This article was originally posted on July 17, 2022. The City Council, which will be composed of four members: Mayor Will Arnold, Vice Mayor Josh Chapman, and Councilmembers Gloria Partida and Bapu Vaitla, will decide this Tuesday (Jan 3) whether to go forward with an election or not. I stand by what I wrote below, calling for an election for District 3 with no interim appointment, and I urge Davisites to email members of the City Council before 3 PM on Tuesday at [email protected] to let them know your views. You can also call 530-757-5693 to leave a public comment between 12-4 PM the day of the meeting – this is item #5 on the agenda – or give public comment in person (the item is estimated to be heard at 7:20 PM).
By Roberta Millstein
This City Council does not have a good track record on democracy. It has the opportunity to do better this time. Will it?
Newly appointed Mayor Lucas Frerichs, having served on the Council since 2012, is anticipated to step down on January 2, 2023 to become Yolo County District 2 Supervisor. That will leave a vacancy on the Council in District 3 (note that county and city district numbering is different) until the November 2024 election. The Council has a choice of two ways of filling the vacancy: 1) call a special election to fill the vacancy (see staff report for possible dates) or 2) appoint someone to fill the vacancy.
The first way is the democratic way. It’s the way that allows the voters of District 3 to select a representative who they feel listens to them and understands their concerns about their district. It’s the way that allows new voices to put themselves forward for leadership of the city, fulfilling one of the promises that district elections were supposed to bring – i.e., more localized campaigns being easier and less expensive to run.
The second way is the power-abusing way. All the other districts will have elected their representatives, but District 3 would be appointed by councilmembers who are not even in their district. There is nothing about this process that would ensure that the appointed representative would know about and care about issues particular to District 3. What this process does allow for, however, is for councilmembers to appoint someone who sees things their way or who is part of the current power structure in Davis.
Note that the Council also has the option of calling for a special election (the second way), but then appointing someone to fill the vacancy until the election. I think this option is problematic too. The person appointed for the interim period before a special election would have the advantage of incumbency in that election. The council should refrain from any appointment at all and simply call an election to fill the seat.