Don Johnson mayor, Ray Luna vice mayor

December 13, 2000
Santa Paula City Council

It was out with the old and in with the new at the first meeting of the new City Counci

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesIt was out with the old and in with the new at the first meeting of the new City Council, but one thing that didn’t change was the bitter rift that many had hoped would come to an end with the inclusion of new elected officials who had vowed in their campaigns to unify the council.The Dec. 4th meeting, held at the Community Center to accommodate the large crowd, got off to a bad start with the selection of Mayor and further deteriorated when it came to picking the Vice Mayor.But even before the tussle over council leadership began, a move by Councilwoman Laura Flores Espinosa to allow public comment before the selections was rebuffed as out of order.Newly elected Councilman John Procter jumped in to nominate Espinosa as Mayor, noting his move was not based only because of her “obvious qualifications, but also because I can think of nothing that would better demonstrate. . .newfound spirit of unity and cooperation.” Espinosa, a six year council veteran, has never held the largely ceremonial mayoral post.Procter was told he was out of order as the City Clerk had not opened the nomination. Vice Mayor Don Johnson was nominated by Mayor Rick Cook but after some discussion on just who had been nominated officially first, City Attorney Phil Romney was asked for an opinion. “I don’t know who was nominated first. . .I’d have to go back to the tape,” he noted.Johnson was selected Mayor on a 3-2 vote, including support from council newcomer Ray Luna.“That concludes that bit of irony,” said Cook as he changed seats with Johnson, who then nominated Luna for Vice Mayor.
Espinosa objected, asking why the mayor was conducting the election and not the city clerk and she nominated Procter for the job.The roll call vote was 5-0 for Luna, but Espinosa and Procter as well as some members of the audience believed the vote had been on Procter’s nomination.During public comment, Flo Zakrajshek said, “I can see we’re back down to business as usual, and the people are not going to stand for it. . .each and every one of you takes this job for one purpose, the good of city and not petty arguments or feelings.”Citizens are listed first on the city’s flow chart, said Jess Victoria, and “You can see where the input of any council should be coming from. Citizens are on top, we’re supposed to be in charge.”Martha Harris took the route of unity, noting that as a member of Committee 2000, a citizens’ activist group, members are “eager to work with the city to solve many problems and we will bring ideas to the council in coming months; we look forward to working with you.”“I’ve become accustomed to not expecting much from the council,” said Latino Town Hall President Bob Borrego, and the council is “supposed to represent the entire community. . .” Such representation was not demonstrated by rejecting Espinosa and Procter. “I’m disappointed, you act like a bunch of children. We’re sick and tired of it and deserve better.”Even outgoing City Clerk Victor Salas objected, noting “tonight I was expecting something better and it didn’t come. . .I was a little dismayed at how no common courtesy given to (Espinosa).” Such a lack of courtesy was a “reason I did not return to City Clerk,” he added.“Now that the issues have addressed we need to move forward and do some great things for Santa Paula,” noted Vice Mayor Luna in a written statement. “My vote for Mayor was an easy one to make,” based on Johnson’s experience - he has served as Mayor before - and qualifications as well as the tradition of elevating the Vice Mayor to the post of Mayor. “As long as I am on the council I will work hard to keep this custom of ours,” Luna noted, “and that’s to make sure that the Santa Paula Mayor will come from the position of Vice Mayor.”

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