Who Becomes Mayor Next Year?

saylor_webThe Davis Enterprise ran an article on Thursday that certainly did not clear up that issue.  However, we do know that Don Saylor will serve as Mayor and on the City Council until at least the end of December 2010, which means that any belief that he would be replaced in the November Election is wishful thinking at best.

Mr. Saylor is running uncontested for a seat on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.  He will be seated on January 3 at which point in time he would have to give up his seat.

He told the Davis Enterprise he plans to serve for mayor for six month focusing on issues such as the budget, water, and improving communications between council members.

He also said that he thinks that having three members of the council departing at the same time would be problematic.

Choosing the next councilmember is likely a thorny issue.

Whether one agrees with his views or not, Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor is not resigning early to allow for a special election during the general election which would save the city $200,000 to $300,000 depending on the current costs imposed by the County Elections Office.

City Clerk Zoe Mirabile told the Enterprise that under state law, the council would not be able to begin its replacement process until the resignation notice actually occurs.

Based on this information, I still believe the most likely outcome will be an appointment.

Councilmember Sue Greenwald is adamantly opposed to the idea.  She posted on the Vanguard, “I think it would be a real mistake to appoint an “interim” council member.”  She continued, “The individual appointed as “interim” would likely run as an incumbent whenever the next election would be held. Appointments are very undemocratic, and obviously re-enforce the incumbent council majority.”

She later posted, “The election is called after the council member leaves in January. Then, the council has 30 days to name an election date or appoint someone. There are three dates in 2011 in which the election could be held.”

Choosing the Mayor could be more straightforward.  The Enterprise speculates that Stephen Souza could be in line to be mayor when Saylor leaves, but that does not seem to be an accurate assessment. 

The city code would seem to have a provision in place to determine who is mayor when the mayor cannot serve and that would be the Mayor Pro Tem.

Municipal Code 2.02.020 specifies:

“The mayor pro tempore shall perform the duties of the mayor during the mayor’s absence or disability.”

Since Mr. Souza has not been the top vote getter, he is not the Mayor Pro Tem and therefore would not be eligible to become mayor.

However, there is a loophole here:

“The mayor pro tempore shall serve in this capacity at the pleasure of the city council.”

Nevertheless, this strikes me very similarly to the machinations to deprive Sue Greenwald of Mayor status back in 2006, yes, the council has the power to do it, but it looks really bad.  The cleaner approach would be to install the top vote getter in June as Mayor and select a new Mayor Pro Tem.

There is a downside to that as well, as the Mayor would serve for three and a half years.

Whatever council decides with regards to replacing Don Saylor both as Mayor and as a Councilmember will be an interesting adventure.

In the meantime, the focus should be on selecting the new two members of the Davis City Council.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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20 Comments

  1. davisite2

    I would not be at all surprised if we find Don Saylor taking his seat as County Supervisor with the highest % of his constituent voters leaving his ballot choice box blank( or entering another write-in candidate) that we have seen in Davis’ electoral history. Supervisor Saylor will be representing a Davis district that strongly supports the populist Measure J principles and has been at the forefront of opposition to John Whitcombe’s development plans in E. Davis. We will see how Supervisor Saylor “plays” this total absence of an electoral mandate. Is there a recall in this Yolo Supervisor’s future?

  2. anonymous

    I would not be at all surprised if we find Don Saylor taking his seat as County Supervisor with the highest % of his constituent voters leaving his ballot choice box blank( or entering another write-in candidate) that we have seen in Davis’ electoral history.

    This is a meaningless statement because it is an uncontested race. Also, voters make choices for a variety of reasons. A candidate’s position on Measure J isn’t the most important factor for many voters, and Saylor’s strength as a candidate may be an indicator of this.

  3. rusty49

    “Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor is not resigning early to allow for a special election during the general election which would save the city $200,000 to $300,000 depending on the current costs”

    “I think it would be a real mistake to appoint an “interim” council member.”

    I think the right thing for Mr. Saylor to do is step down early and let the voters decide his replacement and save the city the much needed money. Step up Mr. Saylor, $300,000 possibly equates to 6 people’s jobs and I’m sur the city can get by without you.

  4. davisite2

    “This is a meaningless statement because it is an uncontested race”

    Actually anonymous, that’s EXACTLY my point. Unlike a contested election, where the voter is often forced to choose the least objectionable of the candidates, this Saylor election is a clear voter statement, fill in the Saylor box if you DO want him to represent you, leave it blank or write-in another candidate of you DO NOT. He’s going to be your Yolo Supervisor in any case.

  5. JustSaying

    Now that Don Saylor is guaranteed the county supervisor post–and now that he knows he can save the City $2-300,000 by not waiting around until December to resign–he can make a significant contribution to Davis residents by leaving “early.”

    Regardless of how he might help us as a council member for six months, it seems an easy decision for him to save Davis a special election to replace him.

    The loss of his big council salary would be more than offset by the Davis votes he’d win because of his magnanimous gesture. And memories are long: We’d still remember his altruistic act when he faces election competition the next time around

  6. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”He also said that he thinks that having three members of the council departing at the same time would be problematic.”[/i]

    Maybe. Maybe not. We have precedent for two, three and even four members of the council leaving at once.

    In 1918, Covell (who later returned for a very long run on the council*), McBride, Beckett and French all left at once. That was our first city council** and we lost four members.

    The same thing happened in 1972, when Aronson, Woodbury, Vig. Asmundson and Miller left the council at one time.

    In 1964, Nicholson, Jacobs and Woodbury (in his first stint) all vacated the council at the same moment. (In 1966, the last two from the 1963-64 council, Markham and McMurdie then left.)

    In 1984, we lost three members, Farrell, Stevens and Kopper, though Farrell’s term ended two months prior to the departure of the other two.

    Approximately 15 times in the council’s history, two members have left at one time. The last time that occurred was in 2004, when Harrington and Boyd left and were replaced by Souza and Saylor.

    *Calvin Covell’s first term was just one year, 1917-1918. He came back to the council in 1927 and stayed on until 1948, serving as mayor the last 17 of those years. Covell was a farmer and much of the land which later became Covell Park was his. His family were pioneers in Yolo County, going back to the 1850s, before the railroad was built, and before the Cal-P invented the new town of “Davisville” on the site of the land formerly farmed by Jerome Davis. Covell lived until 1969. (By the way, the family name should be pronounced KUH-vull, to rhyme with the gardening tool, shovel. However, the eponymous Boulevard should be pronounced CO-vell, to rhyme with GROW well.)

    **I think they were called something else, but essentially were the city council.

  7. JustSaying

    Very interesting history, Rich. And I figure having three members leaving at the same time now would be worth the cash we’d save by avoiding a special election, a benefit likely not available a hundred years ago. We will survive.

    A question: Why wouldn’t Covell Blvd. be pronounced Covell if it is named after one or more of the Covells?

  8. davisite2

    “…..Saylor’s strength as a candidate may be an indicator of this.”

    Anonymous: Don Saylor got only 300 more votes,from the voters in the Supervisor district he is running in, than Sue Greenwald in their head-to-head Council election. This thin voter margin was with Don Saylor having almost unlimited campaign funds and Sue
    Greenwald with very limited campaign funds and very limited,if any, door-to-door campaigning.

  9. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”Why wouldn’t Covell Blvd. be pronounced Covell if it is named after one or more of the Covells?”[/i]

    It can be if you want it to. However, I grew up in Davis. My family moved here when I was 1.5 years old in 1965. Everyone in Davis I know has always called the street, CO-vell Boulevard; as well as CO-vell Park, CO-vell Village, and so on.

    I suspect people who lived in Davis back when Mr. Covell was the mayor–he was quite controversial after WW2, when he tried to get Davis to ban the return of Japanese-American residents–pronounce the street the same as they do his name.

    But Davis was a tiny town in those days. It had only 3,178 residents when Covell stepped down as mayor. The population of Davis in 1958 was 7,839. Ten years later it was 20,100. So when we finally had a street named for him–Covell Blvd was originally called Road 31, as it still is to the west of town–the vast majority of people living in Davis had no memory of him as mayor or knew any other people with that name in Davis.

    CA Covell’s most famous descendent in Davis, who I believe is still going strong, is Frank Liggett*, a grandson of Calvin’s. But I don’t think Calvin had any sons, so the name was not passed down.

    One other thing on name pronunciations or mispronunciations. I hear newer residents of Davis trying to give a quasi-Spanish pronunciation to Putah Creek, calling it POO-tah Creek**. But it’s not a Spanish word. It’s a Spanish bastardization of an Indian name. (There is an unrelated Spanish word, [i]puta[/i], which is a vulgarism for prostitute.) Most longtime Davisites–in fact, I think all longtime Davisites–call that waterway, PYOO-tuh Creek. The Indian source word for it is unknown as to how it was said or what it meant. However, in the 19th Century, a lot of the writers refered to it as “puto” or “los putos.”

    *Among other things, Frank Liggett was one of the developers/builders of Covell Park, the first neighborhood in Davis (and one of the first in all of California) to have greenbelts.

    **I am not saying, by the way, that the quasi-Spanish pronunciation of a quasi-Spanish Indian word is wrong. It’s just not the way I learned it and the way everyone here always pronounced it in my times in Davis.

  10. SODA

    Thought those in know called the creek
    pooh da. At least pooh da creek council does.
    We only have ourselves to blame for ‘allowing Don’ to run unopposed.

  11. Neutral

    Saylor needs to submit his resignation prior to the final filing date for the November election, effective on the day the new council member is to be seated.

  12. hpierce

    Wrong… Saylor does not “need” to do anything until he takes the oath of office as supervisor… the remaining Council can and should appoint a replacement when Saylor leaves… I suggest they appoint the 3rd highest vote-getter in June… that would get closest to Ms Greenwald’s “need” to have a voter response… perhaps this is what Jon Li has in mind…

  13. Neutral

    pierce: Wrong… Saylor does not “need

    Granted he doesn’t “need” to do anything, but we’re going to go ahead and “suggest” a few alternatives, aren’t we? Mine meets the middle avoiding both appointment and special election, something he “could” do.

  14. Neutral

    That’s not a compromise position, it’s the rational position. No costs for a special election, no worries about the selection process.

    The equitable solution for the electorate would have Saylor graciously agree to a six-month vacation from politics before he takes the new job. He declined.

  15. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”oh god no don saylor for supervisor? NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”[/i]

    Whether you adore or you abhor Don Saylor, I don’t think there is one policy which, as our Supervisor, he will support or oppose that will make any material difference from the policies supported or opposed by Helen Thomson or Lois Wolk, who together have represented this district for the last 24 years*.

    That is not to say that, if you don’t like Lois or Helen, you will like Don. But it is to say that nothing is materially changing at the county level.

    In terms of budget priorities there, I am sure Don will try to fund programs in the same way his predecessors have. Don (just like his predecessors) has a reputation in Davis for being pro-developer (making him hated by the Progressives). But unless the Board of Supes is going to rezone agricultural land in the county to residential or commercial or industrial, his love affair with urbanization won’t represent any change.

    It takes three of the five to rezone land. Matt Rexroad’s position is that the cities have to be on board to change land-use on their peripheries. Dwayne Chamberlain opposes rezoning ag land (I think because of a conservative bucolic bias and a close tie to tenant farmers who suffer when the land they farm is urbanized). And Jim Provenza also opposes urbanizing farms (I think due to a Progressive bucolic bias).

    *24 years? Please correct me if that is wrong. I think Helen was in for 8 years as Supe, then she moved to the Assembly for 8 and during that time we had Lois, and after she termed out of the Assembly, she came back to the BoS for 8 more years. That could be off a bit, though.

  16. Elephantintheroom

    *24 years: slight correction

    Rich, you are correct on the length of time served by the three previous supervisors for Yolo County BOS, District 2 who have all endorsed Don Saylor. That includes Helen Thomson, Lois Wolk and Freddie Oakley. Their service together represents 24 years.

    Helen Thomson originally served as supervisor from 1986-1996; assemblywoman from 1996-2002; & again as supervisor from 2002-present. She also served 12 years on the Davis school board. Upon retirement she will have served 36 years in elected office.

    When Helen became assemblywoman, she was succeed by Freddie Oakley who received appointment from the governor to the final two years of Helen’s third term. Freddie served from 1996-1998. She did not seek election to a full term.

    Lois Wolk was elected supervisor and served from 1998-2002; assemblywoman from 2002-2008; and now state senator from 2008-present. Previously Lois served on the Davis city council from 1990-1998, serving twice as mayor.

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