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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 27th, 2012, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 42 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 42

Santa Maria City Council meeting: four swearings in--and no appointment made

BY AMY ASMAN

Santa Maria celebrated a big milestone at its City Council meeting on Dec. 18: the swearing-in of its first woman mayor, Alice Patino.

According to a letter to the council from Sister Janet Corcoran that was read aloud during the meeting, the first woman elected to the council was Sadie West in 1930. The second was Patino in 1999. Since then, two other women have served on the council, including Terri Zuniga, who was also sworn in on Dec. 18.

For his last act as mayor, Larry Lavagnino had the pleasure of swearing in the city’s new police chief, Ralph Martin.

City Manager Rick Haydon recounted to the board a conversation he had with Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca when Haydon was in the process of hiring an interim chief to fill in for Dan Macagni.

“He said [Martin] has the ability to build bridges in a community,” Haydon said. “I think that’s something we’re looking for right now in Santa Maria.”

Haydon also named some of the qualities the public and he were looking for in a police chief, such as a strong community presence, approachability, open-mindedness, accessibility, and experience with gang-related and community-based policing.

“When I look over this list … that’s Chief Martin,” Haydon told the council.

After a lengthy swearing-in process that included numerous handshakes, hugs, and emotional speeches, Patino took her seat in the center of the dais.

The first issue of the new council: filling the madam mayor’s vacated City Council seat.

A total of 31 people signed up to speak during the public comment period, many of whom called for the appointment of Etta Waterfield, who lost the election to incumbent Bob Orach by two votes. Several members of local labor unions suggested the appointment of Mike Cordero, while others asked the council to take applications from the public at large.

“Today we’ve heard a lot about fairness, how it only makes sense and it’s a no-brainer to seat the candidate who lost by only a whisker. But at some point a line must be drawn on the end of one process and the beginning of another,” said Darryl Scheck, a field representative for SEUI Local 620.

Scheck called on the council to create “a new pathway” in the selection process by asking for applications or bringing the decision back to the people with a special election.

“[The process] certainly shouldn’t be automatic or predicated on what’s easiest or the most thrifty,” he said.

Two of the council members—Zuniga and Jack Boysen—ended up agreeing with Scheck and put their weight behind the application process.

Referring to the high cost of running for office, Boysen said, “perhaps there are individuals who should be given a no-cost opportunity to run for City Council.”

“I know I’m probably signing my political death warrant in saying this,” he said, “but when I was elected to the council [in 2010], I said I’d make all my decisions like I wasn’t running for re-election in 2014.”

For her part, Patino said, “I think that it would be a little arrogant to dismiss a little over 9,000 votes. Santa Maria is known for being fair and honest, and I think that’s what we need to be tonight: fair and honest.”

The council members split their votes 2-2 for two motions. The first, introduced by Boysen and seconded by Zuniga, called for the application process. The second, introduced by Orach and seconded by Patino, would have appointed Waterfield to the position.

Ultimately, the council voted 4-0 to postpone the decision to the Jan. 15 City Council meeting, though Orach cautioned that he wouldn’t change his mind in the interim.