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Davis Fails to Change Rules for Choosing Mayor

By Jorge Casuso

October 26, 2023 -- Mayor Gleam Davis failed to convince her City Council opponents at Tuesday night's meeting that they were not the targets of her proposal to tweak the rules dictating how a mayor is chosen.

In a 3 to 4 vote, the Council majority defeated her proposal to delete a sentence from the rules that bars the Council from suspending the rotating system for choosing a mayor based on seniority.

Under that system, the next three mayors would be members of the Change slate opposed by Davis and the two other Councilmembers backed by Santa Monica's liberal establishment.

Her proposal, Davis said, was not an attempt to change the rotational system but a good governance measure to prevent a Councilmember who is under indictment from taking office.

"I apparently set off conspiracy theory excitement," Davis said. "This is not intended in any way to affect the mayoral rotation, which we adopted earlier in the year. End of story."

Without suspending the rules, the Council could be put in the position of having to approve a Mayor "even if they committed a heinous crime," Davis said.

In such an event -- no matter how unlikely -- "the Council would be powerless to decide whether they can assume the mayoral position."

Although the indicted mayor could be removed at the next meeting with only four votes, preventing their selection by suspending the rules with five votes was a better solution.

That alternative would be "more elegant, less messy, less egg on our collective City's face," Davis said, reiterating that her potential scenario "was not directed at anybody."

That's not how the opposing Councilmembers who stand in line to assume the post took it.

Concilmember Oscar dela Torrre noted that after Phil Brock is seated in December, the two Councilmembers in line would be Latinos who oppose the liberal establishment -- Christine Parra, "a Salvadoran-Argentine," and himself, a Mexican-American.

"Hearing all your reasoning to me is really offensive, to assume sort of this notion of criminality when next in line you would have people who obviously ran against the establishment," de la Torre said.

"It's really politically charged," he added.

Councilmember Lana Negrete agreed. She noted that if establishment-backed candidates gain two seats in November 2024, the new majority could scrap the rotation system and pick one of their own.

"If people are having premonitions of what the next election might look like, that there very well potentially could be a super-majority, that would potentially block other candidates," Negrete said.

"Five people could just say, we don't want this person for any reason," she said. "A super-majority could block someone from ever becoming mayor."

While it would take five votes to approve the change Davis was proposing, a newly seated Council would not be able to change the rules before the next mayor in the rotation is seated in December 2024 ("City Attorney Weighs in on Proposed Amendment for Choosing Mayor," October 23, 2023).

It was de la Torre who made a motion to vote on Davis' proposal, a move that was seconded by Parra.

Assuming her proposal had unanimous support, Davis called for a voice vote. When it was clear the vote was split, a roll-call vote was taken.

Councilmembers Brock, Parra, de la Torre and Negrete opposed Davis proposal, while Davis and Councilmembers Caroline Torosis and Jesse Zwick backed it.

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