SAN DIEGO, June 19, 2013 – 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, 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.
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, citing . 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 called her “well-prepared.” 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.
The Romneys’ development permit had been appealed due to problems with the public noticing procedure, which affected the Romneys’ plan to bulldoze their property and remodel it, increasing the square footage of the oceanfront mansion at 311 Dunemere Drive from 3,009 square feet to 11,062 square feet. After nearly two years of making their way through the bureaucracy and working to secure enough neighborhood support, the project was resurrected and finally approved on May 31, 2013. It looks like the Romneys are finally getting their car elevator, too.
Ann Romney appeared on CBS’s “This Morning” two weeks ago in her first post-election interview, saying she and her husband were enjoying post-election life and that she and Mitt had no regrets. When asked whether she would recommend her sons to get involved in politics, she cringed and hesitated.
But all politics is local, and 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 talking points. Just her two minutes at the microphone like any other citizen willing to come downtown on a Tuesday morning, right after the guy ranting about Solyndra and just ahead of the guy ranting about the incivility of council members and their need for training on the First and Second Amendment.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine and Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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