First, congratulations to the winners of Fresno City Council seats in the Nov. 6 general election.
Miguel Arias in District 3, Luis Chavez in District 5 and Nelson Esparza in District 7 cruised to victory. Esmeralda Soria in District 1 was re-elected in the June primary.
Second, it’ll be interesting to see how they and their council colleagues in early January handle the election of the next council president and vice president.
On the surface, the chore should be simple. The City Charter requires the council to elect a council president in early January. The council also elects a vice president.
The council used to take nominations from the dais, then vote. That sometimes caused hard feelings. So, the council some years ago changed its rules of procedure. The presidency would be automatically rotated in sequential fashion according to district number. So, too, with vice president.
Soria is this year’s president. District 2’s Steve Brandau is vice president. In 2019, Brandau will become president and Arias will become vice president (there will be a public vote, but it’s a formality). In 2020, Arias will become president and District 4’s Paul Caprioglio will become vice president.
You get the picture.
There are exceptions to this formula. A brand new council member can’t be council president; the rookie needs a year of seasoning before getting the gavel. And that year of seasoning has to be immediately prior to the annual vote.
I refer to this second exception as the Bredefeld Rule. Garry Bredefeld, District 6 council member from 1997 to 2001, was again elected to the council in 2016 and took the oath of office in January 2017, when it was District 6’s turn to have the presidency. The council in December 2016 decided the new council president must have served at least one year on the council immediately preceding the selection.
All this brings us to the unique, and perhaps not so simple, situation confronting the council in January 2019.
You see, there’s a good chance that Brandau won’t serve all of the calendar year on the council. Fresno County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas on Nov. 6 won the State Senate District 8 seat. Brandau wants to succeed Borgeas in the Supervisorial District 2 seat. A special election will be held in early 2019. The way I understand it, a crowded field that results in no candidate getting a 50%-plus 1 majority would lead to a runoff in June 2019.
Brandau is a dedicated and talented public servant. He may very well be a supervisor by mid-2019. At that point, he would resign his council seat. The Fresno City Council would be in the hunt for a new president.
Would it be Arias? He wouldn’t have a full year on the dais under his belt. But he’d likely have a half-year. And he would have gone through his first budget process, which strikes me as the single most complex chore for the council.
If it’s not Arias, then does the council presidency automatically jump District 3 and land on the District 4 member – Caprioglio? If so, that would be Caprioglio’s second stint as president in the last four years (Chavez and Bredefeld weren’t eligible in 2017).
If Caprioglio becomes council president, does he stay in the job for a mere half-year? Or does he also become president for the full year of 2020, which, in theory, is to be his turn? (The president’s job pays a bit more than $70,000 a year; the other council members make $65,000 annually.)
If Caprioglio becomes council president in mid-year, does Arias remain as vice president? After all, the vice president designation clearly has no meaning if, in light of the president’s resignation, the vice president does not automatically move into the top spot.
If District 4’s Caprioglio becomes council president and serves only until January 2020, does the automatic rotation move backward, thus making District 3’s Arias the president? Or does the system of forward rotation remain in place, putting Chavez in the president’s chair in 2020 even though he hadn’t been vice president in 2019?
Or would a Brandau resignation in mid-2019 also require Arias to give up his vice president’s title? If so, is that requirement in the council’s rules of procedure?
There no doubt are questions I haven’t thought of. I gave Arias a call on Friday. I offered my congratulations on his campaign success. I asked if he had given any thought to such questions. He had.
He noted that he has considerable experience as an official in public meetings. He is a trustee with the State Center Community College District.
In the end, Arias said, “it’s going to be up to the council majority. We’ll all be adults.”
That first sentiment is the key. The City Council runs its internal operations any way it wants. Steve Brandau’s success in the Supervisorial District 2 special election could portend change in the way the Fresno City Council handles the election of its president and vice president.