“Sierra Madre City Council Divided” for Beacon Media Newspapers

April 2008

After numerous plaques and certificates were awarded to former Mayor Enid Joffe for her four years of service to Sierra Madre, the tone changed once council members John Buchanan and MaryAnn MacGillivray were sworn in and the council decided on a new mayor and mayor pro-tem.

Joe Mosca served as mayor pro-tem for the past year and usually the mayor pro-tem assumes the position of mayor and the title rotates throughout the council, but the new council had varying opinions on who should serve this term.

Don Watts nominated Kurt Zimmerman for mayor and Zimmerman and MacGillivray agreed, while Buchanan and Mosca dissented. Watts and Zimmerman used an example of a councilperson in the past that was in line to become mayor pro-tem and the council voted against it.

“Councilman Mosca is more familiar with issues we face than anyone else,” said Buchanan, who was interrupted a few times by Watts’ opinion on various comments. “It is unnecessarily divisive and unfortunate that we would skip that tradition.”

Mosca intervened a few times to tell Watts to allow Buchanan to finish speaking, even using a gavel at one point.

“I’ve sat here quietly and asked to put things on the agenda and they were not put on the agenda,” said Watts.

“Everyone has a right to put something on the agenda,” responded Buchanan.

After Zimmerman was voted the new mayor by the council, about half a dozen citizens in the City Hall chambers audibly said, “Shame” at various points, while others clapped and some people walked out.

“I think tradition has a place because councils of the past wanted to have this tradition so we wouldn’t have partisanship and bickering on the council and we followed the process and began working instead on the business of the people,” said Mosca.

Zimmerman nominated Watts as mayor pro-tem and Watts declined the nomination. Watts then nominated MacGillivray for pro-tem and Zimmerman agreed with the nomination, leaving Mosca and Buchanan again in the opposing minority.

“One of the issues that has divided the town and City Council is what I characterize as development in the downtown,” said Zimmerman after the meeting. “Another issue relates to the city’s expenditures including expenditures for outside consultants including attorneys. I think any hard feelings will quickly blow over and we’ll all work together to make Sierra Madre a much better city.”

“The differences (between us) are so small,” said Mosca. They are different in approach, not in what the end result is. There is no new development in town so how much slower can you be than nothing at all?”

The last order of business for the new council was to decide what company would handle the recount that city clerk candidate Karma Bell requested of the city clerk ballots, since her opponent Nancy Shollenberger won by 10 votes last week.

“Anything more than 10 votes we usually see that nothing changes because if one candidate picks up five votes the other candidate picks up maybe four votes,” said Scott Martin of Martin and Chapman Election Services. “Normally what you pick up in a recount is sometimes the voter marks their ballot to where the machine doesn’t see the vote and when you visually look at it you can make a determination that that was the voter’s intent even though they didn’t mark the ballot correctly.”

Two companies submitted proposals to the council to conduct the recount. Forefront Election Solutions LLC quoted $3525 plus mileage and Hudson Election Services quoted $1000.

MacGillivray and Zimmerman voiced support for Martin and Chapman Election Services, who conducted the April 8th election as well as previous elections.

“We have no proposal from Martin and Chapman,” said Buchanan. “I’m not sure it would be the financially smart thing to do.”

MacGillivray mentioned that “the onus is on the individual (asking for the recount) to come up with the money.”

Martin and Chapman did not make a formal proposal to the city, but City Manager Elaine Aguilar and City Attorney Sandra Levin calculated that Martin and Chapman Election Services would be $3135, which included city attorney time not factored into the other estimates.

Having the city attorney present at a recount in a larger city is “absolutely necessary” said Levin, who added Sierra Madre can choose to either include or not include the city attorney in their recount.

Ultimately, all members but Buchanan voted for Martin and Chapman to conduct the recount without the city attorney and if they decline the offer, then Hudson Election Services will be chosen as a back-up.

The manual recount will happen no later than April 29th and can be viewed by the public.

All members of the council declined to state what they will discuss at the next meeting, since yesterday’s strategic planning retreat helped decide future objectives.

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