Oh, Riverbank, nothing's easy is it? If it isn't one thing, it's another that prevents your City Council from reaching and staying at a full complement of five members.
The council is one member short now because the four members were unable to agree on an appointment to replace Richard O'Brien, who was elected mayor in November. They knew the deadline was Feb. 8 because it was mentioned multiple times. And they knew that if they didn't make an appointment within 60 days, they would need to adopt a resolution calling for an election, as several agendas stated.
But the council didn't actually vote to call for that election until its Feb. 11 meeting, one day too late to hold that special election on June 4. Retroactively, they're trying to make the case that, by not appointing someone, an election was automatically called for them.
California Government Code Section 36512 isn't vague. It reads: "If a vacancy occurs in an election office
the council shall, within 60 days from the commencement of the vacancy, either fill the vacancy by appointment or call a special election
(which) shall be held on the next regularly established election date not less than 114 days from the call of the special election."
Note: It doesn't say an election will be called for you. To meet the requirement, the election needed to have been called by Feb. 10.
A council resolution passed Feb. 20 as the city was scrambling to fix this reads, in part, "Whereas, the City Council desired to have the operations of the law of the State of California immediately commence at 12:01 a.m. Feb. 9, 2013."
If elected bodies could make decisions by retroactively stating their desires, perhaps Riverbank could un-buy the Del Rio Theater.
Riverbank hired an attorney to try to persuade the elected county supervisors to basically overrule the decision of the elected county-clerk recorder and registrar of voters, Lee Lundrigan. That isn't a reasonable solution. The supervisors control only the elections office budget. Lundrigan, who is up for election again in 2014, functions independently, and she is obsessive about following the complicated state election laws. Asking her to violate the law is absurd.
County Counsel Jack Doering weighed in, and he stands with Lundrigan, saying that the June 4 election would be invalid and subject to legal challenge. This issue goes to the supervisors Tuesday. Their answer needs to be "no."
Bottom line: Riverbank, you blew it. Someone made a mistake, and instead of owning up to it immediately, city leaders hired an attorney to try to negotiate with the county, as if this was some sort of business deal that could be worked out. The suggestion that Riverbank hire someone else to run the June 4 election doesn't solve the problem. The problem isn't who runs the election; it's that it won't meet the letter of the law to hold it June 4. Who might sue? A losing candidate or some other Riverbank citizen frustrated by the problems there.
Riverbank, you need to reschedule your special election.
Do you want to know something that is easy for everyone and anyone to do? Sign up for the next Love Modesto event on April 27. Sign-ups are being taken to visit convalescent hospitals, rake, sweep, donate blood, crochet, collect food or a myriad of other options. Love Modesto started in 2007 in our town, but it's spread throughout the region, so you can sign up for Love Hughson or Love Turlock or, yes, Love Riverbank. Go to www.lovemodesto.org or to www.loveourcities.org for a complete list of cities.
The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts will begin providing water to farmers this coming week earlier than normal because of the past two months of virtually no rain. So what's finally in the forecast? Rain, although only a 40 percent to 60 percent chance, and probably not enough to significantly help the crops and trees.