The Patterson City Council has set another record.
(Let me first note that this writer is not an authority on Patterson’s city government. I attend very few meetings and have no inside informants on the present council. But in the past 50-plus years, I have witnessed my share of ups-and-downs in the local political scene. Come to think about it, this month marks my conclusion of 52 years of experiencing the ins-and-outs of municipal decision-making—both good and bad. And I do keep my ear to the ground when it comes to public controversy. In recent years, the council has had its share of that.)
NOW TO THAT RECORD
Never in the 94 years of Patterson city government have the names of all five incumbent councilmembers appeared on the same ballot. Never, until this year.
You might argue that the first five councilmembers (all men) elected in 1920 when the city of Patterson incorporated all had their names before the voters. But of course, none were incumbents.
No, this year is different. Mayor Luis Molina is seeking re-election as an incumbent mayor must do to retain his seat. That’s because our mayor—and only our mayor—has a two-year term and must face the voters twice as often as other members of the council. (Voters decided this matter not once, but twice. Therefore an incumbent must keep his/her nose clean or be retired from office posthaste.)
And in another Patterson “first,” Molina is being challenged by not one but two present councilmembers. Both Sheree Lustgarten and Dominic Farinha are in the middle of four-year terms and as some say, “have nothing to lose by running for mayor.” If neither is elected mayor, they will each remain on the council another two years.
My thinking differs. I think each has plenty to lose. Only one of these three mayoral candidates will come out a winner. Two will be rejected by the voters and will likely be sharing the dais with one, if not two, others who come up short in the vote count. (At least Mitt Romney doesn’t have to sit in a public meeting twice a month with President Obama.)
But wait. Still another candidate is challenging Molina, and of course the others as well. He is Ralph Arredondo, a newcomer to local politics and thus a surprise candidate who filed papers the last day.
His campaign is being backed by former mayor Pat Maisetti, the first woman member of the council, the first woman mayor, the first directly elected by the public and not chosen by the council and the first elected to the top city post on two separate occasions.
Arredondo surely has his hands full getting up to speed on city issues, but he does have an advantage: He can and undoubtedly will point to the shortcomings of the present council, one that includes all three of his opponents.
And here’s a tip—don’t invite this quartet to a backyard barbecue. Some truly don’t like others.
6 VIE FOR COUNCIL
Then there’s the race for two 4-year council seats. Both incumbents, Deborah Novelli and Larry Buehner, are seeking re-election. They will be challenged by Dennis McCord and Carlos Fierros, who were both on the ballot two years ago, and political freshmen John Strob and Troy McMahan.
Buehner’s last-minute action to seek another term on the council, as well as Farinha’s to seek the mayor’s seat, was taken last Friday—the final day to get on the ballot. They pulled papers Friday morning, garnered the 30 required signatures of registered voters, and returned the paperwork by 5 p.m. the same day. Both decisions caught local government-watchers off guard.
And thus you have it. All five members of the present council with their names on the ballot, three hoping to be elected mayor and two gunning for second terms on the council.
You never know, those not presently seated on the council may have an advantage this November.
They can point to missteps of the present five members on the panel, attacking everything from the spending of reserve funds and the failure to secure sales tax funding from Amazon, to the lack of a needed, updated water supply study. Those favoring increased growth should know that unless a source of H2O is planned and financed, Patterson is literally dead in the water.
Here’s what voters should watch for and ask questions about between now and Election Day:
– The source of campaign money. Times aren’t like the old days. Running for local office takes a few bucks. Watch where those bucks come from.
– Ask detailed questions about the city’s 2014-15 budget. It was recently passed with a minimum of discussion. Grill the incumbents about what is in the budget, including reserve funds.
– Ask about departmental staffing, the most significant area of the budget.
– Ask about those future water needs.
You’ll be told by all candidates that they favor lowering local crime, filling street potholes, etc. How and when? Pin them down. And pay close attention during the campaign. You have important choices to make at the polls.
BUTLER TO DEPART
In mid-September, Patterson city government will lose its day-to-day administrator,
City Manager Rod Butler. He will be leaving for Upland in So Cal to head that city of 75,000 with a staff of some 400—about five times that of Patterson. It will be a return home for Butler, as he grew up in Upland. His mother lives there and a sister is nearby. He has friends there, and they obviously wanted him back.
A number of us enjoyed working with Butler, this scribe included, and not just because my mother’s maiden name was Butler. (To my knowledge, not related.) He has been very straightforward and has initiated programs that in the long run will be beneficial to this community. We wish him well and are counting on him to stop by and visit us from time to time.
So from mid-September through maybe the end of the year, expect our city to have an interim city manager. That could add even more pressure on the present and future council.
FOR THE SPORTS FAN
This would certainly be a sporting event: If Larry Buehner and Deborah Novelli had chosen to run for mayor rather than seeking to retain their present seats on the City Council, then all five present council members would be vying for the mayor’s seat.
Now that would be sporting.
AND FINALLY …
Just for your information, Boy Scout Troop 82 has made the decision to again publish a Patterson community event calendar. The 2015 calendar hopefully will go on sale around Dec. 1 and will list over 200 of next year’s community activities.
The good news is that the price will be reduced considerably and marketing efforts will be changed. So if your Patterson organization, school or church desires a free listing, you have until Nov. 1 to set your dates for 2015.