It was a good day to be Tony Young.
Feted by all his colleagues on the San Diego City Council and sworn in to a new four-year term, Young became City Council president yesterday, a role he seemed destined for especially after things broke his way in last month’s elections.
Young, who represents the city’s southeastern neighborhoods, promised a renewed focus on the budget problems. There could be at least one council discussion each week on the city’s $70-plus million ongoing deficit, Young said, adding he would consider his time in office a failure if the city’s deficits weren’t erased.
Young’s colleagues elected him unanimously to be council president, the city’s third in its history, after laying the praise on thick.
“When it comes to a gentleman who just has integrity, Tony Young is the model,” said Councilman Kevin Faulconer.
Aside from just liking the guy, council members had their own reasons to praise Young. The council presidency is considered one of the city’s top three positions along with the mayor and city attorney roles. Here’s how my former colleague David Washburn described the council presidency’s duties in 2008:
Only the mayor and city attorney have more influence over city affairs under the strong mayor/strong council form of government than the council president, who has powers that are similar in some respects to the Speaker of the House in Congress.
Chosen each year by a vote of the eight members of City Council, the council president controls the council agenda, and, more so than any other council member, dictates the flow of debate at council meetings.
The council president also decides what council members are in charge of what council committees. The individual heads of council committees get to decide what they want to discuss at their meetings.
In a day of speeches for Young, his most poignant moment came during his inaugural address. He choked up while discussing the naming of a park after his council predecessor and friend Charles Lewis. Lewis died while facing charges in the Strippergate scandal that ensnared two of his former colleagues. Young, Lewis’s chief of staff, won a hard-fought special election to replace him.
The city’s two newest council members, Lorie Zapf and David Alvarez, also got personal during their inaugural addresses Monday. From KPBS:
Alvarez officially took over representing District 8 as his wife Xochitl and their baby daughter Izel looked on. He said he is honored to represent Barrio Logan, the neighborhood where he grew up.
It was also the neighborhood from which he was almost forced out. Alvarez’s family was evicted from their apartment when Petco Park was being built. Alvarez said without the support of friends and neighbors, his family would have been homeless. It’s a message he hopes to spread at City Hall.
Zapf faced similar rough circumstances growing up.
Her parents were divorced and Zapf said she was caring for her younger brother and sister when she was just 11. The children were eventually split up and put into foster care. Zapf said her experience was hard, but has made her who she is and prepared her for her work on the Council.
“Nothing in my life has ever come easy. And that’s OK. Because it has made me who I am today and it has prepared me for the very daunting challenges ahead,” she said.
Zapf made her presence on the council felt early when she joined colleague Carl DeMaio’s failed attempt for the council to reconsider restrictions on Walmart superstores passed under the lame duck council last week.
Expect the Zapf-DeMaio alliance to be perhaps the closest of any on the council. Asked during the campaign what policy positions, if any, she had different than DeMaio, Zapf could only think of DeMaio’s stance against public art.
Last, our media partners at NBC 7/39 covered the inauguration as well. I’m quoted discussing budget challenges the city faces.