San Diego is facing a lengthy power void in City Hall, as lawmakers consult recently rewritten rules to determine how the government will operate after the expected resignation of Mayor Bob Filner.
If Filner steps down on Friday as expected, City Council President Todd Gloria will lead the government until the city elects a new leader in special election. But thanks to changes made to the City Charter in 2010, Gloria will have far less power than an elected mayor.
“It isn’t much of an impediment to what the city needs to do. We just wanted to make it so someone couldn’t go out and do nutty things,” said James Ingram, an urban politics lecturer at San Diego State University and the University of California at San Diego who helped rewrite the city charter.
The following year, the city switched to a new form of government that gave the mayor more authority over day-to-day operations of the city. Those new rules stipulated that, if the mayor left office, the interim leader would have far less power.
The new rules also mean that the council could force through legislation without fearing the normal checks and balances, Ingram said.
So, according to Ingram, if the council wanted to change the municipal code to allow more time for recall petitioners to collect signatures, it could do so without worrying about a veto.
If Filner indeed resigns, this transition period could last nearly five months.
The city has 90 days after the mayor’s resignation to hold a special election. But if no single candidate gets majority of votes, the top two finishers must go head-to-head in a runoff election. Another 49 days can pass before the second vote.
Each election is expected to cost taxpayers between $3 million and $6 million.