San Diego City Council Should Resist The Temptation To Intervene on Federal and State Issues

Brian Brady Brian Brady 9 Comments


“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.”–  President Abraham Lincoln

President Obama used this Lincoln quote in his State of the Union address as a rationalization for an interventionist government.  But President Lincoln was actually promoting the virtues of restraint and jurisdiction when he said that.  Today, we articulate these virtues by asking, “What is the proper role of government?

Our Founders had the prescience to devise a system of divided powers.  They believed that “communities of people, in their separate and individual capacities” would petition government, through specific branches, to address issues of the day.  The US Constitution defines the 17 specific, unique and discreet powers delegated to the federal government, the California Constitution defines those powers delegated to the State Legislature, and the San Diego City Charter defines the role of the San Diego City Council.

When public officials exercise extra-jurisdictional power, they erode public confidence in their ability to execute their legitimate powers.  The unintended consequences  of illegitimate actions can have deleterious effects.  When the San Diego City Council passed a resolution to encourage a neighboring state to repeal an immigration law, tourism (a major industry in San Diego) suffered.  That seemingly innocent resolution, encouraged by a small group of San Diegans, inflicted economic pain on hundreds of thousands of working San Diegans.    Those hundreds of thousands of working San Diegans lost confidence in the City Council because it exercised power not specifically delegated to it.

The Second Amendment, and interpretations thereof, is within the jurisdiction of the federal and state governments.  “Communities of people, in their separate and individual capacities” then, can voice their opinions through duly elected federal and state representatives.  People in power are often encouraged to “say or do something” about every single issue when restraint is the better prescription.

Tomorrow, a committee of the San Diego City Council will be voting on a a resolution to support Senator Dianne Feinstein’s gun control bill.  The resolution is proposed by City Council President Todd Gloria, by request of Mayor Bob Filner.  It introduces partisan politics into what should be a non-partisan body of government.  More importantly, it is an extra-jurisdictional item which has nothing to do with the proper role of the San Diego City Council.

Council President Gloria and I probably share somewhat similar views about Proposition 8 and our military’s nation building role in Iraq.  I’m not interested in abusing his office to advance our views though.   To do so would reduce the efficacy of Gloria’s legitimate role as a public official.  Todd Gloria and I can work together, through our common Assembly member and respective Congress members,  to advance our commonly shared views — that would be appropriate.  But to leverage his office to meddle in extra-jurisdictional affairs, simply isn’t.

San Diego City Council members can inspire confidence in City government by resisting the temptation to intervene tomorrow.  When asked why they opted for restraint over intervention, each should reply that it isn’t within their delegated powers.


Comments 9

  1. I agree Brian, the city has no business doing useless resolutions. I’m sure there is a pot hole or some other issue they can concentrate on instead.

  2. No brainer = Republican city council members being asked to vote “no” on a non-binding resolution to ban guns.

  3. Up way too late TA, but that is just too funny and scary! Wait, maybe that’s why I’m up so late! hmmmm

  4. The Council vote will be moot anyway. Harry Reid told Dianne Feinstein he was going to gut the assault weapon provision that is the center of her bill. It will die the death it deserves now.

    I agree with you about our City Council stepping into state and federal issues, though. I wish they had decided NOT to vote to tell the state legislature to approve something as stupid and wasteful as Harvey Milk Day in our schools. And it would have been nice if Mayor Sanders had NOT gone to Congress to promote genderless “marriage.” Let’s hope this Council has more common sense than that.

  5. Draft City Council Resolution Regarding Immigration Rules and Economic Development Committee
    March 20, 2013 Committee Meeting – Agenda Item # 4


    WHEREAS, immigration reform is an urgent federal responsibility, and must occur in a comprehensive, thoughtful manner guided by our nation’s values of due process and civil and human rights; and

    WHEREAS, civil and human rights are deeply rooted in the fabric of democratic and principled societies, and must be instilled in all elements of our enforcement apparatus to ensure every individual’s dignity and humanity is upheld, recognized and respected; and

    WHEREAS, we need a common sense, streamlined immigration process that is simple and efficient. It is in the country’s interest to expand opportunities for highly and lesser skilled immigrants to work. As noted by groups such as the San Diego Table on Immigration Policy, the AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber, our challenge to create a mechanism that responds to the needs of business in a market – driven way, while also fully protecting the wages and working conditions of U.S. and immigrant workers; and

    WHEREAS, the City of San Diego recognizes that immigration reform must protect the rights of all families to stay together, regardless of immigration status, family structure, sexual orientation, gender identity, and to include same – sex couples , and provide sufficient family – based channels for migration in the future; and

    WHEREAS, the City of San Diego is a diverse city with immigrants and refuge es from many parts of the world who work, own homes, operate businesses and contribute to the economic, social, and cultural well – being of the City; and

    WHEREAS, the joint cities of San Diego and Tijuana share a common border with significant economic, social and cultural ties; and

    WHEREAS, in addition to the cultural and social riches our nation receives through our border, our ports of entry drive regional and national economic development approaching $500 billion in trade and one in 24 jobs in the United States; and

    WHEREAS, the City of San Diego supports added investment in infrastructure and technology as well as adequate staffing of ports of entry in order to keep up with the pace of the expansion of bilateral trade and the population growth of the border region; and

    WHEREAS, that it is not practical to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders, and that citizenship should be earned by following a reasonable pathway to citizenship, especially for young children who unknowingly enter the United States without proper documentation and have grown up here; and

    WHEREAS, this country should provide a pathway to citizenship that is not conditioned upon shortsighted border enforcement strategies that add extra obstacles and burdens to full reform;

    NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of the City of
    San Diego supports a reasonable and comprehensive approach to reforming the currently broken immigration system that is in the best interest of this country we all love.

  6. Post

    “what is your feeling now about city council weighing in on a federal matter on immigration?”

    You are a step ahead of me, “Known”. The immigration control resolution, like the gun control resolution, is an absolute waste of time and resources. It is political retaliation, aimed at Gloria and Alvarez, for proposing the gun control resolution and frankly, I don’t think it will work.

    Resolutions are powerless and can cause more harm then good.

    A better policy would be to simply reject any and all resolutions, part and parcel. Each Council member can honor the Girl Scouts, recognize the accomplishments of a teacher, celebrate Earth Day, etc, etc individually or as a caucus but should refrain from lending the full weight of the San Diego City Council to matters which don’t concern it.

    Guarding and maintaining the beaches, fielding a professional police force, providing emergency fire and ambulance services, maintaining an efficient transportation infrastructure, delivering water to and removing trash from residences and businesses should keep the Council’s docket full. Deviating from the core functions of City government, by crafting and debating resolutions erode confidence in the Council’s legitimate role.

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