Jan 27 2014

OPINION: All Councilmembers Should Get to be Mayor

Former Mayor proposes how all councilmembers could serve as Piedmont Mayor – 

You may wonder why in an uncontested election for the Piedmont City Council two candidates are waging a serious campaign.  It is because of a long-standing “gentleman’s agreement” that after length of service on the Council, the council member receiving the most votes in the first election is the next mayor for two years even if this excludes one council member from becoming mayor before being termed out of office.  In the past twenty years Council members Garrett Keating and Walter Schey were not mayors.

I believe that every member of the Piedmont City Council elected to serve two terms should have the opportunity to be mayor.  I would continue the Council tradition of electing a mayor and vice mayor for two-year terms except when two members of the Council are in their final two years before being termed out of office and neither of them has been mayor.  In this situation, I recommend that the Council elect each for a one-year term.  A one-year term as mayor is not unusual for smaller cities in the Bay Area. It is done that way in Emeryville and Orinda.  And our Piedmont Board of Education elects its presidents for a one-year term.

This year we have an uncontested election for city council.  Campaign disclosure statements show that as of December 21st candidate Teddy King had raised $14,181 and candidate Tim Rood had raised $1,648.  I can understand mailing one citywide flyer to educate voters but why should a candidate feel the need to raise and spend a lot of money in an attempt to become mayor six years hence?  Not only would my proposal be a fairer method, but is it better for the Council to recognize the contributions of all its members by giving each person the opportunity to serve as mayor?

Al Peters, Mayor 2000 – 2002         January 26, 2014

Editors’ Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

6 Responses to “OPINION: All Councilmembers Should Get to be Mayor”

  1. I disagree with Al Peters’ proposal for a couple of reasons. First, the “gentleman’s agreement” is not binding on the council, the new mayor must always be elected by council members, so I don’t see the problem he perceives. As for the campaigns,I would think anyone running for council would hope to receive as many votes as possible as an indication of community support in general. Second, I think it would be a very bad idea to bind the council to any sort of rule that entitles any member to obtain the position of mayor simply because of time served and regardless of their performance on the council over the prior six years.

  2. In theory Karen is right, the agreement does not bind council but by virtue of our current staggered elections, three open seats occur on three separate elections so three council members, a majority, are guaranteed to serve as mayor once winning election and may not be inclined to share that role. Campaign contributions have correlated with votes in Piedmont so it can play a factor in determining who serves as mayor. If that money comes from the Piedmont community then I guess it can be considered a form of community support. The situation Al cites is probably better in that the two termed-out council members seeking to share the office would have been elected twice indicating their performance was acceptable to the community. And finally, I suspect one reason for the current structure is to avoid “horse-trading” among council members who want to be mayor and in that spirit, Al’s proposal is best – everyone takes a turn.

  3. It’s not theory, it’s a fact, the council isn’t bound by this “agreement”. RE: contributions/spending, sometimes they correlate with more votes and sometimes they don’t (ex: Mr. Gilbert’s campaign a few years ago). The possibility I would be concerned about regarding Al’s proposal would be an unopposed candidate who receives relatively few votes and still is entitled to a “turn” as mayor without any input from council and regardless of his or her performance on council. I think the office of mayor deserves more consideration than that.

  4. Yes Karen, it’s a fact. All I suggested was that a majority of three council members who don’t have to vie for the role of mayor may not be interested in changing the “agreement”. And under Al’s proposal they wouldn’t have to – everyone gets a turn. And that might more representative for Piedmont since everyone serves at large.

    I said campaign contributions correlate with votes, not victory. With his own personal contribution, Ryan was able to introduce himself to piedmont voters and did remarkably well for a newcomer. I suspect his innovative positions on sustainability and financial prudence also had something to do with it.

    I think the scenario you cite is highly unlikely. Define “relatively few” – Piedmonters engage in elections and any candidate would have to stand twice before getting to the office. Has any unopposed candidate ever been elected in Piedmont with less than 50% of the vote? I worry more about the council member who departs from good behavior once he or she gets to the mayor’s chair.

    Is that your only reason for supporting the “agreement” – so that undeserving council members don’t become mayor? Much like the current agreement, Al’s proposal would be an agreement which council could revoke as well so I don’t see the issue.

  5. Ryan Gilbert brings a new and needed viewpoint to Piedmont Politics. Ryan was one of two members of the 2011 MTRC sewer sub-committee that initially recommended the ultimately unneeded and failed 2012 Sewer Surcharge Tax. Ryan was presented with emails from the EPA that contradicted the information given to the MTRC by staff and Ryan had the courage to reverse his previous position. The other sub-committee member declined to view the EPA emails.

  6. Let’s focus on the candidates in this “race” and not the 2008 election in 2008.

    This election should be considered a disappointment for Piedmont. A contested race allows all candidates to get their messages out and gives the voters a chance to make decisions.

    Unopposed races give voters no choice at all.

    Al’s suggestion is a good one and I hope it get’s the consideration it deserves.

Leave a Comment