Letter to mayor recommends alternative process for selecting city council president

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The City Council’s four Republican members called Wednesday for a change in the way the council president is appointed, in response to three of them being stripped of key leadership posts by Democratic Council President Myrtle Cole last month.

Republican members Scott Sherman, Lorie Zapf, Mark Kersey and Chris Cate proposed that future council presidents be appointed on a rotating basis, based on seniority. The council’s leader is currently chosen by a vote of its members.

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from Cole.

Cole was reelected council president last month by an 8-1 vote, with Sherman the lone “no” vote.

After she was reelected, Cole rearranged council leadership — removing three Republicans from key posts and replacing them with Democrats.

Sherman was replaced by Democrat Georgette Gomez as chair of the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee. Zapf was replaced by Chris Ward on the Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee and Kersey was replaced by Barbara Bry as council president pro tem, the body’s second-in-command.

Zapf now heads the Audit Committee and Kersey remains head of the Infrastructure Committee, a post he has held since joining the council five years ago.

Cate continues to lead the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

Sherman no longer holds any leadership position.

“As can be seen from the last council president election, the current process is in desperate need of reform,” Sherman said. “This proposal will help create a process which assures a non-partisan outcome.”

Cole has a large backing from labor leaders, while Sherman is fiercely opposed by union bosses.

Unions have called for more Democrats in leadership roles on the council. The demand was difficult to meet one year ago since three Democratic members were new to office.

The City Council is technically nonpartisan and while its members are in general agreement on the vast majority of issues, partisanship does raise its head from time to time.

Democrats hold a 5-4 majority on the council.

The Republicans said the proposed rotation-based policy would foster increased cohesion on the council and “end union political power-plays.”

The model is in use on other local and regional governments.

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