Pacific Grove is expected to pick an acting mayor tonight.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tonight, Pacific Grove City Council is expected to select one of its own as acting mayor until the November 2010 election.
The long-term councilmembers—Vicki Stilwell, Lisa Bennett and Alan Cohen—aren’t interested in the job. Instead, first-termers Carmelita Garcia and Bill Kampe are vying for the four votes needed to win the appointment.
In Kampe versus Garcia, the council is essentially picking sides between the supporters of former mayor Dan Cort, who resigned Aug. 31, and his critics, whose incessant heckling prompted him to step down.
Kampe dismisses the cadre that backed Cort’s recall, while Garcia says she “wouldn’t be influenced in either direction.” But their voting records indicate their opposing stances. Kampe has generally voted along with the Cort majority, while Garcia has often dissented, sometimes along with Bennett.
Garcia cast minority votes against the museum partnership, an inter-agency loan and funding a reservoir engineering study; and in favor of exploring municipal bankruptcy and reviewing the legality of a 2002 council decision to approve retirement benefits for public safety employees. Kampe voted with the majority on the same issues.
Mayor Pro Tempore Stilwell names Kampe as her preferred candidate, citing his financial expertise, community service, environmental savvy and business background. Garcia’s bid was announced in a Sept. 8 press release by P.G. sisters Sally and Pat Herrgott, who praise her long history of service on public boards and commissions, including the Americans with Disabilities Act Committee.
Both Kampe and Garcia say that as mayor, they’d work to make council meetings more efficient and focused on priority issues such as the budget. The city is facing a projected $2 million deficit over the next two years, and the council has wrestled with the question of how to shed its obligations under the state’s public employee retirement system.
Kampe plays up his relative newness to the city, casting himself as unburdened by the old riffs that have divided residents for decades. “Very simply, these are very difficult times for Pacific Grove. I think we need some fresh outlook to deal with them,” he says. “This is not about the past. This is about the future.”
Garcia, on the other hand, touts her history of public service. “The fact that I’ve been here for so long and I’ve been so involved with the town, it would be a good match,” she says. “I’ve been told that I am the people’s councilmember. I listen to all sides.”
Councilmembers Bennett and Cohen declined to name a choice, saying they’re keeping an open mind for the meeting. Councilwoman Deborah Lindsay did not return calls.
“Frankly any one of us could do it,” Bennett says. “The sooner we can get [the mayor’s appointment] wrapped up, the sooner we can focus on other important things.”
City policy states that if the council doesn’t select a member as acting mayor by Sept. 30, Pro Tem Stilwell assumes the post. The council has 30 days from the mayor’s appointment to select a P.G. resident as councilmember.
“It all has to happen in open session,” Acting Deputy City Manager Jim Becklenberg says.
The new mayor will be seated just in time to welcome P.G.’s new city manager, Thomas Frutchey, who begins work Oct. 5. The Oxnard City Council fired Frutchey in 1997 after spearheading a reorganization that trimmed expenses by laying off employees, among other measures. P.G. experienced similar upheaval under former city manager Jim Colangelo’s reorg, which began in early 2007.
Both Kampe and Garcia say the mayor should work closely with Frutchey as he recommends additional cuts to city spending. “He’s had the courage to do it, even in unpopular times,” Kampe says, “very similar to the challenge he’ll face in P.G."
The P.G. City Council meets tonight at 6pm, Council Chambers, City Hall, 300 Forest Ave., P.G. 648-3172.