Council votes to modify mayoral selection

ENCINITAS — The City Council voted 3-2, with Council members Teresa Barth and James Bond opposed, to tweak its mayoral selection process Feb. 15.Rather than put the question to the voters, as motioned by Bond, the council majority chose a system in which the person receiving the highest number of votes during their election would be appointed mayor for a two-year term. The mayor would in turn select the deputy mayor.

The current practice of rotating each year, with the mayor and deputy mayor selected by a majority vote of the council has become contentious. When Barth was not selected as mayor last December, a large crowd in the audience stood and turned their backs to the dais in silent protest.

Mayor Jerome Stocks invited the Mayor of Lemon Grove, Mary Sesson, who is one of 15 elected mayors in San Diego County cities, to offer her experience.

“I certainly can’t say what’s best for Encinitas,” she said. In 1994, Lemon Grove put the question to the public to decide whether it wanted an elected mayor, and for what amount of time the person should serve.
Initially, it was a two-year term but changed to four years in 2000.

“For us it works beautifully, I hesitate to weigh in too heavily,” Sesson said.

Solana Beach and Del Mar are the only other municipalities whose residents do not directly elect a mayor.

The public speakers were divided in how to proceed, but most agreed that the current system was too political.

“We’re a passionate community and that is a good thing, we really care,” said Carolyn Cope. “I don’t think you guys play fair,” she told the council, referring to past votes that excluded Barth as deputy mayor or mayor. She said it was time for the citizens to have a say in who would lead the council.

Cope supported selecting the mayor based on the person with the highest number of votes in an election with the caveat that it be an incumbent. “Please do the right thing this time,” she urged the council.

Tony Kranz said he wished the issue had been discussed earlier in Barth’s tenure. “It’s time to move on, it’s time to put it in front of the voters.”

He suggested the question be put to the voters to decide whether it wants a codified rotational mayor system or a directly elected mayor.

According to City Clerk Deborah Cervone, the cost to place a single question on the November 2012 ballot is between $17,000 and $20,000. “So we’re looking at a $40,000 question,” Stocks said.

“I don’t like the annual rotation, I really don’t,” Stocks said. “Frankly it should be the voters that select us.”
He said the current system is not working. “It’s not elegant and it’s not predictable and it’s not based on public (input).”

Sheila Cameron, a former council member who served as mayor said the rotational process could work and noted that a ballot measure was too costly.

Newly appointed council member Mark Muir initially supported Bond’s motion to put the question on a ballot but ended up voting for the modified rotational system. “For me it’s more about representing the will of the people,” he said.

Bond disagreed. “I think no matter what we do you folks ought a pick ‘em,” he said referring to the public.

“I kind of feel like I’m in the twilight zone,” Barth said. December 2011 marked the third time Barth has been passed over for the leadership positions. Despite the rotational process of each council member moving to the next seat until they reach the Deputy Mayor and then Mayor’s spot, Barth, now in her second term in office, has yet to receive enough council votes to serve in either capacity.

She pointed to the times the council majority has passed her over in the rotation. She said the system of choosing the positions wasn’t necessarily “broken” but that it depended on “professional courtesy and being civil.”

“What happened didn’t make me look bad, it made my colleagues look bad,” she said. She supported a codified rotation. “There’s no reason why we have to make this a bigger issue than it is,” she said.

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  1. Protect Community Character says:

    Teresa and her supporters are upset because they are making it harder for her to do her job in advancing our concerns as her constituents. The title of Mayor is much more than cerimonial since the Mayor can appoint Council members to committees and can agendize items.

  2. Lynn Marr says:

    What Councilmembers Muir, Gaspar and current Mayor Stocks did once again would deny Teresa Barth an opportunity to be Mayor, until at least 2016, if she decides to run for a third term, and if she receives the most votes for her election. No discussion of Stocks’ second substitute motion was held, either by Council, or public speakers. The two-year term rotational alternative wasn’t on the agenda. Since appointment of Mayor is codified, part of EMC, as a one-year term selected by council majority, then in order to formally change Municipal Code, a change to a 2 year term must be introduced, after a full staff report, as a specific agenda item. Creating a new ordinance requires a second reading. No short cuts!

    If someone is to be granted a two-year term as mayor, he or she should have to run for that position! Councilmembers need to CHOOSE if they are willing to NOT RUN for Council, but for mayor, instead.

    We know of no other city where a prerequisite for running for mayor is to have previously served on Council. “New blood” would be great for our Council! Requiring candidates to have served on council in order to run for mayor is an attempt to codify the power of incumbency.

    Excellent plans for a fair rotational method, which did take into account who receives the most votes at election, were offered by Lisa Shaffer and Sheila Cameron. City attorney Sabine should have spoken up about the impropriety of the 2nd substitute motion, without first “vetting” that plan through a staff report and a specific agenda item, addressing the 2 year term, so that public speakers could participate. Never explained was why Stocks described this as an interim policy?

  3. Real Encinitas says:

    The Mayor rotation was not ‘broken.’ Having 1 year terms was a way that Encinitas citizens from all sides were assured greater represenation. It also allowed for Council to work better as a group when power was not placed into the hands of the same person for too long.

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