Deadlock Broken: Oxnard Opts to Go To Temp. Appointment of District 2 Council, Followed by November Special Election

By George Miller

In a long, but civil debate, public speakers first presented dueling views, then the Oxnard Council debated how to fill the District 2 Council slot left vacant today. Incumbent Carmen Ramirez resigned and was sworn in as District 5 Ventura County Supervisor. 

The Council was definitely not of one mind. Some were even individually indecisive, trying to balance democratic traditions with administrative efficiency. City Manager Alex Nguyen attempted to intervene to push an appointment for the duration of the term. But, it was evident that a very strong democratic mindset has been imprinted in the minds of a lot of Council Members and public speakers, which ultimately prevailed, but only barely.

Votes on competing motions were taken in this order:

Option 1: appoint a council Member for the duration of the term- deadlocked 3-3

Option 3: appoint a Council Member, but have a November special election- failed- deadlocked 3-3

Option 2: Special election in November- failed-  2-4

After much further discussion and trying to see what latitude the rules provided, Option 3 was reconsidered, Councilman Bryan indicated his willingness to switch his position in the interest of resolving the matter and moving on and it then passed 5-1, with only Lopez (correction) dissenting.

 

Significantly, this was the first meeting that really tested Oxnard’s new requirement to use Roberts Rules of Order for meeting management, a requirement of Aaron’s Starr’s successfully passed Measure M. Officials were a little uncertain on how to proceed. Professional Registered Parliamentarian Alicia Percell told us that multiple procedural errors were made, which she will address in an article and a few words at the close of this article. Percell is the partner of Starr.

Here’s a nearly blow by blow account taken from my meeting notes, below. If you want more detail, watch the meeting video- agenda item L-5 ….

L-5- Options to Fill Council Vacancy 

This is to fill the vacancy of mayor ProTem/District 2 Council Member Carmen Ramirez.

Where is district 2?….

Above: Council district map. Online version HERE

City Atty Stephen Fischer said the vacancy arose today and there are two default options- special election or appointment and adopt an ordinance to enact this. An appointee would only hold the office until a special election, which can’t occur before 144 days. He says election can only be done in March or November, but didn’t say why. Therefore it would have to be in November, he reasoned.

He said the county told him that a special election would cost $93,000 plus legal publication costs. He estimated that victory couldn’t be declared until December 2022. Surely he meant 2021?

He added that there is no set procedure for making an appointment. He says some other cities call for candidate applications. He suggests leaving applications open until January 20, 2021.

A third option could use the proposed ordinance to appoint an acting Council Member to serve until a special election could be held in November.

Councilman Perello asked – how many people are in a district? Fischer- will be updated with census numbers. District 2 population now estimated at 39,000, the largest district, due to Riverpark development.

Public Speakers (A Zoom queue is now used and not everyone was in synch with this approach).

Gabriel Teran- Chair for Fremont South and District 2. Sent letter to council today. I support an appointment. Elections code won’t allow election until November. Says too expensive. Says they can’t go without representation that long. Only a one year term.

Lucy Cartegena- no show

Daniel Chavez- Agrees with Teran. About 14-16,000 residents/district. Would be without a representative nearly a year. Wants option 1 appointment. Gov Newsom appointed replacements for Secretary of State.

Lauraine Effress- Agrees with Chavez and Teran. Wants Option 1 appointment.  Need district reapportionment.

Sophia Vega- no show

Manuel Herrera-Want Option 1 appointment. Lives in District 2. Same arguments as Chavez. Democracy says should be an election but sometimes there needs to be an exception. Special elections lead to low voter turnout (appointments are zero).

Pat Brown- Agrees with previous speakers.

Doug Partello- Wants option 3 appointment followed by special election. Fiscal responsibility is important, but voting is part of our democracy. Bert Perello special election  is a precedent. No complaints then. Must be decided by the voters. Cost and time are less important than  this.

Ricardo Torres- Orchard Park District 2 resident. Want option 2- special election to democratically elect a representative.

Andriana Robles- Employee of CSUCI. Live in Orchard Park. Wants a special election. It is our right to elect our representative. I was taught that our vote is our voice.

Ramon Mendoza- no show

Rono Arraho- Want option 3- appointment and special election. Fill seat soon and also allow voters to choose a rep sooner.

Alicia Percell- Lots of talk about districts having reps of their own choosing, so why not now? Whomever you appoint would have an incumbency advantage. People think that Gabe Teran is being “positioned” for appointment. He is just another rubber stamp who represents you rather than the residents. If the idea is to appoint one of your friends who thinks like you, this is the way. 94% of council votes are now unanimous.

Elder Espinoso- no show

Armando Delgado- He said appointment doesn’t take away voting rights. Most incumbents are re-elected. Have confidence in elected representatives to decide. Local races are low information races. Election too expensive.

Francisco Dominguez- People need to be represented. He is a resident of District 2. Option 3 – appointment followed by election, is best option. Democracy. Can’t put a price on it.

Council Comments

Perello- Won in a special March election. Someone should resign their position if running for another one (was he referring to Ramirez?). He said his own situation was “unique.” He said we have 5 districts and one Mayor (last we heard there were 6). Three neighborhoods were severed by new districts. 39,000 people in district- larger than most VC areas. He came up with a homey pizza slice analogy to attempt to explain representation. Needs to be a rep for this district. Much blood was shed for votes and freedom. Should be a short term appointment and Nov. special election (option 3) Vote is the most precious thing you have. Wants to make a motion.

MacDonald- District 2 needs to have a voice. Whether is by appointment or election, they will get it, he claimed. It would be done in open session. Politicians act differently in campaign mode. He was implying that they won’t do as good a job thusly. Says that 15-20 incumbents ran countywide and 7 lost. (all won in Oxnard). Wants option 1 appointment.

Lopez- We don’t only represent our districts. Wants Option 1 appointment. Claims an open process. Another election is too much of a distraction. You can campaign for an appointment.

Basua- Glad we went to districts, but we vote for what is best for Oxnard. I believe your vote is your voice. Don’t want to take that away from District 2. Go with special election regardless of the cost. Wants Option 2 special election.

Madrigal- Perello said incumbents voted out in 2012- but it was 2010. District 2 is the largest district, because Riverpark developed after the census. Wants Option 3 appointment followed by special election. Perello and I would not have been appointed by the council. People voted us in. Lopez elected to a position in June and ran again in November.We were all taught in elementary school to vote.

Zaragoza- Wants option 1. Says we represent entire city. Claims priorities make this necessary but couldn’t explain why it would be better than Option 3. Claims he had numerous calls (90%) for Option 1. He claims that in another neighborhood, no one wanted  a special election. He says it’s almost like an election. Residents can apply for the job.

Perello- moved for Option 3, seconded by Madrigal

Vote Option 3:  3-3 tie with Zaragoza, MacDonald, Lopez, dissenting.  Motion failed

Votre Option 1:  3-3 tie with Perello, Madrigal, Basua dissenting. Motion failed

Perello: Option 3 is a reasonable compromise. It offers an appointment and a special election.

Atty Fischer says it can’t be reconsidered unless the prevailing side suggests it. There was no prevailing side on the first two.

Basua moved Option 2

Vote Option 2:  2-4 no, with only Madrigal and Basua supporting it. Failed.

All three options failed. Deadlocked.

They had no idea how to proceed. Fischer says may have to move on and come back with another option at a future meeting. He added that anyone who voted no on options which lost could suggest a reconsideration.  He said they could not bring it back at a future meeting. But no one wanted to reconsider.

Nguyen said election code says they MUST pick one of these options.  Fischer said you could propose an ordinance, including what was proposed or make it a policy that a special election must be called, or that petitions must be filed.

MacDonald- Not a fan of #3, but we are at loggerheads. Willing to compromise on it.

Voted again on reconsidered Option 3-  Approved 5-1 with only Lopez dissenting.

So Oxnard will appoint a Council Member within 60 days and hold a special election for the position in November. There is not yet a set procedure for this, so the City Clerk and City Attorney will be busy.

 

Comment from Alicia Percell, Professional Registered Parliamentarian:
At the point in item L.5 when none of the available options had won a majority vote, there was confusion about what the options were.  The city attorney advised that someone could make a motion to “reconsider” one of the options to be able to vote on it again.  He correctly deduced who was eligible to make such a motion.  Mr. Fischer seemed to be under the impression that because a motion to reconsider has strict time limits on it and could not be made at the next meeting, the council was stuck with having to make a decision that night or never.  The council actually had more flexibility than that, however.  It’s true a motion to reconsider could not be made at the next meeting, but that’s because it just wouldn’t be necessary.  Once the council starts a new future agenda, it is in order to “renew” the motion, which is to just make the same motion again as if it were new, even if it had failed when it came up on the previous agenda.  The council did have the option of placing it on a future agenda and starting over from scratch again.  (See Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 12th ed., 10:26(3))
When Mr. MacDonald indicated a desire to reconsider one of the motions, there should have been one more step.  It is a motion to reconsider, and they should have first taken a vote on his motion to reconsider, since it requires a majority agreement to revisit the prior vote.  One council member on his own can’t force a revote.  I don’t recall the council having taken that extra step, though it seems likely the majority would have agreed to reconsider had they done so.

 


George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.

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Douglas D Partello
Douglas D Partello
5 months ago

Note to Editor: Lopez, not Basua was the dissenting vote, on the reconsidered option vote.
MacDonald showed who was the adult in the room by compromising to move the process forward. Whomever gets the temporary appointment does hold an incumbent advantage in Nov. This person is likely to enjoy wide support in that election from the Council.
Robert’s Rules of Order is still on training wheels for the Council. It was enjoyable to see council members willing to take a stand for what they believe, and not be in lock step. Messy, but that is how democracy is supposed to work, act on values and belief in what is best for the community.
Gabe Tehran and Manuel Herrera seemed like they were auditioning for the job. No matter what important issues are in the six month agenda, or how much an election costs, the right of voters to elect their representatives should always trump. As Bert pointed out, “Blood has been spilled for that right”.