Faulconer’s budget changes stand after council fails to override veto

SAN DIEGO -- Controversial modifications made by Mayor Kevin Faulconer to the city of San Diego's budget for the upcoming fiscal year will stand after a pair of override votes by the City Council failed Tuesday.

On Friday, Faulconer restored $5 million to fund a special election this fall after it was removed from the spending plan by the council several days earlier. The mayor also slashed the office and programs budgets of council members Barbara Bry and Chris Ward, who opposed holding a special election.

Bry, Ward and their allies on the panel, who voted for the override, harshly criticized the mayor for what they called a "vindictive action."

"Actively choosing to punish and target other elected officials -- their districts, their communities -- for disagreeing with you Mayor Faulconer is something you'd expect from President Trump or even from someone like previous Mayor (Bob) Filner," Councilman David Alvarez said.

Council President Myrtle Cole said she was disappointed with the mayor's changes for the budget, which takes effect July 1.

"This sends a chilling message to all San Diegans that their council member's ability to represent them can be negatively affected by the simple stroke of a pen at budget time," said Cole, who often sides with Faulconer on various issues.

The mayor even came in for rare criticism from Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin, whose office rarely wades into partisan politics.

In a report, Tevlin described the reduction to the council operating and programs budgets as "not a sound action or a good precedent" and one that could weaken the council's equal authority over the budget.

Mark Kersey, a council ally of Faulconer, pointed out that their office budgets vary widely. He said that even with the mayor's reductions, Bry and Ward won't have the lowest level of office and program funding -- a distinction held by another Faulconer ally, Chis Cate.

In his comments, Cate said the amount of money he has to work with doesn't impact his office's service to his constituents, who are in Clairemont, Kearny Mesa and Mira Mesa.

Cate, Kersey and Scott Sherman dissented twice to prevent the council from reaching the six votes necessary to override the mayor's modifications. One vote would have completely undone the mayor's action, while the other would have done so partially.

Both failed 5-3, so the budget is now considered to be adopted. Councilwoman Lorie Zapf didn't attend because of a long-standing commitment.

On Monday, the City Council -- in an action separate from the budget -- nixed the idea of holding a special election for this fall, so the $5 million will remain unallocated.