The Mayor's Icy Touch

Government

The Mayor's Icy Touch

What happens when you don’t vote the mayor’s way? A councilman’s aide says you get the big freeze.

Who knew Jerry Sanders might be so cold?

A staffer for San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria says the mayor directed city staff last month to no longer answer questions from Gloria’s office. In the lexicon of the council floor, the staffer said, Gloria had been “frozen out.”

“‘Frozen Out’ is a term used by Council Offices to describe what happens when a Councilmember does not vote the Mayor’s way on a certain issue,” wrote Pamela Ann Ison, Gloria’s budget and policy advisor, in a July 21 e-mail to a constituent.

Instead, Ison wrote, Gloria’s office had to go through a mayoral staffer to get answers, not allowing council members to receive information from city staff directly. That meant the mayor could decide when and if council members had their questions answered.

“It’s disappointing that this is what government/constituent services has turned into,” Ison continued. “It’s petty and a disservice to our constituency.”

I tried to contact Ison to get more details on her e-mail, but she’s on vacation. Instead, I spoke with Gloria’s spokeswoman, Katie Keach.

“It’s a term she used,” Keach said of “frozen out.” “I wouldn’t want to say that.”

Keach did concede she’s heard the term “frozen out” before. She also said she thinks she knows what issue Ison was referring to when she wrote that Gloria hadn’t voted the mayor’s way. But she didn’t want to speculate without talking to Ison.

The e-mail, Keach said, “show(s) there is a healthy balance of power between the executive branch and the City Council with our strong mayor form of government.”

The Mayor’s Office, however, wasn’t amused by Ison’s e-mail.

Spokeswoman Rachel Laing called it “pretty silly.”

The Mayor’s Office has a director of council affairs, Kevin Casey, who makes sure city staff responds to concerns from various council members.

“For reasons I can’t even speculate on, this staffer is ascribing motives to the decisions of someone whose job it is to work with the council members and ensure their constituents’ needs are communicated to city staff,” Laing said.

And no, Laing said, the Mayor’s Office doesn’t “freeze out” council offices.

Ison’s e-mail was a response to a member of a neighborhood association in Fairmount Park. Here’s a larger snippet of her comments:

 

[Another Gloria staffer] and I will do our best to get more information on the issues you’ve raised, but I will tell you, we have been “Frozen Out” by the Mayor’s office. “Frozen Out” is a term used by Council Offices to describe what happens when a Councilmember does not vote the Mayor’s way on a certain issue. The result is, the Mayor (his advisors), directs departmental staff not to respond to our inquiries/request for information. Rather, we’re required to go through a clearinghouse on the 11th floor. Apparently, one person on the 11th floor will have final say on which inquiries are worthy of a response.
It’s disappointing that this is what government/constituent services has turned into. It’s petty and it’s a disservice to our constituency. I’m not sure how long this freeze will last, but we will do our best to get more info for you. I’ve cc’d (Director of Council Affairs) Kevin Casey on this e-mail. He works for the Mayor. He is the so-called clearinghouse.

 

— LIAM DILLON

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