Irvine City Councilmembers voted to repeal an agenda-setting rule – one of the city’s most contentious policies – last week and kept the mayor as an elected position after complaints from residents.
The most controversial item on the agenda was a ballot proposal from Council members Mike Carroll and Tammy Kim to take the position of mayor off the ballot, asking voters to switch the mayor from a directly elected position to appointed position cycled between council members.
In a statement before the meeting, Carroll said he wanted to “depoliticize,” the position of mayor and make it clear the mayor doesn’t run the city following the FBI corruption probe into former Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu.
But the day before the meeting, Carroll attempted to pull the item off the agenda following strong public backlash over the issue, including an official condemnation by the county Democratic Party.
Kim never endorsed the move to change the seat, saying she’d agreed to serve as a second on the vote in exchange for Carroll supporting another motion on the agenda that night and that she was open to the conversation.
The item was ultimately left on the agenda because it was already published, but was pulled at the start of the meeting.
“Obviously there was a lot of heat directed against considering a change to the charter,” Carroll said at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Its placement on the agenda also led to an argument between Kim and Mayor Farrah Khan, who accused Kim of grandstanding in Facebook posts on the Democrats of Greater Irvine group shared with Voice of OC.
“Grandstanding is your thing, and the lies you’re spreading now to cover yourself are telling,” Khan wrote below a comment where Kim questioned why the item was moving ahead on the agenda. “The reason Carroll and Kim wanted the item off the agenda after it was published was because they realized they don’t have the votes.”
The two publicly clashed on the dais as well, shouting over one another when Kim questioned why public commenters were still bringing up the item after it was pulled.
“Why’re we talking about this if it’s already been removed?” Kim said. “You’re wasting these people’s time … this is political theater right now!”
“We’re moving on!” Khan said repeatedly.
The city also repealed the controversial “rule of two,” that required council members to get support from someone else on the dais to agendize anything, returning to a system where any council member can place an item on the agenda.
The rule was originally implemented nearly three years ago to stop then-Councilwoman Melissa Fox from agendizing items, at the same time half a dozen other cities implemented similar policies that cut down on debate.
While the rule was originally set to sunset after the 2020 election, the city council voted to make it permanent almost immediately after they were elected in December of that year, with Councilman Larry Agran the only voice against it.
While Agran has publicly campaigned against the rule in almost every city council meeting since then, no one else has jumped on board until now to get rid of the rule.
At the time, the council majority spoke favorably about the move at the December 8, 2020 meeting.
“I really feel this council does better when it’s able to work together,” Khan said at that meeting. “At the end of the day, if a council member is unable to get a second, they’re always able to bring the item forward during announcements to get it on the agenda.”
But at last Tuesday’s meeting, Khan didn’t have any praise for the rule, calling for it to be removed entirely instead of just editing it.
“I’d much rather support removing it fully,” Khan said.
Khan did not respond to requests for comment on what changed her mind, and the council voted unanimously to repeal the rule.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a Groundtruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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