Upland Brings In Velto To Fill Council Gap For The Next Two Years

The four-fifths strength Upland City Council on Wednesday selected Planning Commissioner Bill Velto to serve out the remainder of the council term to which Councilwoman Janice Elliott was elected in 2016.
In 2018, Upland held its first by-district council election in its 112-year history. Up for election were the council positions in districts 2, 3 and 4. While her 2016 electoral victory entitled her to remain in the at-large position she held until December 2020, Elliott would not be eligible to seek election to the council the year her term was coming to an end at that point because she is a resident of District 2. Thus, to ensure her continuation in office beyond 2020, she opted to run last year. She defeated her only opponent, Yvette Walker, 4,138 votes or 54.23 percent to 3,492 votes or 45.77. Elliott’s assumption of the District 2 council position necessitated that she resign from the at-large post she held and the council last month resolved to fill that vacuum by appointment. Fifteen people applied for consideration. At a special meeting of the council held on January 7, the city council took a single vote with regard to one of the applicants, former Councilman Glenn Bozar, but deadlocked 2-to-2, failing to come to a consensus. The panel then reduced the field to eight finalists, one of whom, Ralph Cavallo, withdrew before the remaining seven were interviewed at a special board meeting on Wednesday this week, January 16.
That evening, several members of the public weighed in on those seven, who included Velto, Bozar, Shannan Maust, Lois Sicking-Dieter, Carlos Flores, Neil Gerard and Eddie Limbaga.
Jim McJoynt told the council, “This is such an important phase we’re taking care of today, I would like to suggest that today [you hold the beginning of] a multi-tiered interview, at the end of the day you consider reducing the seven candidates down to three and have this held again where it would be easier to really establish what that candidate stands for. I just think this is so important that …a process should be established that we get the top three candidates established so we can come again next week. I know that’s taking a lot of time but the fact is… it is so important we make sure we are getting the correct candidate on the dais.”
Marjorie Benesh said, “I urge you today to vote for Lois [Sicking-Dieter] for the at-large seat on the Upland City Council. She is dedicated, passionate and virtuous. She has the skills to serve on the Upland City Council. If you want to encourage civic engagement and maintain the parks, I urge you to vote for Lois. She will see that she gets these things done. She has the skills. She is an excellent communicator, which means she listens and asks questions.”
Bridget James said, “I am here to remind the council that Upland’s citizens’ right to vote on their choice for a sitting council member has been taken from them yet again. It is not a democracy for representatives to choose a representative for us. If it wasn’t for the right to vote, none of you would be sitting on this dais right now. I am asking to choose our own representative for this vacant, at-large seat, a seat that should be chosen by us, the voters. We are entitled to a vote, now, and the only people denying us the right to vote is the current council. This process of candidate applications has been flawed from the inception, when, with seven minutes of little or no discussion on December 10, you three decided to take our right to vote away. You deny us our constitutionally protected rights.”
Sylvia Yan praised Sicking-Dieter as a “big believer in developing youth leadership. Lois has very impressive professional skills and experience. As an engineer and registered nurse, she is very data driven, logical, patient, with care about others no matter your age, background and nationalities. I strongly believe Lois is the one to put aboard to make Upland the best city in which to live. Support Lois Sicking. She won’t let you down.”
Barbara Poppa said, “The two new members and Janice are the voters’ vision for Upland’s future. We want someone who will align themselves with this vision. If you are unable to select someone today, and you hold a special election, it will take time we don’t have and cost taxpayers money.” The council needed to be composed of “workhorses who will work for us, not showhorses guided by special interests,” Poppa said. “Glenn Bozar is the logical and prudent choice. He is the only one who has been a former councilman for Upland. He has proven himself to be true to the residents and financially astute. He has no support from special interests.”
Jim Thomas said, “Knowing you carry the responsibility of doing what is best for all of Upland, I strongly encourage you to make a selection and necessary appointment as soon as possible. Deferring to a city election would be a very poor citywide expense for this very short term appointment.”
If no consensus formed, Thomas said, “Rather than holding fast to the one and only right person in your individual minds, collective compromise of another well-qualified-enough individual that would meet the requirements would be preferred and would avoid a costly city election, which would make the very short tenure of this appointment even much shorter.”
Terry Dean said she is all for Lois Sicking-Dieter. “This is not a difficult question,” said Dean. “There is no need for a special election. I have a question to ask of you: ‘How is it that Lois Dieter is not the best qualified candidate?’ I look forward to hearing your answer.”
Toval Hoching said that the city could not go wrong with Carlos Flores. “He has taught us a culture of service, to just go in there and serve and don’t think about ourselves,” said Hoching. “Because of the quality of the type of guy that he is and leader that he is, I hope you guys vote for him. He’s a great guy.”
Linda Russell said, “We know you are under a lot of pressure to go one way or another way. We just hope you will be able to interview people and ask the questions that are important to you and not only sense the answers that people give but sense the attitude and the heart with which they give those answers, because you need someone on the council who will work with all four of you. That will help support you and reunite our city. I personally think that Lois Sicking would do a great job. I also think that Bill Velto would.”
Karen May called for “a neutral process that is fair to all the candidates, based on a criteria that everyone agrees on ahead of time so its not decided after the fact how people are going to be evaluated.”
Dave Montoya said he always admired Upland and had come there to live but said, “It’s pretty clear this town’s in bad shape. I know that those of you guys who are elected are trying to do your best, but actually I don’t agree with either solution.”
Montoya told the council that the position should simply be left vacant. “The special election will cost too much for the taxpayers in a city that needs every dollar and cent,” Montoya said. “Appointing someone without the will of the voters is also undemocratic, in my view. I think you guys should work together until we have another election and be able to work in that time for the people that elected you to these positions.”
City Attorney James Markman said state law will not allow the position to remain vacant, and that it had to be filled either by appointment or election.
Steven Morris said the 2018 election was the “dirtiest in Upland history.” He said the Upland Coalition of Concerned Citizens group was a “cabal. Two people on the council are part of the Upland Coalition of Concern Citizens.” He said council candidates Glenn Bozar and Shannan Maust were also members of Coalition of Upland Concerned Citizens. Furthermore, he said, Bozar was associated with the Pattison family, which he implied was a disqualifier in and of itself. He referred to Councilwoman Janice Elliott as “self serving Janice.” He said she commented “inappropriately about city business on Facebook.” He said Janice Elliott is in favor of appointing Bozar and that Bozar was not qualified to be a member of the council because in 2010 he sued a contractor who did work on his house and did not prevail in the lawsuit.
Steve Bierbaum said he did not believe “having a special election for a position that will last less than two years, costing thousands and thousands of dollars” would be wise. “Money paid for an election now in the middle of a fiscal year where it sounds like we don’t have a lot of money I don’t think would be a good choice,” Bierbaum said. He said he was a member of the Upland Coalition of Concern Upland Citizens, and that those participating in the group were “people concerned about the city they live in.”
David Wade said, “I would ask you please not to make a decision on the spur of the moment today. Digest this, call for a meeting and come up and tell us what’s going on. I think the citizens deserve you guys to really go over everything that is said and deliberate.” He indicated that Steve Morris was being too harsh. Wade noted that he was himself the administrator of a social media site devoted to Upland called “Upland Politics.” Wade said, “The good, bad and the ugly happens. It is hard to police these things. There’s a lot of trash talk on there [on his and other social media sites]. You guys need to hire the best person. I heard conversation of this going to a vote. That’s ridiculous. You have people on a list that you agree on. There’s at least one [qualified] person on that list. This should not go to a vote before we do some fiscal things around here like fix my alley, fix my friends’ alleys. Work on the infrastructure. We don’t need to waste money on a vote where by the time it happens there will be a year and a few months of it.”
April McCormick offered her perspective that the 2016 Upland municipal race was far dirtier than the 2018 contest, and she referenced a political action committee expenditure of $24,000 to send a hit piece targeting Glen Bozar when he was running against current Mayor Debbie Stone. That mailer utilized quotes from the same lawsuit Bozar had brought against a contractor alleged to have done inadequate work on his home which Morris had referenced, McCormick said. Had the political action committee not interceded with the hit piece, McCormick opined, “in Glenn’s race in the few weeks before the general election in 2016, he’d be the mayor right now. That’s just my personal opinion.” Furthermore, she said, if the 2016 mayor reelection were held today, Bozar would prevail.
“We don’t have any money for a special election,” McCormick said. “I would urge the members of the new council to realize that Glenn takes a lot of heat the same way that the three of you took a lot of heat before this election. That’s because he represents everything that the outgoing establishment was not, and they went out because the public looked at the situation and said, ‘This is absolutely despicable. We’re not going to stand for it anymore and come hell or high water there is going to be change.’”
McCormick said the council needed to make a timely decision, and that if it did not, a recall effort would ensue.
“If the decision cannot be made by the February 8 deadline, this goes to a special election,” McCormick said. “I think whoever causes it to go to a special election will be in the special election, as well.”
After some discussion with regard to procedure, the seven candidates were heard from. Councilman Rudy Zuñiga, who replaced establishment candidate, incumbent Councilwoman Carol Timm, in the November 6, 2018 race for District 4 council member, and Councilwoman Elliott supported Bozar as their first choice.
Elliott said Bozar presented the advantage of having extensive experience in his role as council member from 2012 until 2016. She said, “Somebody who’s brand new to the council would take some time to get up to speed.”
Moreover, she said, “He was my behind-the-scenes mentor for the past two years.” She said both Felix and Zuñiga could rely on him to orient them with regard to a multitude of issues that will confront them in office.
Elliott asserted that Bozar had impeccable credentials as a taxpayer advocate who had demonstrated his commitment to the residents by taking the city to court twice over tax issues and prevailing. She said Upland needs a financial watchdog and that there was no one better for the role than Bozar.
Mayor Debbie Stone, who defeated Bozar in the 2016 election, did not appear inclined toward supporting him in the least. Stone, who has a reputation among many of the region’s elected officials with whom she she serves on joint powers and shared authority boards as being somewhat dimwitted and intellectually challenged herself, referred to Bozar as “shortsighted.”
Felix appeared to have been wound up against Bozar as well, and he revealed in his discussion of the issue that he considered the city’s employees to be one of his own crucial constituencies.
“He’s very knowledgeable,” Felix said of Bozar. “He’s very intelligent. I respect that about him But the quality he does not possess is respectful (sic).”
Zuñiga confronted Felix on that assessment, asking him if Felix had himself been personally disrespected by Bozar. Felix said that when he ran for city council in 2016, he had consulted with Bozar, who told him he needed to get a campaign consultant. “That spoke volumes,” said Felix. Zuñiga pointed out that Bozar was at that point involved in his own mayoral campaign and that what Bozar had done was give him good advice.
Zuñiga asked Felix if he had ever himself been personally disrespected by Bozar. Felix said he had not, but that others had told him about occasions when Bozar had been disrespectful.
“You’re running off of secondhand information and that’s what you’re going with,” said Zuñiga.
Felix then changed tack in explaining his opposition to Bozar.
“He’s a great guy,” Felix said, but added, “Right now our employees – their morale is at an all-time low. Our employees, I feel, would not be very content with having Glenn Bozar there. He was here two years ago and he felt the employees were already overpaid. We’re in labor negotiations right now. We’re at an impasse. We can’t have someone who is going to divide the council or is gonna divide our staff with our city manager. We need a more positive person.”
Felix was further dismissive of Bozar’s status as a taxpayer advocate and stated that Upland doesn’t need a financial watchdog. He said he would not budge on Bozar.
Elliott and Zuñiga were unable to drum up the requisite third vote for Bozar.
The council then considered Sicking-Dieter, the former chairwoman of the Upland Parks and Recreation Committee, and Neil Gerard, the vice president of the Upland Community Foundation, but again only Elliott and Zuñiga voted for them.
The fourth effort by the council to arrive at an acceptable candidate involved Velto, who was a first choice of both Stone and Felix.
Elliott then joined with the mayor and Felix in supporting Velto.
After the meeting, Elliott said, “I have known Bill for the last two years and have been impressed by his congeniality, sense of humor, intelligence, knowledge of Upland, knowledge of land use, and work ethic. I don’t know him well enough to address his position on critical issues pertaining to Upland but his responses to our questions really impressed me. Rudy does not know Bill and had less confidence than I did about Bill’s contribution to our future meetings.”
Elliott said she understood that there would be some who were displeased with the outcome of the selection process. She said that despite that, “Our new city council will continue to need your support, inspiration, ideas, and perspectives on issues. Please be patient and kind,” she asked.
-Mark Gutglueck

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