Ann Romney, a first lady hopeful roughly a half year ago, stepped to a microphone this week in San Diego in a different kind of forum from the ones to which she grew accustomed during the 2012 presidential contest. She said nothing about the power of female voters or restoring faith in government. Instead, she had a bone to pick with city officials.
“My name is Ann Romney,” she said after slipping on a pair of black-framed reading glasses. “I’m here today to express concern with the city of San Diego’s noticing procedure for development projects.”
Ms. Romney, speaking at a fast clip and in a polite tone, is now a private citizen living in La Jolla, Calif., (a San Diego suburb) with her husband, the former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. And so she exercised a right afforded to all those like her who live in the area – she used the nonagenda public comment portion of the city council meeting to address her elected officials. The issue, Romney explained, is that the permit process for the expansion of the Romneys’ luxury coastal property was slowed, “due to potential defects with the public notice.”
“Notice defects can be problematic for transparent government and public participation, two things that Mitt and I strongly support,” she said, dressed casually.
Municipal code requires the availability of environmental documents and publication of dates for a public comment period. Apparently, the local paper provided incorrect information. Romney said the public deserves proper notice and the opportunity to be heard, and she said her lawyer has on hand other examples of when the city may not have followed proper noticing procedures.
She took just a quick two minutes or so of the council’s time. And then she was done, followed by a gentleman who said he wants a split screen available during public comment so viewers can see the citizen speaking as well as “those council members who are chatting with one another, eating food or walking away from their council seat.” The ethics commission might include civility training, he added, for those particular council members.
The Romneys’ La Jolla property – in the years before the 2012 presidential race, it was one of several the couple owned across the country – fed the narrative during the White House campaign that the family’s wealth made them out of touch with regular Americans. The candidate later reinforced that perception, of course, with his "47 percent" remarks.
The La Jolla home cost $12 million, and because of that image problem during the campaign, the Romneys put a hold on plans to level the home onsite and build a structure triple the size with a garage elevator. But in November 2012, soon after President Obama won a second term, the Romneys asked that the hold on the permitting process be lifted.
Meanwhile, the Romneys have not entirely faded quietly into private life, as they suggested they might in the wake of defeat last fall. They gathered party and national leaders in Park City, Utah, recently for a summit dubbed “Experts and Enthusiasts” that allowed for a discussion of policy issues and the country’s future. The couple did a joint interview with CNN from the event, weighing in on matters as far-ranging as the IRS scandal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s public embrace of the president in advance of the election.
So they’re not avoiding political discourse exactly. In many ways, perhaps including that San Diego council meeting, they’re still carefully wading into the fray.
Romney told CBS This Morning during her first solo interview since the campaign that the post-election frustration she felt has faded into a peaceful chapter that involves much horseback riding and competition.
“I’m really happy with my life,” she said.
And she’s ready to break ground on her new abode.