SELMA -- The Selma City Council will wait until October to consider changing the way it decides its mayor.
The decision came after a proposal by Councilman George Rodriguez to reorganize the board now instead of after the November election did not garner support from fellow council members at the council's Aug. 1 meeting.
Rodriguez argued that now is the time to vote in a new mayor from among the other council members.
“I feel it is necessary to get a new mayor at this time because we’re starting brand new with a new city manager,” he said.
Rodriguez also claimed that Mayor Scott Robertson's leadership style is driving city staff away, but said he could not discuss specifics, as the actions were taking place in closed session meetings.
Robertson called the move a result of Rodriguez’s continued disappointment over having not been voted in as mayor during the latest election in 2014.
“Something like this is injurious to the city,” he said during the meeting. “I think, Councilman Rodriguez, you’re putting your own ego and personal gratification ahead of the city’s well-being by making a motion for reorganization when it’s not time.”
Typically, the City Council votes on who’ll serve as mayor and mayor pro tem on the Tuesday after the general election, which falls on Nov. 8 this year. Robertson's, Rodriguez’s and councilman Jim Avalos’ seats are up for election this time. All three intend to run to keep their seats and at least two Selma residents, Louis Franco and Jesse A. Crouch, have filed paperwork to run for the council.
Citizens who packed the council chambers on Aug. 1 spoke against Rodriguez' proposal and in support of the mayor.
“You are doing a fabulous job,” Yolanda Torrez said to Robertson. “You’re out in the community supporting the businesses, the people, the children, the schools [and] the [dog] shelter. We don’t see you, Rodriguez. We do see other council members, but we don’t see you out there. We don’t see what grounds you have to call this.”
Other community members questioned the move and the manner in which it was introduced. Sandi Niswander said she was “totally floored” when the topic was brought up at the last meeting.
“There was no explanation, no nothing," she said. "Nobody said they wanted to go a seniority-based mayor. Nothing was said about a change of the timetable. It sounded like they wanted this done immediately.”
Since the motion did not garner a second, the council moved on to discuss Councilwoman Yvette Montijo’s motion to have mayorship be based on seniority.
“This has nothing to do with the mayor or his performance,” she said.
Montijo had the deciding vote when it came to whether Robertson would be selected mayor or not during the 2014 vote. She said she doesn’t regret voting for him but thinks the process itself creates a sense of divisiveness.
“I feel with that one vote, I created allegiance and alliances that have perhaps hindered the progress of this council,” she said.
Montijo said she looked at other local town’s methods of deciding their mayors. While some vote in a similar way to Selma, others have members take turns.
“I’d much rather have a rotational form of mayor because everyone knows when their turn’s going to be,” she said.
Plus, since each member has only one vote on any particular matter before the council, Montijo argued that the mayor’s position is more ceremonial than anything else. She thinks the council could focus more on city issues if Selma selected its mayor this way instead.
“If we’re going to disagree, let’s have it be over what we charge for developer fees or something like that," she said. "Let's focus on city business rather than on personality. Let’s each take a turn.”
Rodriguez called this effort merely a “political move to save ego and to save face amongst you the people."
The council voted to table the issue until its Oct. 3 meeting.
Police station bond
In other matters, the council also unanimously approved putting a general obligation bond on the Nov. 8 ballot to raise $4 million to build a new police station. The city has also secured another $4 million from the state to build the structure.
Audience members continued to voice both support for and objections against the bond. Yolanda Torrez said she’s distrustful after seeing how previous bond monies intended to build a safety complex were spent in the past.
“I feel the Measure S [money] was used in ways we weren’t promised it would be used. We have a lot of mistrust when it comes to things like this,” she said.
Former Measure S chairman Dr. Stan Louie countered that those monies benefitted the city’s safety. He said he backs this current effort to fund a new police station.
“We’re going to give this to the citizens to look at," he said. "We may pay a little extra for the bond, but that’s OK with me. I’ll pay a little extra for more protection.”
If approved by voters, the bond will cost property owners $16 per $100,000 in assessed property value annually over a period of 30 years.