San Marcos has an open city council seat. However, leaders won’t schedule an election. Instead, council members want to fill the seat themselves and appoint the new council member.
On Tuesday, Dec. 11, council members voted unanimously to fill the seat left open by Rebecca Jones when she was elected mayor last month, by voting among themselves for a new member.
Does that sound like democracy in action to you?
“Time constraints, cost and process are important with either option,” said Jones on the official San Marcos news site. “Knowing it would cost our taxpayers more than $600,000 to hold a special election while also extending the time frame for filling the vacancy, I think Council can come to a consensus on an appointment.”
Council members Sharon Jenkins, Maria Nunez and Randy Walton supported the move to ditch an election for Jones’ at-large seat and themselves choose their new colleague who would hold the seat through 2020.
Nice work if you can get it.
The obvious question is why should council members circumvent city voters and do the dirty deed all on their lonesome.
So what if the election costs $600,000, if that indeed is the bill. Small price to pay for representative government. Not to mention, this council member who was not elected merely one month ago will serve a full four-year term.
If Jones were so upset by the cost, why didn’t she resign her council seat when she decided to run for mayor? That way, the at-large council member could have been elected along with others last month.
The city of San Marcos long has been plagued by significant transparency issues. For example, residents can’t even freely walk into city offices. Those offices have been locked for decades, and the only way to enter is through permission from unelected personnel sitting at a desk in front of the locked fortress of city solitude.
The excuse given for that closed door policy was city leaders were concerned that violence or untoward acts might occur without such front desk screening. What is this, Kabul, Afghanistan? Sorry, folks, that’s lame and, frankly, insulting. Residents should be able to access their government offices in an open, transparent fashion.
This type of secrecy has been a city hallmark ever since its inception in January 1963, after a handful of business leaders got together behind closed doors at a local market to hash out incorporation details.
City officials traditionally have been difficult to access. That tradition continues unabated, especially since nobody truly covers the city anymore. That’s including the San Diego Union Tribune, which even has a regional office at a San Marcos industrial area. Or maybe, in the case of the newspaper, because it does.
This matter of having council members determine who joins their little club is a dog and pony show, completely at odds with democratic values and fraught with the possibility for abuse.
Walton won the District 2 seat with 51.85 percent of the vote last month. Nunez didn’t even get a majority, winning with 49.8 percent of the vote. Jones was elected mayor with 51.21 percent of the vote. Each contest featured three candidates.
Each of those elections was hardly a slam-dunk blowout or massive endorsement of the winning candidate. Why should these officeholders be allowed to pick the next council member, then; especially for the two years remaining on a four-year seat left open just one month after the regular election?
Letting existing council members choose a new council member without public input reeks of dirty tricks and the possibility of collusion. Even if the process proceeds in an honorable fashion, it presents the appearance of impropriety.
Letting four people decide they should choose a council member instead of the 25,000 to 30,000 voters who chose Jones as mayor by a slim majority is simply disgraceful.
It costs $600,000? Big deal. Democracy is worth $600,000, if we take Jones at her word about the cost. By comparison, the city of San Marcos proposed FY 2018-2019 Budget provides over $36 million for personnel expenses alone.
For the record, and unless the good citizens of San Marcos do something to stop the process and return the seat to the voters, applicants must be 18 years old and San Marcos registered voters.
Applications must be submitted by 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10 to the city clerk’s office — that is, if you can get access to it. Applicants are scheduled to be interviewed at an open council session — as required by law — starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15.
According to the San Marcos oficial website: “The City Council may make a decision at the special council meeting or may direct staff to place the matter on a future agenda for action. City Council has 60 days from the time the seat was vacated to make its decision. For more information or appointment application materials, visit www.san-marcos.net/councilappointment or contact the San Marcos City Clerk’s Office at (760) 744-1050, ext. 3105.”
Yeah, well, cough, cough. It would behoove San Marcos voters, in our humble opinion, to take matters into their own hands for the sake of democracy and transparency. If you care who represents you, tell the council members and new mayor to do the right thing and let the people decide who represents them rather than the politicians. Barring that, show up on Jan. 15 and let them know in person what you think of their theft of democracy from San Marcos voters.