The Santa Ana City Council scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday to consider placing a mayoral term limit before the city’s voters in November.
The council will consider three options for mayoral terms presented by a staff report: two four-year terms; four two-year terms; or a mayor regularly appointed by the council from among its members.
Both term limit options would take effect in December. Under each scenario, the current mayor, Miguel Pulido, could serve a maximum of eight more years.
The mayor now is elected by the city’s voters and can serve an unlimited number of two-year terms. Pulido, first elected in 1994, is completing his ninth term this year and has announced a run for his 10th.
It has long been assumed that Pulido controls the seven-member council, but some council members have challenged Pulido with increasing frequency and have made public their gripes that Pulido often makes decisions without consulting the rest of the council.
“There is no parity when there's no term limit on the mayor and there are term limits on the council members,” Councilwoman Michele Martinez said previously. “Most of the staff, when it's all said and done, defer to the mayor.”
Martinez sits on a subcommittee assigned to recommend a term limit ballot initiative.
“This is something I campaigned on since 2006 and am glad we finally have the opportunity to bring balance and equity,” Martinez declared in a text message to Voice of OC. “If term limits pass in the November election this is a game changer and an end to only one mayor ever serving as an elected mayor.”
Councilman Sal Tinajero, who this week announced his candidacy for mayor, had said the latest dispute arose from staffing decisions. While Tinajero declined to be specific, sources close to City Hall have said that the horse-trading leading to the appointment of Police Chief Paul Walters as city manager included the fate of two vacant deputy city manager positions.
“What you're seeing here is a City Council that is saying, 'Wait a minute, you're no more powerful than we are,' ” Tinajero had said.
Other City Hall sources have said that another factor in the decision to limit the mayor’s time in office is Pulido’s backing of Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez in her failed lawsuit against the city that, if successful, would have allowed her to run for fourth term.
Alvarez challenged Measure D, approved by voters in 2008, that extended City Council term limits to three consecutive terms.
The last straw might have been when Alvarez publicly accused other council members of conspiring to wield undue influence over City Clerk Maria Huizar's decision not to allow Alvarez to pull election papers.
At the council meeting in which Alvarez outlined her claim, Councilman Vincent Sarmiento criticized Pulido, who as mayor presides over meetings, for allowing Alvarez to berate and “cross-examine” city staff during a public meeting.
“I was really hoping that there would be some leadership on this issue from the mayor,” Sarmiento had said.