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Op-Ed: Elk Grove Council Appointment Process Hijacks Democracy

Elk Grove should avoid appointing another council member as it just did, the author says.

By Connie Conley
Elk Grove Community Connection
Special to Elk Grove Patch

In 2010, Elk Grove voters, by a large margin, decided that we should elect our own mayor, and given the choice of a two or four year term, we chose two years.

Now we have a $500,000 problem we need to deal with; one that could rear its ugly head every two years, and as soon as 2014.  We often hear the buzz words, “unintended consequences,” and that is exactly what we have before us. 

We elected Elk Grove Council member Gary Davis as our first elected mayor, leaving his district seat vacant for two years.  The Elk Grove City Council had a choice to make:  Either appoint a successor or call for a special election with a $500,000 price tag.  

Opting for the appointment process, it much like having your impacted wisdom teeth pulled out.  It was beyond painful.  Good people who went through the arduous process were not good enough for the council; so they opted for an appointee who didn’t even apply.  

Additionally, comments from the dais by council members were less than professional about the two women who did apply.  Vice Mayor Steve Detrick said it was, “Like pickin' the girl for the prom," to Council member Pat Hume telling LaWanna Montgomery why she wasn’t even nominated stating, “If the people wanted you, they would have elected you.”  [Montgomery had previously run for both city council and mayor]

Detrick’s “prom comment” drew the ire of local activist Michael Monasky who wrote in an Op-Ed, "Elk Grove City Councilman Steve Detrick has really stepped in it this time. His seemingly sexist (and perhaps racist?) faux pas. . .”  So pleased a man stepped up here.  One can only ask why there weren’t derogatory comments made about the four men who applied.  In the end, three of the four men on the council appointed another man.

2014 will be here before we know it, and given the propensity for candidates running for office in Elk Grove to announce early to deter other potential challengers, possible Elk Grove mayoral candidates could be announcing later this year.

The appointment process was a dishonorable one, and it must not happen again.  We need to fix this problem and there are options.

One being the “Resign or Run” Law.  The Resign-to-Run Law requires an elected or appointed officer to irrevocably resign when seeking an elected office which runs concurrently, or any part runs concurrently, with the term of office he or she presently holds.

Another option:  We make all the Elk Grove City Council and the mayoral seats run on the same election cycle.  However, the Catch 22 on this one is that if the council would even consider this option, we would have to wait until the 2016 election cycle.  So that still leaves the probability of a repeat for 2014. 

No one wants to revisit the nightmare of the appointment process; Elk Grove’s version of the movie “Groundhog Day” – two city council meetings was enough for a lifetime. 

There are others who have said the current mayor, no matter who it is, would only have a good chance of being replaced if a mid-term council member ran, giving that council member a safe place to fall if he/she happened to lose the election.  There should be no “sweet seat” on the city council. 

Either way, something has to be done now.  But do any of the current Elk Grove City Council members have the real courage to find a solution so that we aren’t faced with a possible $500,000 special election in two years.  Equally, it is not fair to the citizenry that every two years, three or four council members get to decide who represents us.  

The voters should not have to face a possible appointment every two years because that diminishes our democratic rights by denying the voters the opportunity to elect our representatives.

Bottom line, the democratic process is hijacked by the appointment process!

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Bob B February 04, 2013 at 05:34 PM
Why not elect 5 council members, then rotate the mayor's job annually - with the mayor voting only in case of a tie? You forgot to chastise council member Cooper for "strongly encouraging Nancy (I forgot her last name) to run", then voted for her on the council. I believe that situation is a conflict of interest and doesn't provide for being fair - he definately had his mind set on his friend Nancy, regardless of the other candidate's qualifications. He should have recused himself from voting when her turn came up. Mr. Cooper also chastised his fellow council member "I've been in this (council) since the beginning) if you want to earn my respect (by supporting my choice) then you need to ....". The problem with Mr Cooper is - as he himself stated -that he "has been there from the beginning." Additionally, he is an active member of the Sacramento County Law Enforcement community - that should preclude him from even running for the Elk Grove City Council ... the question naturally would arise: Where do his loyalties lie: with the City, or with the County? Since he presumably makes heck a more money with the county, I can guess where his loyality lies. I believe the City of Elk Grove deserves better. Finally, in a democracy (especially in a representative one) the people should choose their representative - not the already elected politicians. Sure it costs $500,000 for a special election, but freedom is not free.
Tom Waltman February 05, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Connie, I have to say that you and I agree on this issue, but likely for very different reasons. Elk Grove should have never had the option for a two-year mayoral term. That is simply insane. Having a Mayor in constant re-election mode is not good for our city or the priorities that the City Council should be promoting. We have been a community that has valued honest solutions to community issues (however flawed) over feel-good gimmes that cost money and provide no real services. Every Mayor under the two-year term system will be forced to campaign from the dias. That is just too wrong to ever be acceptable. We should immediately move to make the two-year term a four year term synced with the Council election cycle. And we should enact a "Resign to Run" requirement that puts the Councilmember's seat up for election if he or she runs for Mayor. That is the only way democracy wins in this disaster. We may have to wait a cycle to get this fixed, but it needs to get done right, and as soon as possible. We should never allow what happened in the last election/appointment cycle to happen again.
Connie Conley February 05, 2013 at 06:55 PM
Well Tom, never say never. But you bring up an excellent point that I omitted. It was the current Elk Grove City Council that put the two year question on the ballot. I still don't understand why they did that and could never get an answer. Did you?

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