City v. county politics upstaged cooperation for the general welfare Wednesday as Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission members deadlocked – and then refused to budge – in a crucial vote to determine its own composition.
The result: no decision yet on a new commissioner representing the public at large.
Unable to agree on either former Hughson Mayor Matt Beekman or former Modesto planning commissioner Pat Gillum, LAFCO members reopened an application period in hopes of attracting new candidates, and they expect to resume the selection process at a May 24 meeting.
The 2-2 stalemate occurred on party-line votes, so to speak, with County Supervisors Terry Withrow and Jim DeMartini favoring Beekman, and city representatives Mike Van Winkle and Tom Dunlop, respectively of Waterford and Oakdale, preferring Gillum.
“We’re in a dead heat here,” observed Withrow when it became evident that no one would change his mind.
It’s a balance between the needs of both (farmland preservation and city growth).
Brad Hawn, former Modesto councilman
Some audience members saw Wednesday’s meeting as a chance for Beekman to return to public service after a well-publicized dismissal at the hands of his fellow mayors. A 5-4 majority of mayors throughout the county in 2015 removed him as their city representative to LAFCO when he favored a formula for valuing fees paid to preserve farmland elsewhere when a city sacrifices farmland for growth. Among other duties, LAFCOs rule on requests for city annexations.
“This is your opportunity to correct that transgression,” said Lani Turner of Wood Colony, west of Modesto.
“(Beekman) is a man of integrity and conviction,” said Turlock’s Jeani Ferrari, a longtime farmland preservation advocate.
I would help you to discourage sprawl, and to preserve open space and farmland.
Pat Gillum, former Modesto planning commissioner
Gillum, who ran for Modesto City Council two years ago, said, “I would help you to discourage sprawl, and to preserve open space and farmland.”
Beekman focused on his experience, not only on Stanislaus LAFCO but also with the California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. That group honored him in 2015 after he defied marching orders of the county’s other mayors.
“It’s important that I address the elephant in the room,” Beekman said, noting “some speculation about my intentions. In no way is this an attempt to be vindictive or to settle scores.”
Whoever is chosen needs to hit the ground running. My experience would indicate that.
Matt Beekman, former Hughson mayor
DeMartini called Beekman “a man of integrity and sound judgment.” But Dunlop said a former office holder is not what he sees when he envisions someone representing the “public” category.
“I’m a little disappointed we don’t have more people willing to serve and bring a fresh look,” said Dunlop, who filled the vacancy created when the mayors dismissed Beekman. Beekman opted not to seek a third term as Hughson’s mayor last year, he said, to devote time to expanding his beekeeping business in North Dakota.
Gillum and Beekman are expected to remain in the running at the May 24 meeting, to be held at 6 p.m. in the basement chamber at Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St., Modesto. Others interested in applying can contact LAFCO on the third floor at Tenth Street Place, 209-525-7660.
Next month’s meeting could feature different players; Van Winkle is the alternate city member, voting only in the absence of the regular city member, Turlock Councilwoman Amy Bublak, who wasn’t at Wednesday’s meeting.
Commissioners did agree on one thing, appointing former Modesto councilman Brad Hawn as the alternate public representative. He had served as the regular public representative until rules forced him from that seat, creating the vacancy that remains unfilled.
“I know this is disappointing for everyone,” Withrow said. “We have two very good candidates. It’s too bad we don’t have consensus.”
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390