always paying strict attention to public testimony.
Their first meeting offered a little bit of everything for the new members. They were treated to a testy spat between O'Connor and Councilman Ed Struiksma over whether to exempt a development in the Miramar area from the Interim Development Ordinance that restricts residential construction.
They also received a more than ample introduction to "ombudscientist" and City Hall gadfly Rose Lynne, who commandeered the public microphone on several occasions, saying at one point: "Your committees are allergic to great solutions. There is no way that you can appoint great people without three hours of training."
And, thanks to a particularly lengthy agenda, the council did not wrap up its business until 8:04 p.m.
"By now, some of them may be wondering why they spent all this time and money to get here," joked O'Connor aide Ben Dillingham.