The San Bernardino City Clerk’s Forum: A First Person Report
September 28, 2011 Leave a comment
This is part two of my visit to San Bernardino City Hall last night for the San Bernardino City Attorney and City Clerk’s forum. The forums will be replayed on Channel 3, and will be posted online at http://www.iemediagroup.org/. However, to get the full impact, I would recommend that voters actually attend in person next time.
I was much more interested in this forum, even though it lacked the obvious fireworks of the City Attorney’s debate. I wanted to see how each of the candidates reacted in the spotlight. I think four of the five are qualified for the job, even though none of them have worked in a City Clerk’s Office. I think that there will be a run-off, but I am not ready to pick the top two candidates. I think the important thing is to find someone who understands the office, is a good manager, and gets along with others.
I liked Gigi Hanna’s performance. I think she was well-prepared, her ideas were good, and I think she is qualified for the position. I think she has done the best job so far in communicating her message both on her website and her mailer, which I have previously reviewed. I think one thing that sets her apart is that she went through City Clerk training. I am not sure why the other candidates have not done that so far. I think she generally had a handle on how the office worked, and I was impressed by her knowledge of the Office. I heard comments that with her water experience she should run for one of the water boards.
If there were sides, it was clearly rest-of-field versus Amelia Sanchez-Lopez because she is positioning herself with City Attorney Jim Penman. I think she presented herself as competent, if a little stiff. She is qualified for the office based on her past experience. Generally, she made good marks in her closing comments when she pointed out that she was the only public opponent of Measure C. If Measure C had amended the Charter making the City Clerk appointed, none of the candidates would have been able to run for office.
Esther Jimenez established her San Bernardino bona-fides. I think she would also be qualified for office. There has been some speculation that she will split the Latino vote, but I do not see any empirical evidence for that. Yes, the conventional wisdom is that being Latino in a city like San Bernardino is an electoral advantage. City Clerk Rachel Clark ran as Rachel Mendoza Clark, and former Mayor Judith Valles-Smith ran as Judith Valles. I’m not sure if there is any empirical data to support that conventional wisdom.
Peggi Hazlett appears that she is serious about running . . . away from Mayor Morris. No one accused her of working for Mayor Morris or being supported by Mayor Morris, but she took great pains not to mention his name, and to stress her independence. This may be Mayor Morris’ lowest hour, so I think that is a wise decision. Her strongest point, as echoed by the newspaper, is that she will not need on-the-job training. Her existing City Hall ties, ties that go back to before I started working for the City of San Bernardino, are her strength. I understand that she is walking the precincts, which is one of the keys of this race. I think she is weak on communicating her message (other than emphasizing her personal strengths) on how she will run the office. I think part of that are the questions that were asked.
William Valle is not ready for prime time. He was handy with buzz-words, but he lacked the polish of a public official. He should continue his education, stay political active, and perhaps run for Council next-time.
Election politics is the process by which candidates distinguish themselves from one another. What was the biggest issue of the forum? The move of business registration from the Clerk’s Office to Finance. Gigi Hanna stated:
“Ultimately, the decision about where the Business registrations are housed is the city manager’s to make, based on what is best for the day-to-day operation of the city. It wouldn’t be unusual for it to be housed in the Finance Department—many cities do handle businesses in their finance department and it seems a clear nexus. But it is inappropriate for the city clerk to take a stance on policy decisions. It is irrelevant who provides the service…”
Amelia Sanchez-Lopez opposed the move of business registration to Finance. Otherwise, the candidates probably agreed on 95 percent of the issues facing the City Clerk’s Office.
Right now, I figure that no one will get a majority, that there will be a run-off, and it will include two of the following three: Peggi Hazlett, Gigi Hanna and Amelia Sanchez-Lopez.
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