Downey’s five-member City Council received a fresh update Tuesday as Rick Rodriguez and Blanca Pacheco were installed into office, replacing termed out council members Roger Brossmer and Luis Marquez.
It was a day of jubilation and excitement as fresh faces promised to push Downey forward with new ideas and motivation.
Unfortunately, on its very first course of action, the new-look City Council whiffed big time.
Council members were tasked with choosing a mayor and mayor pro tem for 2017. They are mostly ceremonial positions: the mayor presides over meetings, attends ribbon cuttings, smiles for photo-ops, and serves as the city’s de facto spokesperson. The mayor pro-tem fills in when the mayor is away.
Historically, the mayor pro tem goes on to become mayor the following year, which is why on Tuesday the City Council selected Fernando Vasquez – the current mayor pro tem – to become 2017 mayor.
Who would become mayor pro tem? The answer was logical: Blanca Pacheco and Rick Rodriguez were barely an hour into their term, so they were too new; Vasquez was becoming mayor; Alex Saab was coming off his term as mayor; so that left Sean Ashton, the District 2 representative who is heading into his third year on the council.
But instead of making the reasonable choice, no one nominated Ashton therefore Saab nominated himself for the mayor pro tem position. Rodriguez seconded. And with that, the 2017 leadership was set, leaving Ashton out in the cold.
So to recap: Alex Saab was mayor in 2016, will be mayor pro tem in 2017, and very likely could be voted mayor again in 2018.
This is not a dig at Saab; he is one of Downey’s greatest council members.
This is about petty politics and a City Council’s concerted attempt to deny the mayoral position to Ashton, a political outsider who was voted into office fair and square by voters of his district.
Do we agree with all of Ashton’s philosophies or agendas? No.
Do we think he can make a stronger attempt to become a more informed and polished council member? Absolutely.
Do we think he holds far too many town hall meetings? An emphatic yes.
But that shouldn’t disqualify him from holding the title of mayor pro tem.
When then-councilman Mario Guerra campaigned against Anne Bayer’s appointment to mayor several years ago, he was very vocal and specific in his opposition. He clearly articulated the reasons he felt Bayer was unfit for the mayor position.
There were even pleas from the public not to make Bayer mayor.
If Fernando Vasquez, Alex Saab, Rick Rodriguez and Blanca Pacheco know of specific reasons that disqualify Ashton from becoming mayor pro tem (and mayor in 2018), they should state those reasons clearly and on the record. It's part of "transparency."
Otherwise, Ashton has the same right to be mayor.