ENCINITAS — City Council voted to direct staff to investigate options for selecting the mayor on Jan. 19. The seemingly simple process of selecting a mayor and deputy mayor has become a contentious issue that some claim is more a popularity contest than a simple rotation of the seats on the dais.
Mayor Jim Bond put an item on the council’s agenda to specifically discuss a possible ballot measure asking the residents if they would rather choose the mayor. However, other council members were not so willing to scrap the current system of selecting the post by an internal vote. “I’m not surprised,” Bond said regarding the vote that was not a ringing endorsement of an elected mayor system.
Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan suggested the council look into establishing a set rotation procedure, something that would be written into city codes so that the council would not have a choice about who gets the job.
According to longtime Cardiff resident Bob Bonde, residents don’t select their mayor for good reason. Bonde, who was instrumental in the incorporation of the city in 1986, opposed a direct vote of the people for mayor. “We thought an elected mayor would add another layer of government,” he told the council referring to the decision to allow the council to select its own mayor.
Bond described what he termed the “angst” that occurs when the mayoral selection occurs each year. Houlihan said the angst comes when people are excluded. “It has become very political,” she said.
The highly anticipated selection of mayor to serve in 2011 was an example of the difficulties Bond described. Councilwoman Teresa Barth was passed over for both mayor and deputy mayor despite the usual course of rotating seats to reach the position.
Several members of the packed council chambers booed and gasped when newly elected Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar made a motion to make Bond mayor and Councilman Jerome Stocks deputy mayor. Despite being on record the previous year saying he would support Barth as mayor, Bond voted with Gaspar and Stocks.
She defended the move, saying the symbolic positions don’t have to rotate, but are for the member who can obtain three council votes on the five-member council.
Bond, who has served on the council for 18 years, said at the meeting that he believed the council’s mayoral selection process should be dumped. He vowed that one of his first items as mayor would be to bring up the selection process issue.
To change the mayoral selection system, a super-majority of the City Council must vote to put a measure on the ballot, according to a city staff report.
“The ballot measure would be asking voters whether they want to elect a mayor and four council members, and whether the term of office for the mayor will be two or four years,” the report states. “Should council decide to place this on the ballot, staff will return with specifics regarding the election cycle and estimated costs.”
Most of the speakers supported a reform to the current system rather than a replacement with an elected mayor. “Electing a mayor sounds like a good idea,” said C.J. Minster said until “big money interests” are considered. The longtime resident said the deceiving ads that plagued voters during the last election would only increase with the mayor’s position open to popular vote.
Bond said that the process of allowing voters to select the mayor would at least clarify who holds the position. He said an election would be a good idea “if we want to have some stability and actually have people know who the mayor is,” Bond said. He estimated at least 90 percent of voters couldn’t even name three council members.