SD Rostra

Citizen Ann Romney Makes Surprise SD City Council Appearance

The unassuming blonde woman with her hair pulled back filled out the required form to address the San Diego City Council during the non-agenda public comment period on Tuesday. She stepped to the microphone for her four minutes of time to address members about an issue not on the docket. She was slotted in right after the gadfly going on about Solyndra.

She only used a little more than two minutes. Stating her name for the record gave her away to the handful of people present, or watching on the City’s cable TV broadcast of the meeting: Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, now a resident of La Jolla, a suburb of San Diego.

The first shoutout I read came from Rostra contributor Diana Palacios via her Facebook page: “Ann Romney came to council and spoke during non-agenda public comment. So random.”

Romney took issue with the process the City of San Diego currently uses to publicly notice development projects to members of the community. She had done her homework. She cited several instances where the information the city issued was misleading or inaccurate. Noting that she “and my husband, Mitt” strongly support transparent government and public participation, she urged councilmembers “to make sure that stronger protections are put in place so that in the future, permits are processed efficiently and correctly and the public is afforded the proper notice and opportunity to be heard.”

Just another day at another municipal government public meeting, one that would have gone completely unnoticed except for the political celebrity status of the speaker.

Political observers, wonks and wags immediately started buzzing about Mrs. Romney’s appearance, her careful preparation, and her matter-of-fact appearance. Other than receiving a polite “Welcome, Mrs. Romney” from Council President Todd Gloria, no special treatment. She spoke as an engaged citizen about a civic issue, nothing more.

Afterward, Councilmember David Alvarez, who’d also given Mrs. Romney a shout out on Twitter, told me she was “well-prepared,” though he wondered who all the people were with her. This is a bigger compliment than it seems if you’ve spent any time listening to speakers at local political meetings.

The calls began on social media: “Ann Romney for Mayor!” Or at least City Council. Only a few were tongue in cheek.

For those who would like to see Mrs. Romney’s comments in their entirety, the City of San Diego posts all of its City Council meeting broadcasts online in archives. Click on this link to access the video. Fast forward to the 34 minute mark and look for the involved citizen in the white shirt and black glasses.

Apparently the Romneys finally got the OK from a City hearing officer on May 31 to bulldoze their La Jolla oceanfront property at 311 Dunemere Drive and remodel it, increasing the square footage from 3,009 square feet to 11,062 square feet. It looks like the Romneys are finally getting their car elevator. After all the hand wringing over their plans, this one sure flew by under the radar.

In the end, what does this little celebrity sighting teach us? All politics is local. It was strangely charming to see Mrs. Romney step forward in the spirit of unadorned civic engagement to speak on a local issue of concern. No handlers, no image consultant. Just her two minutes at the microphone like any other citizen willing to come downtown to City Hall on a Tuesday morning, along with the guy ranting about Solyndra and the rest of the bananas in the bunch.
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