The City Council voted 3-2 to select Councilmembers James Bond as the next mayor of Encinitas and Jerome Stocks as deputy mayor, but it wasn't pretty.
Wednesday night's City Council meeting began with residents and city staff bearing gifts for outgoing Mayor Dan Dalager, who was presiding over his last City Council meeting, followed by swearing-in ceremonies for newly-elected Councilmember Kristin Gaspar and returning Councilmember Teresa Barth. Then came the process of choosing which council members would serve as mayor and deputy mayor, which has been a source of tension in years past.
The residents who spoke during the public-comment period were strongly in favor of Barth taking over as mayor. She was denied the deputy mayor role last year even though it was considered her turn in the rotation. According to the city's website, "The City Council has historically rotated the duties of the Mayor's position among Council Members each year."
With Dalager's departure moving each council member one seat to the left and Gaspar occupying a seat on the dais, Council Member Maggie Houlihan made a motion to appoint Barth as mayor and Bond as deputy mayor, which Barth seconded. Making her first comments as a councilmember, Gaspar made a substitute motion to appoint Bond as mayor and Stocks as deputy mayor, which Stocks seconded. Gaspar, Stocks and Bond voted for the substitute motion, with Barth and Houlihan voting against.
While making her substitute motion, Gaspar said that she has heard concerns about the confusing method the city uses to select the mayor. She read aloud the city ordinance regarding the process: "On the second Tuesday of each December, the City Council shall choose one of its members as mayor, and one of its members as deputy mayor. The mayor and the deputy mayor shall serve a term of one year or until a successor for each position is chosen. Three affirmative votes shall be required to choose or change the mayor or deputy mayor. In addition to the powers and duties of a councilmember, the mayor, or in the mayor's absence the deputy mayor, shall be the presiding officer of the City Council."
Gaspar said that the council in years past has alternated between choosing a mayor and deputy mayor on a rotating basis and following the city ordinance, which "clearly explains that the mayor and deputy mayor are selected by a majority vote of the council." She said the inconsistent way the council has appointed the positions has led to animosity among councilmembers.
Gaspar's substitute motion and comments caused a ripple through the packed council chambers, with many people storming out and a pair of sheriff's deputies making their presence known along the north side of the room. Houlihan was presiding over the meeting and admonished the crowd to allow Gaspar to speak.
Bond is the longest-serving member of the council—serving as mayor multiple times during his tenure—and he said he is strongly in favor of an elected mayor, not one appointed by the council. As he looked out at the hostile audience, he said, "What you need to be doing, if you're passionate about it, is to elect your mayor. I've tried for 15 years and I can't get four votes on the council to do that because everyone is concerned they won't have a chance to be the mayor."
Bond said the first two city council agendas of his term will include an opportunity for a supermajority of the council to place an item on the 2012 ballot that would make the mayor an elected position.
Earlier in the meeting during the public-comment period, former Planning Commissioner Bruce Ehlers played a video recording of last year's mayor-choosing meeting. Attending the meeting that day via teleconference, Bond talked about the rotating basis of selecting the mayor.
"To make sure that we don't miss anything in the rotation of the mayor, at the end of 2010, both Dan (Dalager) and Maggie (Houlihan) would move to the far end of the dais and begin the rotation to mayor from there. … Teresa (Barth) would become the mayor then for 2011 and so remain in the current, normal rotation for mayor," Bond said at the Dec. 8, 2009 meeting.
Houlihan said she asked Bond on Tuesday if he would support a motion making Barth mayor, considering his comments at the 2009 meeting.
"I was informed at that time that they had already decided that Jim Bond would be the mayor and that Kristin Gaspar or Jerome Stocks would be deputy mayor," Houlihan said. "… I find it interesting that the same motion has been made that I was told had been agreed upon."
"I don't know if those we're my exact words," Bond said.
Stocks was more direct with his response to Houlihan's comments about Gaspar's motion being agreed upon beforehand.
"I didn't make the deal. I did not seek consensus. I did not speak with more than one of my councilmembers," Stocks said. "If you're saying that a deal was cut, you are wrong and you owe this council majority an apology."