November 23, 2004 > Editorial: Two Cities - Two Solutions
Editorial: Two Cities - Two Solutions
The question facing both Fremont and Newark is how to fill a vacancy on their city councils. On the face of it, the issue is the same for both cities; yet the circumstances and motivations behind filling the space differ markedly.
Newark is looking for a new councilmember due to the election of Vice Mayor Torrico to state assembly. In the last November election, all council seats were "safe" with none up for reaffirmation of an incumbent or replacement by a new member. Since a significant amount of time has elapsed since a council seat contest in Newark, there is no recent vote of the people in regards to this elected body. Here, the choice of how to fill the seat is clear cut - either appoint from a group of interested citizens or leave the seat open until the next election, whether special or general.
Fremont is in a different predicament. The open seat is the direct result of Mayor-elect Wasserman running from a "safe" seat. His victory at the polls created the vacancy. If he had decided to run for Mayor without retaining the safety net of his council seat, the election would have been clear and there would be no vacancy at this time. However, it is hard to fault Bob for taking the prudent route and Fremont now faces an interesting dilemma.
In my last editorial I spoke about the reasoning behind filling the vacancy with the candidate - Dirk Lorenz - who, in the recent election received the next highest vote total to the candidates who were elected to office, Steve Cho and Bob Wieckowski. I understand the argument for an "open and transparent" process that allows other interested parties to be considered, yet I am bothered by the persistent allegations and suspicions that this is a "done deal"- a promise to Wasserman's campaign manager, Bill Harrison.
Let me say at the outset that I have nothing against Mr. Harrison and believe that in any other circumstance he would be a welcome asset to the council. However, the appearance of impropriety is too great and the partisan politics of Fremont gives credence to allegations of a fix. This is not the way to start a new administration and give the citizens of Fremont confidence in the workings of their government.
While Newark did not have a referendum of the city council in the last election, Fremont did. While Newark has been relatively free of partisan politics, voting without "democrat" or "republican" labels as a deciding factor, this does seem to be a fact of life in Fremont. One candidate was denied backing in his campaign due to partisan politics and others found that some citizens refused to vote for candidates unless they revealed their political party affiliation. This is unacceptable for city offices which are non-partisan!
This type of thinking simply extends some of the worst aspects of our political system to the local landscape. We should be clear, at least at the city level, of party labels. Here we can see and know our candidates without slavishly following some national agenda of big buck politicos. If we allow party politics to invade, all is lost to slogans and ideologies that are often far removed from the local scene and instill emotion without thought.
I do not follow the theory that a standard should be set so that each time a vacancy occurs on the council there is one set of rules. Vacancies of this type are not a common occurrence and in each case, the circumstances may differ markedly. I believe that Newark and Fremont, faced with the same scenario, are confronted with different conditions that should lead each city to a separate set of conclusions to resolve their dilemma.
Newark is right to go through a process of applications and interviews. Fremont should, in this instance, put politics aside and do the right thing ... appoint Dirk Lorenz.