The Mayor Pro Tem selection saga continues into the New Year.
Mayor Tom Tait had expressed his desire to appoint left-wing District 3 Councilman Jose F. Moreno at the December 5 meeting. Moreno drew the figurative short-straw after being sworn in as a councilmember in December 2016, and must run for re-election in November 2018.
While the Mayor Pro Tem is a largely ceremonial position, councilmembers seeking re-election covet it as a ballot title.
Tait argued for rotation of the position to allow every councilmember the opportunity to serve in the post. He pointed out that three councilmembers – Moreno, Denise Barnes and Steve Faessel – have not taken a turn in the position, and noted this may be Moreno’s only chance since there’s no guarantee District 3 voters will give him another term. Faessel and Barnes are not on the ballot in 2018.
Councilwoman Kris Murray voiced her objection to the nomination, characterizing Moreno as divisive and saying she’s “feels slighted by [Moreno] at almost every meeting” and “literally attacked.” She said the Mayor Pro Tem has to represent all residents and a more unifying, judicious and respectful person should be appointed, not someone who engders “acrimony.” Murray, who is serving her final year on the council, expressed her support for giving Vanderbilt – who is running for re-election in District 2 – another turn in the post.
Vanderbilt interceded by asking for a continuance to the December 19 council meeting, citing ongoing work on amending the council handbook regarding Mayor Pro Tem rotation and use of the title for political purposes. Tait agreed without any objection from the council.
When the item was taken up on December 19, Mayor Tait nominated Moreno, who is up for re-election this year. District 1 Councilwoman Denise Barnes seconded the nomination.
Councilwoman Lucille Kring nominated current Mayor Pro Tem James Vanderbilt, also a Tait ally, for another term in the ceremonial position. Her motion was seconded by Councilmembers Kris Murray and Steve Faessel.
Moreno’s nomination failed on a 3-0-4 vote, with Tait, Barnes and Moreno in support and Kring, Murray, Faessel and Vanderbilt abstaining.
Prior to the vote on the motion to re-appoint him, Vanderbilt asked to have the item continued pending codifying rules regarding the Mayor Pro Tem position, such as avoiding back-to-back appointments by formalizing rotation and prohibiting the use of the Mayor Pro Tem title for political purposes.
No one seemed to have an appetite for a dais battle prior to meeting Vanderbilt’s concerns about the “politicization” of the position, and the motion to continue was supported every councilmember except Moreno, who abstained.
The matter will presumably be on the council agenda for the third time on January 9. Councilman Vanderbilt has emerged in recent months as the council’s swing vote, and that promises to be the case here as well given his concern about the politicization of the title.