Irvine Councilman Steven Choi is usually a calm, even-tempered man. When the City Council debates, the Republican rarely raises his voice.
But when it comes to the mayor pro tem position, Choi is apt to raise a ruckus, which he did last night after the new City Council was sworn in.
There is a new face at the dais, Republican Jeff Lalloway. But the balance of power remains the same, with Democrats Larry Agran, Beth Krom and Mayor Sukhee Kang still in the majority.
And they still intend to enjoy the spoils, which include the mayor pro tem position. Last night, the 3-2 majority elevated Beth Krom to the largely ceremonial slot.
Choi said he was hoping for a “sympathy vote,” a gesture showing that the Democrats were ready to heal wounds caused by several years of partisan division.
“You wanna work together?” Choi said loudly after the meeting “Then show me something.”
This isn’t the first time Choi has raised this issue. As I reported earlier this year, he tried to convince the council to rotate the position the way many other cities do.
In his six years on the dais, Choi has never been mayor pro tem. Choi said that although each member of the council majority has had that opportunity already, he is excluded.
Choi also said it was a “miracle” that the council majority always manages to vote together, and he questions how that happens. However, he emphasizes that he has no evidence that the council majority has been coming to a consensus outside council meetings, which would be a violation of the state’s open-meetings law, the Brown Act.
“Thousands of items we have dealt with, and they have never voted differently. What is your conclusion?” Choi asked rhetorically.
Kang, meanwhile, said the reason Choi wasn’t picked is simple — he doesn’t share the mayor’s vision of the city.
“Every year I get his phone call — asking, and sometimes demanding,” Kang said. “The mayor pro tem position is not someone we pick out of a hat.”