Elaine Larsen's opinion: Elections are best.
Pacifica Tribune", Elaine Larsen, Editor and Publisher, 3/6/12. From the E&P: "Stand up and run."
"Councilmember Vreeland's resignation leaves a council vacancy at a particularly important time. Pacifica is facing significant challenges of which the budget, possible sales tax and police outsourcing head the list. All these issues require a very focused city council and an attentive community to reach conclusions we will have to live with for years.
Part of this community decision process is how to fill the now-vacant council seat. Should an appointment be made or an election held? Will a possible appointment be a temporary "place holder," someone who will not run again in November 2012? Or will the appointment assume the remainder of Jim Vreeland's term which runs through 2014? If an election were held to fill the vacancy, would a larger more diverse field of candidates emerge?
Most importantly, if the remaining four council members meet to vote on an appointment, does this community get the best possible leader to address our challenges? Consider the stark differences between an appointment and the democratic process of an election and you will see why I am inclined to support an election to fill this vacant seat. If council interviews a half dozen potential appointees over a two-hour meeting, each candidate gets maybe 20 minutes of question and answer. All too often this exercise turns into "I agree with the other guys" type responses. The public rarely gets to ask questions. The interview becomes something of a beauty contest. Run an election and you get several months of walking neighborhoods, showing the voters who supports you and several debates. That proves your meddle.
Some people are jockeying to support one or another candidate. Some say running in prior elections but not winning that election means this person or that has a claim to an appointment. Some folks say serving on Pacifica's many citizen committees gives someone a leg up. I say absolutely not. The last election was 16 months ago, an eternity in politics and the developing issues in Pacifica. Many issues facing town right now were never mentioned in the 2010 election.
My final observation: elections in Pacifica are spirited three-month campaigns where voters get up close and personal with the candidates. Debates, issue questionnaires and face-to-face campaigning in front of various stores really highlight candidate positions and presentations. Nothing beats an election for picking best of the breed. I support and I believe you will agree that a three-month campaign is superior to a 20-minute interview. Pacifica needs this rigorous examination of all candidates for the vacancy, and that means stand up and run."
Submitted by Jim Wagner
Posted by Kathy Meeh