Mayor Navarro Removes Woods From RR Committee In Favor Of Toro

With a railroad project on tap for completion on Colton’s west side, Mayor Frank Navarro, over the objection of Fifth District Councilman Jack Woods, displaced Woods from the city’s railroad committee, replacing him with First District Councilman David Toro.
Colton, like three other of San Bernardino County’s 24 cities, is a railroad town. It is named after David Colton, who went to work for the Big Four – Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins – after their company, the Central Pacific Railroad, constructed the westernmost portion of the first transcontinental railroad, which met the Central Pacific Railroad in Promontory, Utah in 1869. Hoping that he might transform the Big Four into the Big Five and become the fifth member of that exclusive fraternity by managing the Central Pacific’s effort to complete the western expanse of Southern Pacific Railroad, David Colton took on the role of vice president of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, while he oversaw the construction of the Southern Pacific Railway. Three years before death found him as a consequence of his being thrown from a horse in 1878, he founded the town of Colton in 1875 as a key stop on the Southern Pacific’s route through the valley on its way eastward from Los Angeles. The City of Colton exists, with San Bernardino, Barstow and Needles, as one of the county’s four original railroad towns. A key element of its landscape are the plentiful railroad bridges throughout its 15.32-square mile expanse, several of which were built a century or more ago, and which would cost a billion of today’s dollars to replicate.
The railroads remain a central element of life in Colton, and so the city council’s railroad committee is both a prestigious and significant body.
At the May 5 meeting, held via teleconferencing without the public present because of precautions taken in the face of the coronavirus crisis, Mayor Navarro announced his intention to appoint Councilman Toro to the city’s railroad committee, in so doing replacing Councilman Woods, who has held a position on that panel for two years.
“I am going to, this evening, make a change to a committee we have here in the City of Colton, which is the Council Railroad Subcommittee. At this committee right now I have appointed Mr. Jack Woods from the Fifth District, and I am going to appoint Mr. David Toro in his stead,” said Navarro. “With that, Mr. Woods, I’d like to say thank you for coming up when we established this committee and raising your hand, but I think it is very important that Mr. Toro does sit on that committee. So, consensus from the council?” the mayor said in opening his proposal up for possible discussion and a vote. There tentatively appeared to be sentiment to go along with the mayor, but before the matter progressed far, technical difficulties ensued, affecting Woods electronic connection, preventing him from responding.
While that glitch was being dealt with by the city’s information technology staff, Councilman Isaac Suchil commended the mayor for making the change “because it’s very important that as we get closer to that facility being closer [sic] that all aspects of the districts that are involved get involved in that discussion.”
Navarro responded, “That’s the idea behind it. In my conversation with Mr. Woods, I told him that in my thought it was important and imperative that Mr. Toro be on that committee because the majority of that project is within his district, and Mr. Toro should be there to get the information first hand, so that he can better be able to answer any questions from his constituents in the district as to what’s going on, what’s going to happen, and take any complaints from his constituents regarding the project.”
Upon Woods’ video and audio connection being fully restored, he said, “I’ve been thinking about the committee realignment because I’ve been on that position for over two years now. I don’t see the necessity in making the change at this time. If there is any information garnered as the result of any committee meetings, any other council member can call any commissioner that’s on there, myself, call the mayor or call Isaac [Suchil] or Dr. G [Luis Gonzalez] and ask for information. It can be related to them, what was discussed, and that information will of course come back to the city council anyway because it would have to go to the city council from the committee. Then they would give action to move whatever the city council decided to the city manager, and he would take action from that point on.”
Wood suggested he was being slighted by the mayor and the council by the move. He said that using the rationale that the rail line improvement project will have a more direct impact on Toro’s First District such that he should be moved onto a committee he was previously uninterested in serving on was suspect. He referenced the way in which the council was willing to entrust to members of the city’s cannabis committee decisions impacting districts in which they do not reside to illustrate his belief that Navarro was being inconsistent with his policy. Assuming that someone would be better equipped to render a decision “just because an issue pertains to one of the council districts” where the appointee resides is a fallacy, Woods asserted.
“It was just like with the marijuana committee,” he said. “That involves every district in the city. If someone has a marijuana process that is going to take place in their district and they’re not on the committee, of course the committee will relate that information to that particular council member. And we could go on from there. That’s why we don’t put everyone on the city council on all these commissions. With that in mind, I’m not in favor of the move. In fact, I look at this as kind of a similarity to the city council opposing me placing my female resident on the planning commission, and the objections that came from that, citing all kinds of reasons which were not accurate, which were misleading.”
Woods’ reference was to his nomination of Gem Montes to the planning commission. Her status as an advocate for the cannabis industry had initially resulted in the city council, in particular Councilman Suchil, who is a retired sheriff’s deputy, resisting her appointment to the land use panel. Eventually the council relented and Montes acceded to a position on the planning commission.
Woods said booting him from the Council Railroad Subcommittee was uncalled for.
“I don’t think it is an appropriate move to make,” he said. “I can’t think of a time when a council member who was on a commission or committee, after being on the committee for in excess of two years, was taken off the committee because somebody else decided as a council member they wanted to be on the committee at that time. I’m not in agreement with the change.”
Navarro said, “Those are comments I will take note of. However, it’s not that I was approached by a council member. It’s the mayor’s decision. According to the MOP [municipal operating procedure], the mayor has authority to place people and move people from committee to committee, and this one here, I definitely want Councilman Toro to be on this committee, as I stated before in the conversation you and I had, because I want him to be there at the forefront when all of this stuff starts coming down, so he is accessible to his constituency for the impacts that are going to be happening in his area. So, that is the main thrust of my decision to replace you with him, to give him that stand on the committee so he can respond directly to his constituency immediately when the questions come up, instead of having to chase around to find somebody to get the answers. This is in his district. It’s going to be a big project. It is going to have impacts to the area. We don’t know yet the size or intensity of those impacts, but I want Councilman Toro there at the forefront. It’s nothing personal, nothing personal at all. This is the decision the mayor can make, and I’ve got the consensus of the council to do that reappointment. I just want to say, Jack, ‘Thank you very much for serving the last two years on that committee,’ and I will be reappointing to that committee Council Member Toro from the First District, wherein the project is located.”
Woods, who as the representative of the city’s southeastern tip has assumed the role of “mayor of Reche Canyon,” said, “If that’s what’s writ in the operations manual, then so be it. I didn’t see that written in there. But I distinctly remember he [Toro] had the opportunity to be on this commission when it was formulated, and David was asked if he wanted to be on it at that time and he said ‘No.’ He didn’t want to be on it, and we respected that. I took that position. To come back now, two years later… I know the commission meets between 1:30 to 2:30 roughly, and there will be other meetings that will take up other times.”
Navarro said, “But it is very important that he be there, Mr. Woods, and that is the only reason I am making this change.”
Woods, resignedly, said, “Alright.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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