The role of mayor can affect our city’s public image, agenda of items to engage, and the content and tone of messaging.
The face of Santa Clarita this year is Marsha McLean. This is her fourth stint as the designated public leader and spokesperson for the city.
Mayor pro tem, the back-up to the mayor and sometimes the next year’s mayor, is Cameron Smyth, who has served twice as mayor.
Councilman Bob Kellar has been our mayor four times and Councilwoman Laurene Weste five. New Councilman Bill Miranda is awaiting his first go at mayor.
Each December our five City Council members select who in the upcoming year will slide in as mayor and as mayor pro tem.
The question is if voters should one day decide who is our official leader and spokesperson. Until now any three on the City Council decide among themselves who represents the city.
While the mayor only serves one year and the role appears to be more honorary than substantial, the fact is that the mayor chairs City Council meetings and grealty influences how meetings are held and how items on the agenda are addressed.
I dislike the concept of letting those we have elected decide for us who speaks for us and who sets the tone for our city as a whole.
The temptation is too great for three council members getting together and among them commandeering the council, budgetary considerations, and meeting agendas. The bias of the mayor and his or her two council supporters nullifies the remaining two council votes and diminishes public representation.
To me it seems more viable for voters to elect a mayor for a two-year term. With only a tie-breaking vote should the council be deadlocked 2-2, the power of an elected mayor would still be significant as he or she would run the council meetings.
A two-year term would also shake up the council composition that almost never includes a new face. Council members run every four years. Having a two-year term, assuming one on the council would be elected as mayor, means that a new seat, even for two years, would become available.
Laurene Weste was first elected to the council in 1998, Bob Kellar and Cameron Smyth in 2000, although Cameron left for a time to serve in the California Legislature, and Marsha was first elected in 2002. Only untenured Bill, who was appointed in 2017, is not yet on the forever re-election merry-go-round for the council.
If you are old enough, some of you may recall that originally the U.S. electoral college provided the Constitutional Convention with a compromise between the popular election of the president and the votes from Congress of their presidential selection. In 1804 this was clarified and the electoral college system became based on popular votes by state, whereas the House of Representatives only gets involved in selecting the U.S. president in rare circumstances.
Yes, living here in the SCV does support longevity and old age.
The point is that with virtually all key public roles, like the U.S. president, senators, governors and representatives, the vote of the public is and should be all powerful and public sentiment is and should be meaningful.
In Santa Clarita right now, it is like Congress selecting the president without our participation.
A petition drive could place a ballot measure to change this. But it would be expensive and almost impossible to meet the requirements of a petition drive to enable a public vote on authorizing mayor as a new elected position.
On the other hand, it would take little effort for our current City Council to place a choice on the ballot that would allow voters to determine if electing a mayor versus continuing the practice of allowing the council to pick among its own is appropriate.
I call upon our City Council to do the right thing and place on the ballot a new mayoral position of two years per term. Let’s give voters the option of whether we should select our own spokesperson.
I would like the mayor to be our mayor, not the council’s mayor.
Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations firm, is the CFO private security firm, is the COO of an Acting Conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.