ENCINITAS — The City Council agreed to put a decision on hold that would have changed the way a mayor is selected during a regular meeting March 28.The council voted 3-2 on Feb. 15 to direct the city manager to craft language for an ordinance that would have put the councilperson with the highest number of votes in the preceding election in the mayor’s post for two years.
The majority of the council, with the exception of Mayor Jerome Stocks, joined a chorus of residents who didn’t support the proposed language of the ordinance.
In particular, the ordinance would retroactively take the results from the 2010 election. Current Deputy Mayor Kristin Gaspar would then be mayor and Councilwoman Teresa Barth would effectively be shut out until 2016, provided she was the highest vote getter in 2014.
Sanford Shapiro, a resident, was incredulous. As he addressed the council, “This is like an Alice in Wonderland scenario,” he said. “You all up there are at the Mad Hatter’s tea party,” he said as he gestured toward the dais. “It just makes no logical sense, unless of course you’re trying to keep Ms. Barth out.”
“I’d like to ask all Encinitans if they believe this same proposal would have been put forward if Teresa Barth had received the most votes in 2010,” said Cyrus Kamada, a local resident.
Councilman Mark Muir, who initially motioned for the rotational process to be changed back in February, tried to propose that Councilman James Bond and Barth be appointed to a subcommittee to craft ballot language that would allow the voters to directly select the mayor. But Stocks said the current agenda item did not allow for modifications.
Muir said he would not support the current motion unless another option was available.
Bond concurred. “I just want to get an elected mayor for the city,” he said.
Stocks said he supported the motion as written and told Bond he viewed it as an “interim step in getting to a directly elected mayor.” As some in the audience began to boo in response to his comment he then threatened to “clear the room.” He called five minute recess unexpectedly.
After the meeting reconvened, Stocks made his case for the proposed ordinance. “It gets the City Council used to the fact that there isn’t an annual selection,” Stocks said. He indicated it would take effect immediately. “It never has been a rotation, it has never been fair,” he said.
“I think it merits additional conversation,” Muir said.
Barth thanked those in the public who spoke on her behalf before council discussion began. “This isn’t about me,” she said. “This proposal was Orwellian; I’m glad you all saw through that.” Barth also called the process “undemocratic.”
Gaspar took issue with the personal politics. She said the criticism of her as it related to Barth was “unfair.” She told Barth she was offended by a placard that Barth displayed and her failure to take leadership on items she suggested to be placed on the agenda.
“You keep going out in the media and blasting me,” Gaspar complained as many of the remaining audience members stood and turned their backs towards the dais.
The item was tabled for a later agenda as it became clear that it did not have enough support.