SD Council Falls One Vote Short Of Undoing Mayor's Port Vetoes

A tense showdown at City Hall Monday has left some partisan 'bad blood' flowing.

And, two of seven seats on the San Diego Port Commission still vacant.

The confrontation ended in a 5 to 3 vote that failed by one to override Mayor Filner's veto of two Council appointments to the Port District's powerful board of commissioners.

Filner objected not to the individuals themselves, but the selection process and lack of input on behalf of the Council's 4th District constituents.

"Deciding who should represent the city of San Diego on the Port Commission is too important to have a selection process that is so inconsistent and shortsighted,” said Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, a fellow Democrat who was joined by colleagues Marti Emerald and David Alvarez in voting to reject an override of the mayor’s vetoes.

But Council Republicans, who voted for the failed override along with Council President Todd Gloria, a Democrat, are furious.

"There's a lot of talk about process, there’s a lot of talk about qualifications and merits and those type of things,” said Councilman Scott Sherman. “However, in this instance, I think this is a purely political vote … the mayor himself even said ‘There was an election, there should be two Democrats in these posts’. That’s what this is all about. It has nothing to do about qualifications of the individuals."

Last month, the Council moved to fill two of the city's three seats on the Port Commission by appointing Republican businessman Marshall Merrifield and Democrat Rafael Castellanos, an attorney in private practice.

Filner wants whoever wins the special election in the 4th Council District, a Democratic stronghold whose seat at City Hall has been vacant since Jan. 1, to have a say in the process.

But the election cycle could run from seven weeks to three and a half months.

The mayor's critics say that would diminish the city's influence on the Port board for a long interval during which the commission will deal with important budget and commercial issues such as the expansion of the Convention Center.

"It was disappointing,” Merrifield said after the hearing. “ It’s hard to understand, completely, for those of us outside the process …the fact that they're still sorting out the process is confusing and surprising."

Merrifield says he's willing to stay in contention for the prospect of another appointment – “if they really want me to,” he added, laughing.

No word from Castellanos on that subject yet.

But the subject apparently won't be revisited until after a March 6th Council workshop to work out a new selection process and city objectives for the port.

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