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California Assembly bill 1795 is bad idea

Dan Chauvet: Assembly bill on vacancies bad idea

By Dan Chauvet

Special to the Sentinel

POSTED:   04/26/2014 01:29:30 PM PDT2 COMMENTS

On May 7 a hearing is scheduled by the state Assembly's Local Government Committee on AB1795. The bill states the following: "If the city council of a city that elects city council members by or from districts elects to fill a vacancy on the city council as a result of a city council member resigning from office by appointment, the resigning city council member may cast a vote on the appointment if the resignation will go into effect upon the appointment of a successor."

So what's wrong with this? A resignation occurs when a council member resigns. Until a council member actually resigns, there is no vacancy. It's obvious. Resigning creates the vacancy. AB1795 allows a council person who has resigned to vote on the appointment of his successor. That has proved to be problematic in Watsonville.

More than a few council people have filled vacancies by moving into a district just before a vacancy or election occurs. It's like musical houses and districts. A person moves in, a vacancy occurs, and the council selects the district's new arrival. Although it's technically legal, it smells rotten. Watsonville's new political group, Let the People Vote, says it promotes cliques, cronyism and specialized agendas. The key question is: Whom does the appointee represent, the appointing council member's agenda,or the voters and taxpayers of the district?

This goes back to AB195's sponsor, Luis Alejo. He voted for political ally Oscar Rios to fill his council position following his 2010 election to the Assembly. That provoked a city initiative (Measure H) on this year's June ballot requiring all such vacancies go to a vote of the people. And it caused a lawsuit against the city now pending in the appellate court.

The Let the People Vote group got over 4,000 signatures to get three ballot measures validated (H, I, and J) to improve Watsonville government. Measure H provided for filling a council seat vacancy by a district vote. It reverses the current method of the council selecting and appointing a crony. It also defines a vacancy and prevents a council member who has resigned from voting for his/her replacement.

AB1795 would extend statewide the right to allow outgoing city council members to vote for replacements to their vacated positions. Not all proposed legislation is good. AB1795 promotes cronyism.

Dan Chauvet lives in Watsonville.

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