I watched the Council reorganization four years ago and was appalled, the tripartite voting block came out of the shadows and arrogantly installed itself in the light of day. Personal agendas and embellishment of political legacies overshadowed the best interests and opinions of the people Council was elected to serve.
I watched the reorganization two years ago and was deeply disappointed that a small narrow-minded clique of wannabe kingmakers could boldly dismiss longstanding traditions, could treat their constituents with total disrespect and disregard. Meaningful public engagement and transparency were sacrificed on the alter of voting alliances and lengthy consent calendars designed to slip items under public view.
Last year, this mutant form of municipal governance was finally challenged. Labeling it as dysfunctional, Roy Moore sparked a grass roots campaign, Operation Clean Sweep, that called for the rejection of all incumbents. Roy, who served this community well for sixteen years, announced his retirement. Ron Garcia dodged the question right up to the final day then opted not to run for reelection – you can decide for yourself why.
Having prematurely gone all in on political aspirations well beyond his capabilities, fueled by delusions of grandeur and clinging to the misconception that he had won the hearts and minds of his constituents, the only running incumbent lost in dramatic fashion.
He received only 168 votes more than a relative unknown and was so far out of the running that his thrashing was abundantly clear by the first release of results… well before the champagne was chilled at the winners’ campaign celebration parties.
Last Tuesday, following a touching and triumphant exit by Roy Moore and the faltering incomprehensible attempts to lend an air of credibility to the brief and uneventful careers of Garcia and Murdock, our new Council members were sworn in.
For the first time in many years there was a renewed significance of the oath of office and I felt that Vargas, Hupp and Parker believed in and meant every word they repeated.
Following brief introductory comments from the new members, MPT Marick opened Council’s annual reorganization by inviting a motion to nominate a new Mayor.
Let me hit the ‘Pause’ button for a moment.
For almost forever, reorganization was accomplished by a nominating process requiring no second. It was simple and effective. When Schweitzer was swept into office the process somehow shifted to one requiring formal motions and seconds. It was unnecessarily complicated and opened the door to dismissing alternative nominations.
In it’s final meeting prior to reorganization, a more than lame duck Council with two members absent and two out of three in attendance on the cusp of leaving office, passed without public comment a revision to the Council Code of Conduct – removing Robert’s Rules of Order as the benchmark for conducting their meetings and reinforcing the extreme limitation on who may place items on the agenda.
Four out of five Council members who would have to live by the modified code had zero opportunity to review, discuss, amend or approve the guidelines. This, along with the boondoggle drought garden and the complete disregard shown residents concerned about the possible effects of fracking, better show up on the agenda in January and this time the people better be allowed to wade in.
The Code better receive a serious revamping, the garden dismissed entirely and the concerned citizen’s group given equal time to share their concerns and present their case for a temporary moratorium on fracking.
Now, back to the reorganization.
Citing MPT Marick’s use of a ‘slate’ nomination last year, Glenn Parker made a motion naming Marick to be Mayor and Simonoff to be Mayor Pro Tem. Steve Vargas immediately offered a substitute motion (approved by stand-in City Attorney Fox) nominating Simonoff for Mayor and Marick for a repeat term as Mayor Pro Tem ala Murdock.
When pressed for a comment, Simonoff indicated that his only concern was to see a 5:0 vote — signaling a shift in voting practice that rejected Council’s recent history of angry split votes.
I won’t attempt to chronicle the debate that followed (you can watch it on the city’s website or replays on TWC channel 3 if you missed it live) save to say it was refreshingly civil, thoughtful, respectful and ultimately productive. The Vargas motion emerged as the favored choice by a 5:0 roll call vote.
The dust has settled.
Fallout after the meeting is quite varied. Some find it hard to say anything nice, others are adamant they see a ray of hope. Contrary to my semi-usual cynical view, I must say I am aligned with the optimists.
If this election did one thing it sent a clear message to our elected officials that we’re unwilling to sit by passively accepting the status quo. They may no longer “disappoint us in increments we’ll absorb” or turn a deaf ear to our opinions, concerns and suggestions.
I fully expect this Council will rise to the occasion and, in the full light of public scrutiny, will conduct the city’s business openly, without bias or personal agenda. After all, their political future depends upon it.