With the election of current city councilman Steve Ly as the new mayor, that will open up his current council seat in District 4. The Elk Grove City Council must decide on how to fill that seat. In 2012 the voters chose Gary Davis as Elk Grove’s first elected mayor. That forced the reorganization of the council districts and left Davis’ seat vacant. The city council was faced with two options. A special election that could cost anywhere from $350,000 to $750,000 or appoint someone to fill out the remaining two years. There are pros and cons to both. A special election is costly. An appointment is not. An appointment doesn’t give residents a chance to choose their representative. Anyone appointed would have an obvious edge in the next election. In 2012 the council chose to appoint someone. With only 4 votes, they couldn’t agree on a choice because there was some concern that the person chosen would have an easier time getting re-elected in 2014. They settled on a compromise candidate that said he would not run in 2014. They chose former EGUSD School Superintendent Robert Trigg.
In 2014 then City Councilman Jim Cooper ran for State Assembly and won. His term had two years remaining. Faced with the same decision as 2012, the city council again chose to pick a replacement instead of calling for a special election. The council chose Darren Suen. Suen was seen as a good selection. He was active in the community and very knowledgeable on the issues. Along with Pat Hume, he is seen as one of the two most knowledgeable council members. This past week Suen ran for election to the council seat he was appointed to and easily won with 72% of the vote.
After Ly is sworn in as mayor, the council will again be faced with the same decision. Special election or appointment. If the past is any indicator, they will cite the cost of the special election and choose to appoint someone. The question is, how will that process look? We have already heard two names mentioned as possible replacements. Current planning commissioner Amy Tang and Franklin Community Association member Sandra Aboufares. The path towards filling the vacancy has not yet been announced and names are already being mentioned. Are these deals being done behind the scenes?
The residents of Elk Grove should have a say in this matter. Even if the choice is an appointment, the process needs to be transparent. District 4 residents should be asked to submit their names and an application. Call a community a meeting in the affected district. Have interested persons attend and possibly take questions from the public or at least give a statement. They should be given time to speak before the council and be interviewed by the council in public so the citizens can see. There should be no back room deals or discussions prior to this. Consideration also needs to be given to the fact the any appointment gives that person a huge edge in the next election in 2018. They will not only gain name recognition but have access to campaign fundraising by using the position as a current city council member. Possibly request that anyone interested take a pledge not to run for election.
This has been discussed previously, but should maybe be looked at again and that is electing by the council district, not by the whole city. Only the those living within the council district would vote for someone to represent them. That would also make special elections much cheaper.
While a special election is more costly, could it be the best choice for the residents of Elk Grove and district 4. It would insure that the people choose who would be on the council, not 4 people making a deal. That’s not how our democracy should work. This is our third time down this road. It’s time to get it right this time. Over the years the city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on surveys and projects that ultimately got the residents of Elk Grove nothing. Spending $500,000 on an election will definitely get us something. A council member chosen BY the people.
Make your voice heard. Contact the city council. Send them an email with your opinion. Also vote in our poll.