Let's not forget our recent history and how we got here as David Gantt makes his bid to take over Rochester and the City School District. Maybe I should run for Mayor? :)
Commentary: Mayoral fiasco tarnishes the electoral process
By Arthur J. Giacalone
Posted: 6:15 pm Wed, March 9, 2011
Rochester’s City Council and former corporation counsel have done a grave disservice to the residents and taxpayers of the City of Rochester, and have tarnished the office of mayor and the electoral process.
The ‘problem’ is not the mayoral vacancy law.
Contrary to what city officials may want the public to believe, the law for filling a vacancy in the mayor’s office is not confusing or ambiguous. The City Charter sets forth a simple, straightforward process: The City Council must appoint a new mayor to fill the position, and the person appointed holds the office until Jan. 1 when the winner of a November election takes over as mayor for the remainder of the unexpired term.
The City Council’s obligation to make the appointment is explicit, and contains only one condition:
“The council shall fill a vacancy in the office arising otherwise than by expiration of term by appointing by a majority vote a person who is registered in the same political party as the person who vacated the office.”
The City Charter also provides a simple means for ensuring that the duties of the mayor’s office are carried out between the time the mayoral vacancy arises and the City Council appoints a person to fill the opening. It creates the position of deputy mayor, “who shall be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the mayor,” and states that, “The deputy mayor shall act as the mayor until the vacancy is filled as provided in this charter.”
A fail-safe mechanism is built into the charter for situations where the council intentionally disregards its duty to appoint, or is unable to attain the five votes needed to appoint:
“If the council fails to appoint a mayor within 30 days of a vacancy in the office of mayor, there shall be a special election held within 90 days of such vacancy to elect a successor to serve the unexpired term.”
The City Charter does not need clarification or amendment. The problem is not with the law, but with the officials who were obliged to carry out the City Charter’s mandates.
Political maneuvering rather than statesmanship
Robert Duffy’s Jan. 1 resignation as Rochester’s mayor, only a year into his four-year term, was an event that had been anticipated for many months. Prior to his departure, Duffy named City Hall’s top lawyer, Corporation Counsel
Thomas S. Richards, as his deputy mayor. City officials had plenty of time to ensure that there would be stability in the office of mayor.
Unfortunately, at a time when statesmanship was called for, Mr. Richards and a compliant City Council engaged in self-serving political maneuvering.
Rather than advising the City Council of its duty under the City Charter to promptly appoint a person to fill the mayoral vacancy, the corporation counsel’s office told the council members that they had two choices: Either appoint a person to the vacancy, with an election for the unexpired term in November 2011, or schedule a special election for the end of March 2011. Appointment of a mayor was characterized, not as an obligation under the charter, but as a discretionary option.
Deputy Mayor Richards coveted the title and office of mayor, but he apparently was convinced that his chances of winning an election for mayor would be enhanced if the vote were held in March rather than November. He declined the invitation to be appointed to the mayoral office as provided in the charter, unwilling to participate in a full campaign in November where opponents would have the opportunity to fundraise and a primary battle would almost certainly occur.
On Dec. 29, 2010, even before the vacancy created by Mr. Duffy’s Dec. 31 resignation was in effect, Council President Lovely Warren introduced a resolution proclaiming that, “the City Council does not intend to fill the vacancy by appointment and desires that a special election be held.”
At no time, before or after the first of the year, did the council members publicly vote on an appointment.
Deputy Mayor Richards was aware, prior to his swearing in ceremony as mayor on Jan. 1, that he might be vacating the mayor’s office early to avoid a potential violation of the Hatch Act.
Two of the options open to him were accepting appointment to the mayor’s office with an election in November, as called for in the City Charter, or resignation and the scheduling of a special election in March by a compliant City Council.
Despite that distinct possibility of resignation, Mr. Richards failed to exercise his power and duty under the City Charter to appoint a deputy mayor. As a result of that omission, the city’s legal team was compelled to search for a “creative” argument to justify assumption of the powers and duties of the mayor’s office by R. Carlos Carballada.
‘Extraordinarily convoluted’ approach harms electoral process
Rather than the straightforward appointment of a person to hold the office of mayor through the end of 2011, as envisioned by the City Charter, city officials took what the Hon. John J. Ark, supreme court justice, diplomatically characterized as a “less direct” and “extraordinarily convoluted” route to designating Mr. Carballada “acting mayor.”
While I concur in that assessment, I respectfully disagree with the court’s conclusion that use of city code provisions expressly meant to respond to “an attack or a public disaster” provides the legitimate bases for Mr. Carballada’s exercise of mayoral authority. The Feb. 28 decision dismissing former mayoral candidate Harry Davis’ lawsuit fails to supply any explanation on how the court reached its determination.
It does, however, suggest why Justice Ark chose to embrace the tortured logic proffered by the same City Hall crew that had closed its collective eyes to the council’s duty to make an appointment: a desire to have someone exercising a mayor’s powers and duties.
I, for one, would prefer a short hiatus without a mayor to the current situation. City residents now have an acting mayor who chose to just go along with the “extraordinarily convoluted” process concocted by politically-motivated officials who preferred a special election over stability in the office of mayor.
Lawsuits and months of uncertainty could have been avoided if either Mr. Carballada, or Mr. Richards, had simply accepted appointment to the position of mayor, as called for by the City Charter. City voters also are stuck with a March 29 election that unfairly favors the man who did the most to distort a simple succession process and turn it into a convoluted mess.
Attorney Arthur Giacalone is a native Rochesterian who has spent the majority of his adult life practicing law in the Buffalo area. His solo practice focuses on zoning and development issues.
Read more: http://nydailyrecord.com/blog/2011/03/09/commentary-mayoral-fiasco-tarnishes-the-electoral-process/#ixzz2JOR8NOee
Your mayoral primary poll candidates are interesting. Apparently, you think it makes sense to put in names of people that are unlikely to run against each other (i.e. Loretta Scott and Lovely Warren) but no real potential matchups like Lovely Warren and Elaine Spaull. What about Malik Evans or a dark horse like... Tim Mains?