The decision by a Pleasant Hill City Council majority to pass over a colleague for the annual mayoral appointment raises serious questions about working together, accepting dissenting voices and transparency.
By snubbing Jack Weir last month, three members of the council resurrected the sort of divisive and personal politics of Pleasant Hill's past that we thought the city had gotten beyond. We hope other East Bay city councils don't traipse down this path of pettiness.
In cities where mayors are not directly elected, it is the prerogative of council members to select whomever they want from among themselves to be mayor. The role of mayor in such general law cities is primarily ceremonial, with few extra powers. However, decorum suggests that unless there's a very good reason, council members should follow their tradition, which usually involves each year selecting the vice mayor to take the gavel.
Specifically, council members should not punish one of their own for expressing dissenting views. Doing so creates unnecessary bad feelings, making it more difficult for councils to work together and creating side shows that distract from a city's business.
That's exactly what has happened in Pleasant Hill.
"I'm shocked and embarrassed by my colleagues," Councilman David Durant said. "Absent some heinous behavior, criminality, moral turpitude, no one should be deprived of the opportunity and honor of being mayor. ...
"We've always done this in a nonpolitical way, and this felt blatantly political. It's crass to do this kind of thing without explaining on the record, publicly, in a transparent fashion what you're doing and why you're doing it."
Weir was slated to become mayor. But councilmen Tim Flaherty, Ken Carlson and Michael Harris instead selected Flaherty. They owe residents an explanation for disrespecting an elected council member, but they have provided nothing substantive.
Flaherty says he didn't support Weir because others didn't. Carlson says Weir backed out of a compromise related to the city manager's performance review. Harris only says obtusely that he's looking for a mayor who displays traits of "teamwork and a willingness to work toward consensus." He cites no specific actions by Weir to justify his decision.
Weir clearly pushes harder than some of his colleagues for change. He is tighter with the public purse strings. And he wants managers to continuously strive to find more efficient ways to deliver services.
We think that's good. But apparently a council majority doesn't like it. "My guess is it's retaliation for not going along to get along," Weir said.
Durant has a word for it: "Classless."