The Reluctant Politician - Democracy as Casualty

By Michael Monasky |  February 25, 2014 "Michael!" I thought I heard my name shouted out last Saturday morning. Looki...

By Michael Monasky |  February 25, 2014


I thought I heard my name shouted out last Saturday morning. Looking up and spinning around, I spied a tall figure in a crowd about 50 yards away, across a parking lot.

"Michael Monasky!"

I stowed the coffee cup and my copy of Until the Rulers Obey in my dilapidated pickup and cursed being recognized. I figured it was a cop.

It was. Sacramento Sheriff Jim Cooper, also known as the only remaining member of the Elk Grove City Council since the city's inception 14 years ago, was standing outside his rented Cooper for State Assembly campaign headquarters, calling my name, asking me to come by and talk. I obliged, reluctantly.

My first question to him was whether he would vacate his position on the city council while running for the state legislature. He said, no, he planned to stay in office until after the November 2014 election cycle, and that someone would have to be appointed to his vacant position at city hall. When I explained that I thought this was not the most democratic way to behave, and that the people should be allowed to decide who represents them at city hall, he agreed. I asked Mr. Cooper again whether he would vacate his position so that someone else could run for his potentially vacant office. Again, he refused.

Mr. Cooper's equivocation on democratic elections appears to be de rigueur in Elk Grove city politics. Gary Davis held a council spot while running for mayor in 2012; when he won, he refused to hold an election to fill his district's vacancy. Now Cooper is doing exactly the same thing: running for office while holding another.

Somehow, this should be an ethical error, but it's beyond the comprehension of these local politicos. Instead, they shout commands at constituents and afterward wonder why there is no interest in their activities. I think neither Cooper nor Davis have any grasp on the concept of public service. Sure, Cooper's a cop, and the mayor used to work at Sacramento State, but their roles in those public entities are and were bureaucratic, far removed from what a cop on the beat or a teacher in a classroom might experience.

Council member Cooper evaded my question, answering that the people should get to elect their representative, except when he wants to keep his old political position should he lose in the race for a new seat in the state legislature. It's a shame we have representatives who hold our judgment and our right to exercise it in such low esteem.

As a footnote, I asked the California State Fair Political Practices Commission whether these campaign fund-raising politicians, who raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, could legally spend such monies to pay for a public election. The FPPC said that campaign funds could be legally used for a government purpose and function, such as a public election to replace them in case of a vacated office. 

Perhaps it's about time city council members used campaign funds for a public purpose. And, by the way, when I asked Cooper whether he would use his campaign moneys to pay for a special election, he said that the rest of the council would have to volunteer to do so as well. Fat chance of that happening. When they use such rhetoric, our city council members aren't acting so much like leaders as opportunists.

I turned down Cooper's offer to have a coffee; I'd already had enough earlier, and didn't see the need to have more coffee from yet another place. If only I could break him of that habit in holding office...

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Anonymous said...

I have an easy answer for this little problem should we be placed in the same position as last year and it's much like we have witnessed recently....our staff guiding them thru the process or one of our council telling them how to vote.

We ask for 24 citizen volunteers to serve at each council meeting and pay them based on councils present pay schedule. This would also make attending council meetings more enjoyable, not knowing what hoopla we could witness twice a month. It wouldn't make much difference on how our monies are spent...pretty much the same game plan as now, just more fun!

Anonymous said...

That attitude makes my choice for assemblyman a snap - ANYONE but Cooper. It was wrong to appoint Trigg and it would be wrong to put the city in that same position again. Not to resign is cowardly. It was cowardly by Davis, and it is cowardly by Cooper. If Cooper loses and finishes his council term, vote him out on principle.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious Cooper is all about Cooper . The most important thing to him is to get elected or re-elected. A perfect example of political greed.

Anonymous said...

No worries there as Fong is going to move on and because there are 2-4 Democratic candidates it almost guarentees that one Republican moves forward. Even with three Republicans running in 2012 one still moved through to the November election. If Cooper does move through vs a Republican he should resing as he is guarenteed to win in November.

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