John Valdivia’s progress toward political primacy in San Bernardino, which has already encountered a set of setbacks, was confronted with the most serious rebuff yet with indications earlier this month that his closest council ally over the last four years has defected to the other side of the city’s political divide.
Valdivia was elected to the city council in 2011, defeating then Third District Councilman Tobin Brinker, 826, votes or 69.24 percent to 367 votes or 30.76 percent, in an election in which only 7.7 percent of voters participated. San Bernardino was under the gun financially at that time. Led by then-Mayor Patrick Morris, municipal officials were seeking to come to grips with a circumstance in which personnel costs were consuming more than 91 percent of the city’s budget, and 68 percent by the police and fire departments. Brinker had endorsed Morris’s approach of reducing city staff salaries and benefits in an effort to right the city’s listing financial ship. But that approach had gotten crosswise of the city’s powerful public safety employees’ unions – the San Bernardino Police Officers Association and the San Bernardino Firefighters Association – which were alarmed at the call by Morris, Brinker, Councilman Fred Shorett and then-Councilman Rikke Van Johnson to freeze the pay of firefighters and police officers.
Valdivia was able to soundly defeat Brinker, principally as a consequence of the support he was provided by the police and firefighters’ unions. This left him disinclined to support the austerity measures favored by Morris. Unable to stem the city’s continued deficit spending because of the commitments to the city’s public safety unions, Morris and then-City Manager Charles McNeeley found themselves in the unenviable circumstance of having to seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. McNeeley, with the assistance of then-assistant city manager Andrea Travis-Miller prepared the filing, and then, in an effort to salvage his once-illustrious career as a public administrator and prevent his name from being associated with the debacle, resigned as city manager before the filing was actually made in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Riverside in August 2012.
The following year, in April 2013, San Bernardino Residents For Responsible Government, claiming the city’s bankruptcy filing as motivation, launched an effort to qualify a recall vote against Morris, then-City Attorney Jim Penman and then-Councilwoman Wendy McCammack, Shorrett, Van Johnson, Valdivia, then-Councilwoman Virginia Marquez, Councilman Robert Jenkins, and Councilman Chas Kelley.
Eventually, the group called an end to its effort against Morris, who had announced he was not seeking reelection in that year’s November election. It also discontinued the campaigns against Jenkins, Marquez and Shorrett, who were scheduled to seek reelection in that November’s election. It dropped the campaign against Van Johnson as well. It did proceed with the call to let voters decide on removing Kelley, Valdivia, McCammack and Penman, but failed to collect sufficient signatures to continue with the recall effort against Kelley. Curiously, the group had not targeted San Bernardino Treasurer David Kennedy, despite the claim that the recall effort’s genesis stemmed from the city’s bankruptcy filing.
That November, the recall effort against Penman and McCammack succeeded. Valdivia, however, with the backing of the public safety unions, comfortably staved off the effort to remove him from office with 705 voters or 62.33 percent voting against his recall and 426 or 37.67 percent supporting his removal.
McCammack, despite having been recalled by the voters she represented in the city’s Seventh Ward, was the top vote-getter among ten candidates seeking the mayoralty, who included her council colleagues Van Johnson and Kelley, as well as a perennial candidate for local and state public office, Henry Nickel, qualifying her for a run-off early in 2014 against political newcomer Carey Davis, the runner-up. Kelley had withdrawn from the mayor’s race before it took place, having been felled by the filing of criminal charges against him relating to his misuse of campaign funds. Kelley resigned from his position on the council as well. Nevertheless, he still received 587 votes or 4.87 percent, which was more than two of the others in the ten-candidate race. Jenkins, who had been weakened by the filing of criminal charges against him relating to his efforts to hurt his estranged boyfriend, was voted out of office, replaced by one of Valdivia’s future allies, Benito Barrios. McCammack ultimately lost to Carey Davis, who had been endorsed by Morris.
In 2014, after some early contretemps involving incoming Mayor Davis’s choice of a chief of staff in which he found himself at odds with virtually all of the council, two factions on the council formed when Davis resigned himself to accepting that his choice as chief of staff, Michael McKinney, who had coordinated his mayoral campaign, just wasn’t going to fly. Davis, who was yet governing under the terms of the city’s 1905 municipal charter, was in charge, with the support of Shorett, Van Johnson, Marquez and Councilman Jim Mulvihill, who had been elected in 2013 as the replacement for McCammack following her recall. Valdivia, who found himself aligned with Nickel and Barrios, was overwhelmed by both the political muscle of the opposing faction and the structure of government.
Under San Bernardino’s municipal charter which was first put in place in 1905 and was yet in place 109 years later, the mayor held both political and administrative sway. The mayor presided over council meetings, wielding the gavel and controlled the ebb and flow of discussion and debate. The mayor had the authority to on his own initiative put any matter on the council agenda for discussion and action. And while the mayor did not have a vote under normal circumstances, he or she was eligible to vote to break a tie. Moreover, the mayor had veto power on any 4-to-3 votes or 3-to-2 votes. This meant, in actuality, that on any issues where the voting did not lopsidedly go against the position the mayor held, he or she actually possessed two votes. In addition to the mayor’s political reach, however, the position was an uncommonly strong one in terms of managerial authority. Indeed, the mayor and city manager were co-managerial regents, such that the mayor had the authority to hire and fire city personnel, or at least have final say-so in virtually all hiring or firing, including that of the city manager and department heads and lower city employees.
Davis, in some measure was being advised by Morris, and he was intent on pushing to fruition some of the reforms that Morris had outlined, including reducing the drain on city finances represented by the high salaries and benefits provided to the city’s public safety employees. A snag in this regard was a provision – known as Section 186 – put into the municipal charter by means of a citywide vote in 1939. Section 186 required that policemen and firemen be paid on a scale equal to the average pay of police officers and firefighters in ten similarly-sized California cities. Davis and the council majority, as well as their backers, wanted to dispense with Section 186. In 2014, they put a voter initiative, Measure Q, on the ballot. Measure Q would have erased the requirement that the pay scale be prorated to the pay scales offered to firefighters and police officers elsewhere and would have freed the city to adjust remuneration of the safety employees through the collective bargaining process. With Valdivia in strong opposition and the firefighters and police officers associations spending heavily to defeat it, Measure Q did not pass.
To offset the suggestions from Davis’s faction that Valdivia and his cohorts were not representing the citizens of the city but rather the city’s employees, Valdivia reinvented himself, fashioning his persona in the mold of Nickel, as a financial watchdog. Where he sensed he could do so, Valdivia at council meetings would insist on analyzing, often at length and in exacting detail, routine items that had come before the elected body, parsing the accompanying staff report, examining the expenditure or expenditures relating thereto, making staff justify each layout, as if he were determined to show that by being parsimonious on the elements of the city’s budget relating to the roughly 32 percent of the spending on non-safety related municipal operations, significant enough savings could be wrung to make up for maintaining the city’s generosity toward its police officers and firefighters, who returned the favor by endowing his campaign fund with enough money to ensure that he would ward off any serious competitors. At the same time, the police and fire unions assisted him in his efforts on their behalf by repeating the constant refrain that the city was not being generous enough in terms of police and firefighter salaries, to the point that the city was constantly losing talented and dedicated professionals to other departments. Meanwhile, Valdivia and Nickel were drawing ever closer together.
2015 and 2016 would be critical years for Valdivia in terms of his political advancement, involving four major and two minor developments. As it would turn out, four of those went his way. Two did not. Figuring there were at least two ways to skin the same cat, the council majority in the aftermath of the failure of Measure Q moved to simply close out its fire department and leave the firefighting and provision of emergency medical service to the county fire department. With Valdivia virtually howling in protest, Davis outmaneuvered him and had a majority of the city council vote to shutter the 137-year-old municipal fire department and annex the entire city into a county fire service zone, to include a $147 per year assessment on each parcel owner to defray costs, and have the county fire department move into the city’s firehouses and man them with its personnel and inherit the city’s existing firetrucks and ambulances. To anyone that protested, Davis and his faction offered the justification that the city could simply not sustain, nor would the bankruptcy court countenance, the continued expense of paying the city’s 40 top-ranking firefighters $197,000 a year, the next 40 $166,000 per year and the next 40 $130,000 per year. Despite Valdivia’s opposition, in one fell swoop, Davis had managed to deprive Valdivia of one of the most significant political donors that Valdivia possessed – the San Bernardino Firefighters Association – which ceased existence with the closure of the fire department.
With the November 2015 election, Valdivia did well for himself. He was elected outright, with no opposition. Nickel handily won reelection over a single opponent, Brian Davidson. And prior to the election, Van Johnson had opted out of running altogether. In his place, Bessine Littlefield Richard scratched her way to the top of a field of four, with Roxanne Williams capturing second place. Richard then beat Williams in the run-off in February 2016. Ultimately, Richard would emerge as a strong Valdivia ally on the council, providing him with a tenuous leadership hold on the elected body. When the council’s leadership rotation was considered that year, Nickel nominated Valdivia as mayor pro tem. With the backing of Richard and Barrios, Valdivia then acceded into the role of what is essentially vice-mayor.
Later that year, after preliminary discussions that had begun in 2015, the council brought forward a charter reform proposal. In addition to transitioning the city attorney and city clerk positions from elected to appointed ones, the centerpiece of the new charter as proposed was to drastically reduce the power of the mayor. In what manifested as a notable irony, Mayor Davis was the strongest advocate of reducing the mayor position’s sway and reach, while his rival, Valdivia, was the strongest advocate on the council of keeping the mayor’s position a strong one. Davis’s rationale ran along the same lines as everyone advocating for the change: a strong-mayor form of government was an anachronism, one that was counterproductive and antithetical to the modern conception of a council/city manager form of government where the council provides vision and decisions on policy, much like a board of directors, and the city manager executes that policy efficiently and with dispatch, much like a combined chief executive officer/chief operating officer. The arrangement under the 1905 charter provided an inefficient arrangement, critics of the charter maintained, whereby too many people were in charge with too much authority so that no one was in charge with the unfettered and clear mandate to act. According to Davis and his supporters, the 1905 charter was at least partially to blame for the malaise that had led to the city’s bankruptcy. Thus Davis was advocating that he personally give up much of the power he possessed, a rare attitude among politicians. Valdivia, on the other hand, wanted the overarching authority that had been vested in the mayor to remain in place because he coveted it for himself. His intent was to run for mayor in 2017, having reached an understanding with Nickel that Nickel would stand down and not repeat his 2013 mayoral candidacy that year. The full council sans Valdivia, however, including Nickel, had signed onto the charter reform effort and the matter was placed before voters in the 2016 election. Among a slew of minor and lesser changes, the new charter, greatly attenuating the mayor’s power and moving the city’s election cycle from odd-numbered to even-numbered years, was overwhelmingly passed by the voters, with 27,478 or 60.57 percent in favor and 17,890 or 39.43 percent opposed.
One practical effect of the charter’s passage was to effectively extend the terms of the mayor and all of the members of the council by roughly three-quarters of a year in making the odd-numbered year to even-numbered year transition. It 2018, Valdivia moved to challenge Davis, along with five others – City Clerk Georgeann Hanna, School Board Member Danny Tillman, Daniel Malmuth, Rick Avila, and Karmel Rowe. Simultaneously, Nickel tossed his hat in the ring, vying for higher office as well, seeking election to the California Assembly in the 40th District.
Though local offices in California are considered to be nonpartisan, in many places throughout the state, and in San Bernardino County in particular, party affiliation is a very strong factor in local races. At least since the 1960s, the Republican Party has been dominant in San Bernardino County. At the time of Ronald Reagan’s 1966 gubernatorial victory, the Republican Party enjoyed a significant voter registration advantage over the Democratic Party in San Bernardino County. That numerical supremacy would last until 2009, at which point the number of voters registered as Democrats eclipsed the number of voters registered as Republicans throughout the county, a reflection of the wider trend in California as a whole. Nevertheless, throughout San Bernardino County right up to the present, the number of Republican officeholders countywide is greater than elected officials affiliated with the Democrats. At present, in 17 of San Bernardino County’s 24 cities, a majority of the council members are Republican and on the county board of supervisors, four of five of the members are Republicans. Because of greater coordination and a more aggressive use of electioneering resources, the GOP has succeeded in the lion’s share of cases in driving its party members to the polls in greater numbers than the Democrats, and in far greater numbers than the proportion of voters the Republicans represent within the electorate overall in the county. This has been applicable in the City of San Bernardino despite the overwhelming registration numbers in favor of Democrats. At present, of the city’s 93,318 voters, 44,535 or 47.7 percent are registered Democrats. Those registered as Republicans in San Bernardino number 21,118 or 22.6 percent, fewer than half of those registered as Democrats. Indeed, in San Bernardino, those with no party affiliation, 22,955 or 24.6 percent, outnumber Republicans. Consequently, as the June 2018 primary election approached, both Hanna and Tillman, who were elected office holders registered as Democrats, appeared to enjoy an advantage over both Valdivia and Davis, who are both Republicans. Despite those partisan considerations, after the votes from all 178 of the city’s precincts were tallied, Valdivia and Davis claimed the more than half of the votes between them, with Valdivia capturing 6,747 votes or 35.75 percent and Davis polling 5,243 votes or 27.78 percent. Tillman brought in 2,964 votes or 15.71 percent, and Hanna finished in fifth with 1,324 votes or 7.02 percent, just behind Avila’s 1,414 votes or 7.49 percent.
Both Valdivia and Davis exhibited a greater degree of electioneering sophistication than any of their opponents. While both made no secret of their Republican affiliation when appealing to the city’s Republican voters, neither mentioned their party affiliation in the mailers sent, or handbills provided, to the city’s Democratic voters. And both were far more energetic in their campaign activity, enabled by the substantial donations to their respective campaign war chests. In the November runoff between the incumbent Davis and the upstart councilman challenger, Valdivia carried a substantial advantage in to the November 6 balloting, as 65 percent of the city’s population identifies itself as Latino or Hispanic. In the early returns on election night, Davis jumped out to a slight lead, but as more and more precincts reported, Valdivia pulled ahead and then widened his lead, ultimately capturing the mayoralty 19,155 votes or 52.51 percent to Davis’s 17,327 votes or 47.49 percent. In the same election, the Republican Nickel was roundly defeated by the independently wealthy Democrat James Ramos in the 40th Assembly District race, 77,585 or 59.53 percent to 52,746 or 40.47 percent.
Also elected in November was Valdivia ally Sandra Ibarra, to San Bernardino’s Second Ward council position, and Theodore Sanchez, Valdivia’s cousin, to San Bernardino’s First Ward council position. Reelected in November was Shorett in the city’s Fourth Ward.
Thus, when Valdivia and the remainder of those elected were sworn into office on December 19, Valdivia looked to be in clear command of the city politically, with the council populated by four members whose votes he could count on – Nickel, Richard, Ibarra and Sanchez – and his political opponents – Shorett and Jim Mulvihill – limited to two. Moreover, the prospect was good that his replacement in the city’s Third Ward would be someone, if not of his choosing, than of his liking.
But with the mayoral post now limited in its authority by the charter change, Valdivia began casting about for a way to reestablish both the reach and grasp of the office. In a deft wielding of what power he continues to possess, Valdivia induced City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller to present at the January 2 council meeting what was essentially his proposal to appropriate up to $242,000 from the general fund reserve into the current fiscal year budget to pay for establishing six new positions in the office of the mayor through June 30 in addition to the three existing full-time positions in the mayor’s office already budgeted at $305,692 annually. The six new posts were projected to carry with them an annual cost of $483,000 over the full course of 12 months, thus endowing the mayor with $747,692 to employ within his office a chief of staff, two mayoral assistants and six field representatives.
The council was on track that evening to confer upon Valdivia the staffing augmentation he had requested through Travis-Miller’s presentation, conditional upon the council retaining for its various members a staff of four to serve as field representatives, such that in the offices of the mayor and council there would be a combined staffing level of 13. Despite protests from Shorett and Mulvihill that a combined staff of 13 was excessive, a motion to do just that had been made by Nickel and seconded by Richard, which appeared to have sufficient votes – those of Ibarra, Sanchez, Nickel and Richard – to pass.
At that point, City Attorney Gary Saenz requested that before the vote was taken, the city’s contract deputy assistant city attorney, Sonia Carvalho, address whether infusing into the mayor’s office that level of support staff was consistent with the city charter. Carvalho said that the council might not have the authority to directly employ or supervise city staff members under the charter or in the city’s municipal code, though, she acknowledged, there was no explicit ban on doing so, either.
The delay before the vote on Nickel’s motion afforded Councilman Mulvihill time to formulate and then offer a substitute motion, which under Roberts Rules of Order takes precedence over a preceding, original motion. Mulvihill’s motion called for giving direction to the city manager to look into the creation of staff positions intended to give “more attention to the city council in terms of filling out their duties, as well as the mayor, in conjunction, not in the mayor’s office per se, but shared” as a legislative body and report back at the next council meeting with structures that could be implemented for the creation of a council/mayoral staff including field reps, a receptionist and a communications director within the parameters of the city charter and the law. That motion was seconded by Shorett. The council then voted 5-to-1 in favor of the motion, with Sanchez voting no.
At the council’s January 16 meeting, the concept of the mayoral staff was moved ahead to the February 6 council meeting. By that point, however, there appeared to have been a slight shift in Nickel’s stance. He more strongly emphasized the need for the staff to be added to be answerable to the mayor and council as a whole rather than exclusively to the mayor.
“I think at best our current staffing structure is outdated and at worst it is largely inadequate in terms of meeting the needs of our constituents,” Nickel said. “I think we have a rather significant caseload we have to deal with on a regular basis and I think to be fair to the constituents, to provide that level of service that they rightly deserve and demand, we need to ensure we have the most efficient operations possible within our legislative operations in the city. I also got a lot of feedback from my own constituents, other individuals, residents of the city that wanted to ensure that we stick within our budget, that we maintain fiscal discipline. The old architecture was one that separated the city council from the mayor’s office. The new charter, approved by the voters of the city, is one that looks at, actually uses, the term collaborate. Based on that, I incorporated a lot of those recommendations to create a collaborative structure now that would still retain staff within the mayor’s office. I think the mayor still needs his or her own staff. I think the duties and responsibilities of the mayor under the new charter are such that it’s a full-time job. The charter specifies that. The mayor certainly needs to ensure he or she still has that full-time staff, but then looking at the additional staff that can also serve the council, looking at a structure that is, in fact collaborative, that ensures the mayor and the council are truly working together to meet the needs of constituents in the city.”
At one point, Valdivia gave indication that he was willing to share the hiring of staff with the mayor pro tem and one selected member of the council.
Nickel proposed that the staff be restructured “in a way that retains two full-time staff and one part-time staff under the mayor – directly under the mayor – answerable to the mayor’s chief of staff, and then creates a new legislative director position that then oversees two additional full-time staff that are shared between the mayor and council, and we’re calling that the legislative staff. And then there would be up to four part-time entry level field representatives that would work within that legislative staff structure, as well. That really gives some of our young people an opportunity to get engaged in the city, start serving their community, and get paid for it. I think that’s really a system we should encourage. I think what this was about was coming to a compromise position that ensured we retained fiscal responsibility. We still gave the mayor the independence he or she needs to serve as the mayor and serve out those duties but then looked at the remainder of the staff that are currently separated, and literally sit only about fifty or so feet apart, how we can bring them together, create a collaborative model.” The legislative director would be selected, Nickel said, by the mayor, the mayor pro tem and a single member of the council at large. The council would steer clear of the selection of the chief of staff, Nickel said, such that the hiring of the chief of staff “would be solely at the discretion of the mayor. The mayor should and historically has had the ability to choose that person.”
Both Shorett and Mulvihill were ready to back Nickel’s proposal.
For Valdivia, what Nickel was seeking involved too much compromise.
Richard said she “sorely disagreed” with what Nickel was proposing because it entailed “too many chiefs and not enough Indians. What you’re creating is two chiefs and if we’re going to be one body we need one chief. Everybody needs to report to one person instead of this group reporting to this group, and this group reporting to this group. When you start creating too many chiefs, that’s where the confusion comes in. The legislative director and the chef of staff are going to eventually start butting heads.”
Richard then moved to approve a revamped version of the mayor’s original proposal which was reduced from four full-time benefited position to two part-time positions. That motion was seconded by Sanchez.
Discussion followed in which Mulvihill suggested that the entirety of the current staff essentially be terminated, including Valdivia’s hand-picked chief of staff, Bilal Essayli, and that those hirings be subject to scrutiny by the human resources division as opposed to the mayor.
When Richard said that her motion still stood, Nickel leapt to the fore and tried to make a substitute motion. Valdivia brought that up short, pointing out that Richard’s motion was actually a substitute motion to one earlier made by Shorett, insisting that the vote on Richard’s motion be taken. Nickel, however, apparently upset at Valdivia’s unwillingness to meet him halfway, insisted on proceeding with a substitute motion. At that point Nickel had reversed course, indicating he was unwilling to maintain the mayor’s historical autonomy in choosing the chief of staff. “I think the chief of staff position needs to be selected by the mayor and council collectively,” Nickel declared. “I would only make that modification to the motion as it exists, but I think my understanding is the chief of staff position is exclusively under the discretion of the mayor. That is not consistent with the charter. That is not consistent with the collaborative relationship between the council and mayor. I would be willing to entertain the motion on the floor, so long as the chief of staff is a position that is selected by the mayor and council, collectively. Would the mayor pro tem be amenable to that friendly amendment?”
“I am not supportive of the substitute motion by Councilman Nickel,” said Valdivia.
“Would the mayor pro tem be amenable to that friendly amendment,” Nickel persisted, “and be willing to entertain the selection of the chief of staff as a collaborative responsibility of the mayor and council together?”
Richard responded, “No, because I believe that the mayor is entitled to pick his own chief of staff.”
“I will be leaving the room,” said Nickel. “Thank you.”
As Nickel left, Shorett joined him. As Valdvia sought to move the remaining members of the council toward a vote on Richard’s motion, Mulvihill stood up and exited the room as well. At that point, with the council at only three-sevenths strength, it lacked a quorum and no vote could be taken.
After a brief recess, Valdivia returned to the meeting chambers and announced that the meeting was over due to a lack of a quorum and the remainder of the agenda was not dealt with.
To address that unfinished business, the council held a special meeting on Monday February 11. At that time, the council took up the mayoral and council staffing proposal. With Shorett dissenting, the entire council at that meeting agreed to augment the mayor’s office with two part-time field representatives and a full-time receptionist to the mayor’s office. The council’s action did not provide the mayor with the six more full time personnel he had sought, including a communications director.
From his body language and tone, it was clear that Valdivia is miffed with Nickel.
Last week, Nickel spoke with the Sentinel, denying that there was ever an alliance between him and the mayor.
“John and I have and will continue to have a good working relationship, as I have with all my colleagues,” said Nickel. “While I truly consider our mayor a personal friend, I have not and will never agree to an ‘alliance’ or voting as a ‘block,’ as has plagued our city government in the past. Where John and I tend to align is our zealous advocacy for our constituents. I will always listen to and put the interests of constituents first, as I believe John has largely done to his credit. Where John and I have deviated – as was the case with the assessment of alternative fire services, supporting a new city charter, the termination and severance of city managers and tow services contracts among other significant decisions – largely relates to the adherence to the charter and budget. Speaking only for myself, my decision-making process is fairly straightforward in order of importance: ‘Is it consistent with majority constituent support? Is it consistent with the charter and good governance? Is it consistent with the budget?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ I will not support.”
Nickel said, “I believe the mayor as chair of the council should aim for consensus as often as possible. It is my belief that failing to achieve at least five of seven council member votes constitutes failed deliberation, poor chairmanship and is likely bad policy. Furthermore, while it would be in some ways preferable to make my initial position on decisions known prior to a council meeting, the Brown Act prevents it.”
The Brown Act is California’s open public meeting law which restricts issues relating to public policy from being discussed by a quorum of the members of an elected board in anything other than a pre-noticed public hearing.
“Furthermore, if a mayor coordinates a decision with a majority of council members, the decision is likely unlawful,” said Nickel. “I would hope this has not happened. If so, the consequences could be severe for those involved. The only way to work through to compromise on contentious items is for the council to deliberate in open session to ideally achieve a minimum five vote consensus, as it should be. This is significantly hindered by limiting council discussion time which is why I also voted against the mayor’s five minute limit on council member time for deliberation at the February 6 city council meeting.
“All that said, I do respect the mayor’s role as stipulated in our city charter and will adhere to all decisions made in accordance with it, with or without a preferable five-vote consensus,” Nickel continued. “A good negotiator knows that a rushed non-consensus decision often indicates we may be careening toward bad policy. In that circumstance, it may be necessary to push away from the table and walk away to avoid a bad deal. There is nothing unlawful about this. At times it may indeed be warranted should a mayor as chair fail to seek consensus in favor of a quick, albeit potentially Pyrrhic, victory. Simply put, consistent 3-to-3 tie votes broken by the mayor are not healthy. They contribute to perceived if not actual instability.”
Nickel said, “I support the mayor and my fellow council members through stable consensus-driven local government. This is essential to attracting investment, new businesses and quality residents while providing essential world class city services. By ‘walking to the balcony’ and intentionally slowing down the decision, we permitted more time for deliberation and consideration of creative options on the mayor’s proposal. In the end I believe we achieved a better result, as the consensus 5-to-1 vote on the final modified compromise proposal at the February 11 special council meeting indicates.”
Nickel said, “In many ways therefore, my maneuver may have been as beneficial to John as mayor as it was to the process. Bottom line, I believe we have an opportunity for tremendous collective success through stable consensus based governance. I will remain committed to this objective.”
John Valdivia’s progress toward political primacy in San Bernardino, which has already encountered a set of setbacks, was confronted with the most serious rebuff yet with indications earlier this month that his closest council ally over the last four years has defected to the other side of the city’s political divide.