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San Diego Explained: The Power of the City Attorney

On this week’s San Diego Explained, Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis and NBC7’s Monica Dean break down the role of city attorney and how it has changed over the years.

During Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s efforts to persuade the City Council to hold a special election last month, a drastic power shift was realized.

The City Council was in the process of approving a new budget for the incoming year, which included $5 million to fund a special election so voters could weigh in on the SoccerCity plan and the mayor’s proposed hotel tax hike to pay for a Convention Center expansion, road repairs and homeless services.

But when the City Council decided to cut the $5 million, one member mentioned that the mayor might veto the cut. Councilman David Alvarez asked city attorney Mara Elliott whether the mayor could change the budget as he liked.

“The mayor can change whatever he wants,” Elliott said.

And with that answer, a drastic power shift toward the mayor was realized. But it wasn’t just the extent of the mayor’s power we learned something about.

“It was the city attorney who made that interpretation,” Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis explains.

City Attorney Mara Elliott has been in her position for just seven months, but she’s already become a powerful force in local politics.

On this week’s San Diego Explained, Lewis and NBC7’s Monica Dean break down the role of city attorney and how it has changed over the years.

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