Jennifer Campbell and Todd Gloria
San Diego City Council President Jennifer Campbell with Mayor Todd Gloria in a photo from her Twitter feed taken before the pandemic.

By Barbara Bry

The vote that elected District 2 Councilmember Jennifer Campbell as the next president of the San Diego City Council has made the effort to recall her a citywide issue and has galvanized residents all over the city to join a growing coalition.

The council president is important because this person sets the council agenda that determines what and when the council votes on issues and also makes committee assignments. In short, that office wields a “choke hold” position on city matters.

The recent 5-4 vote, with District 4 Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe on the losing end, clearly demonstrated where the power behind-the-scenes is and who elected officials are beholden to.

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These special interests, primarily lobbyists and some labor leaders — who probably are not representative of their members — want a weak council president whom they can control.

They chose Campbell.

These groups did not want Montgomery Steppe, because she has demonstrated that she is an intelligent, independent woman, who asks the tough questions. She stands up for the people — not just in her district — but the entire city.

Case in point. The San Diego Police Officers Association opposed Montgomery Steppe because of her leadership role in putting Measure B on the ballot.

That measure, which voters passed overwhelmingly in November, established the Commission on Police Practices, with the power to subpoena and conduct investigations into police officer misconduct. While the Police Officers Association stayed silent during the campaign, they flexed their muscle behind the scenes with support for Campbell.

Barbara Bry
Barbara Bry

As the outgoing councilmember for District 1, I made my farewell remarks the morning of Dec. 10, and I listened to five new councilmembers talk about putting people over politics.

Then, late that night, I was disappointed to hear three of them—Marni von Wilpert in District 5, Raul Campillo in District 7, and Stephen Whitburn  in District 3 — voted in line with Campbell’s special-interest backers.

However, I would like to commend two new Councilmembers — Joe La Cava in District 1 and Sean Elo-Rivera in District 9 — along with continuing Councilmember Vivian Moreno in District 8 for their courage in voting for Montgomery Steppe.

A few months ago, community leaders in District 2 started an effort to recall Campbell for reneging on her repeated promises to defend the 30-foot coastal height limit and to better control the explosion in short-term rentals in her district.

She reneged on those and other promises. The Campbell recall is a grass-roots effort to right those wrongs.

The first legal step in this recall process is to publish a petition.

This will happen in mid-January. Then the clock starts for signature gatherers.

By mid-May, the group must collect 13,553 valid signatures (20,000 to allow for errors) from registered voters in District 2, which encompasses Point Loma, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, Midway/North Bay, and parts of Clairemont and Linda Vista.

If enough signatures are collected, the City Council must then call a special election not less than 90 days or more than 180 days later.

The recall ballots require a “yes” or “no” vote. A simple majority decides.

If a majority votes “yes” to recall Campbell, her replacement will be among the candidates listed on the same ballot. The candidate with the highest number votes will becomes the new District 2 councilmember.

It’s a new day in San Diego, and it’s time for the voices of the people to be heard.

Do not let this chance go by. Get involved now. Protect the city — and your neighborhood — from entrenched, powerful, special interests.

Barbara Bry is the former San Diego City Council member for District 1.  She is a supporter of the recall effort.