ENCINITAS — While the City Council voted 3-2 to appoint Councilman James Bond the new mayor and Councilman Jerome Stocks deputy mayor, the move outraged the majority of the crowd in the packed chambers on Dec. 15.
This is the second time Councilwoman Teresa Barth was not chosen for either post. The atmosphere in the chambers became tumultuous as someone yelled, “It’s a bunch of bulls—,” and several people stormed out.
Several speakers addressed the issue of the mayor and deputy mayor selection after Barth and newly elected Councilwoman Kristen Gaspar were sworn in and departing Mayor Dan Dalager bid the council farewell. Dalager lost his re-election bid.
Lisa Shaffer, an Encinitas resident, said the process of selecting a mayor is arbitrary and needs to be revised. “It seems like a popularity contest,” she told the council.
The city code only requires a majority vote of the council to select the two posts. However, precedent in choosing the mayor and deputy mayor has historically been a rotation of the members or a move in seats to the left on the dais.
Carolyn Cope called out the proverbial elephant in the room and said the crowd was waiting to see who would be chosen to serve as mayor. “A lot of time ya’ll don’t do the right thing,” she told the council. “It’s Teresa’s turn.”
Dadla Ponizil told the council about his experience being skipped while waiting patiently as a child for a ride on the merry go-round. “I hope you guys will be smarter than the kids in that kindergarten class who skipped me on the merry go round,” he said.
Bruce Ehlers showed a clip from a council meeting last year when Barth was passed over. Bond, speaking via teleconference at the meeting, said that he wanted to make sure that electing then-Mayor Maggie Houlihan as deputy mayor wouldn’t get the normal rotation off track for the following year. “Teresa would become the mayor then for 2011,” he said, adding, “we want to make sure that we don’t want to do something that is purposefully leaving out Teresa.”
“I think it’s kind of a benign act, I don’t think she’s (Barth) going to burn the building down,” Ehlers remarked after the brief clip was shown.
Another speaker implored the council to elect Barth as Mayor. “I think four years apprenticeship is pretty good,” Delores Welty said.
Houlihan motioned that Barth be appointed mayor and Bond deputy mayor. “Moving one seat to the left to become mayor should be easy,” she said. The motion was seconded by Barth who said she looked forward to having a positive year on council regardless of what happens with the mayoral selection.
The audience was not as understanding when Gaspar made a substitute motion to appoint Bond, who has served several terms as mayor during his 18-year tenure on the council, mayor and Stocks deputy mayor.
In fact, Gaspar was booed and jeered as people yelled out “you’re a puppet,” among other things. Gaspar proceeded to read the city ordinance for selecting the posts to the obvious disgust of some in the audience. “She’s never been to a council meeting but now she wants to tell us what the code says,” one man yelled. “You have chosen to start out the year in a real bad way,” another person shouted at the council.
The tension became more palpable as accusations flew regarding Brown Act violations and “petty politics.”
The motion brought an accusation that the state’s open government law had been violated. Houlihan said that she was told the decision had already been made ahead of time to pass Barth over. “I just find it disconcerting,” Houlihan said.
Stocks responded in a raised voice that the accusations were baseless. Gaspar said she was doing what was “in the best interest of the city of Encinitas.”
Bond responded that if the people are so passionate about the process, they should elect their own mayor. He promised to put on one of his first agendas to have the council vote whether to put a mayoral election on the 2012 ballot.
“We do not have a rotational system in Encinitas, we have a whoever gets three votes policy,” Stocks said.
Barth handed out a prepared statement in the wake of the vote. “While many of my supporters and I are disappointed that a majority of my colleagues did not select me for wither the Mayor or Deputy Mayor positions this year, I still hold my seat on this council for another four years,” it read in part.