Along with term limits, Elk Grove City Council to consider elimination of directly elected mayor

Although there was no action taken during Wednesday night's Elk Grove City Council on the agenda item for city councilmembers and mayoral term limits, the city council said they would like to examine a more comprehensive set of electoral changes that would include the elimination of the directly elected mayor's position.

The discussion, which was on the agenda at the request of outgoing three-term District 3 Councilmember and current Vice Mayor Steve Detrick, was initially focused on limiting the number of terms a councilmember and the mayor can serve. After public comments, the council deliberation evolved into a broader discussion that included eliminating the directly elected mayor position.

Among those making telephone remarks during public comment via telephone call-in was Elk Grove resident and activist Amar Shergill. In his remarks, Shergill, a District 1 resident, said he opposed term limits, and they are not the answer to election reforms needed in Elk Grove's governance.

"We have a money problem, not a term limit problem," Shergill said. "Councilmembers take hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations outside of our city and use that money to suppress opposition."

Shergill added, "Councilmember [Darren] Suen is an example of this, he took over $200,000 in recent elections just from the developers and real estate industry alone, and other councilmembers have done the same." 

During their deliberations, the council peppered city attorney Jonathan Hobbs and city clerk Jason Lindgren with numerous questions regarding term limits as it relates to the mayor and city council positions. The mayor is elected to a two-year term and the four councilmembers to four-year terms.

After a lengthy discussion, Hobbs, and Lindgren advised the mayor and councilmembers if a measure was placed on a ballot, it could be worded to make the limits based on years. For example, the ballot could be phrased to say the mayor would be limited to four two-year terms and councilmembers and to two four-year terms.  

That prompted a question by Mayor Steve Ly, who asked if that same measure could lengthen the mayor's term be to four years. Hobbs replied that he thought it would have to be a separate measure.

"I am not comfortable that you can embed into that question the additional question of the term of mayor from two to four years because that's a different part of the government code that specifically calls out how that question gets asked," Hobbs said.

Although Detrick said he favored term limits, his political ally on the city council Pat Hume said he opposed them. City Councilmember Stephanie Nguyen joined Detrick in support while Suen expressed ambivalence but said he would be willing to explore options.

Detrick also started a discussion on changing the mayor from a directly elected mayor to a rotating position among councilmembers. From the time of Elk Grove's incorporation until 2012, the mayor was selected on an annual basis from the five councilmembers.

In 2010 voters approved a measure that changed the mayor to a direct election position starting in 2012. On a separate measure, the voters said the term should be two years opposed to four.

The council took no action on the item but asked city staff to prepare what they called a more comprehensive report to include changing the mayor from directly elected to the previous rotating basis. If voters approve term limits, they would not be retroactive for incumbents. 

Although the hearing date was not formally scheduled, Lindgren advised the council during his presentation that ballot language needs approval by May 27. With that deadline, the report will likely be presented during the next city council meeting on May 13. 

Should the city council place a measure to the November 2020 ballot to eliminate the directly elected mayor's and should it be approved, it would represent a significant change. Along with mandatory redistricting from the 2020 census, there would be and expansion to five districts.

If Ly wins another two-year term during November elections, it would be his last as mayor, and should he seek election to the city council, it would be as the representative for District 4 where he currently resides. 

That scenario could set-up a showdown between Ly, and should she decide to seek another term, Nguyen for the seat. Although district lines will be redrawn for the 2022 elections, Ly and Nguyen currently reside near each other, so unless there is extraordinary Gerrymander, the two incumbents, as well as other candidates, could vie in what would surely be a heated contest.  

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2020. All right reserved.


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Eye on Elk Grove said...

So, Steve "The Mentor" Detrick has worn out his welcome and is finally leaving office. But before he does, Detrick wants to undo the will of the people and get rid of the city of Elk Grove's duly elected mayor come 2022.

Is this sour grapes from the time Detrick nominated himself for mayor for a second time, prefacing his reasoning that he was best mayor to date, but was greeted with dead silence on the dais.

However, not from from the audience. . .we can still hear everyone laughing!


Steve L said...

the title of mayor in EG is largely ceremonial in nature. It has a few perks and privileges but doesn't carry the power of a full-time mayor. From what I've seen of our first two duly elected mayors, Davis and Ly, we should all be grateful that we have a chance to go back to the revolving mayor procedure.

Direct election has been a total fiasco every time since its creation.

Spoons and Forks said...

I agree with Steve L that neither of our directly elected mayors' have risen up to be notable leaders.

There is an important point to remember though. Starting this year we have by-district elections and representation. If we go back to five council members there will be no one person elected citywide. Even though Ly and Davis have stunk, we need to have one representative where the buck will stop for the entire city.

A ceremonial position yes, but if they want the pomp & ceremony, they'll need to be held to account. For me, that accountability alone is reason to keep the position.

Atticus Finch said...

To be mayor or city council member in Elk Grove, and perhaps elsewhere, one isn't required to have strong leadership, a vision, consensus building skills or even public speaking talent. Nope, all that is required is, you guessed it, MONEY. Large donors (developers and business interests) and small donors, doesn't matter, as long as its green. The exception being, let's not forget, that if Suen and Nguyen were never APPOINTED to the council, no one would even know who they were. Sad but true.

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