By Dr. John E. Warren
It was advertised and announced as a “Coffee Meet with Fourth District City Council member Myrtle Cole and City Attorney Mara Elliott at the Skyline Library.” But the meeting got off on a bad start. First, there were over 12 police officers there inside and out the building, in uniform for a community meeting. It appears that they were told to expect trouble, but none occurred. What did happen is that their presence angered the community members who thought they had come out to speak with their council member and City Attorney Mara Elliott, whom they elected.
District Four Representative and City Council President Myrtle Cole had to leave for some reason and was not there very long. Her departure was in the midst of a heated conversation between the City Attorney and Minister Hugh Muhammed of Mosque No. 8, who is currently involved in some code enforcement issues with the city. The City Attorney’s attitude was abrupt and defensive and sometimes evasive. She didn’t like being questioned by some members of the community, leading to at least one person demanding her respect of our community. It turns out that there were a number of misunderstandings on the part of the community about the City Attorney and who she represents.
At one point Ms. Elliot said that she represented the City Council and the Mayor, indicating that she did not have to respond to a request that her office provide an opinion to the public on the “meet and confer” issue surrounding the proposed charter amendment to create a Commission on Police Practices. This statement was in sharp contrast to the community perception that, since they elect the City Attorney, he or she represents the citizens of San Diego.
Members of the community also expressed concern that the City Council representative had to leave the meeting. One speaker indicated that he had been trying to reach the council member for years, to no avail. Ms. Elliott indicated that this particular meeting was her meeting and one of which she has held or is scheduled to hold in each council district. The Councilmember was there because its her district and not expected to stay.
This was not a good meeting for the City Attorney. It appeared to have burned some bridges instead of mending fences. It was also a time that Women Occupy and the citizens present sought assurances that the City Charter Amendment creating the Commission on Police Practices, which had been reported out of the Council Rules Committee, would go before the full council ahead of the August 10th Council recess. The City Attorney appeared to serve as more the delay that the Police Officers Association seeks through its “meet and confer” contract provision with the city, than the help needed to move the item forward. It also appears that the Council President wants the stall as much as the Police.