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City Council Republicans Call for Council Leadership Selection Overhaul

Fresh off a City Council selection process that left him without a key chairmanship, City Councilman Scott Sherman and fellow Republicans are pushing for a change in how the City Council selects its leader.

Scott Sherman Pushes Council President Process Reform

City Councilman Scott Sherman / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

City Councilman Scott Sherman and fellow Republicans want to dump a City Council president selection process that’s repeatedly roiled the City Council – and most recently cost Republicans a few choice positions.

Sherman delivered a memo to City Council President Myrtle Cole on Wednesday calling for an early 2018 discussion about ushering in an annual rotating leadership selection process based on seniority.

The current process requires a majority vote, a requirement that’s complicated matters for City Council Republicans who have been in the minority in recent years. Republicans had managed to make the most of the process in recent years, but couldn’t pull it off again in 2017.

Now they’re looking to change the process.

The current policy happens to benefit Democrats, who control the process with their 5-4 majority and are unlikely to give up the reins.

Sherman decided to try anyway.

He got fellow Republican Councilmembers Chris Cate, Mark Kersey and Lorie Zapf to sign on for the fight too.

“This measure that we’re putting forward assures a process that makes it nonpartisan, non-special interest driven,” Sherman said. “It takes it out of our hands. It’s just a process.”

Sherman was especially stung by this year’s selection process. He lost his post as chair of a committee he’d hoped could push forward major housing affordability reforms after Cole, a Democrat backed by local unions, was re-elected as the City Council’s leader.

Sherman believes union leaders, who have gotten more involved in city politics in the last year, convinced Cole to remove him as chair of the land use committee. Fellow City Councilmembers voted 8-1 to re-elect Cole, with only Sherman voting no.

That’s not to say Republicans haven’t also used the City Council presidency vote to try to further their aims.

The previous year, Republicans joined to vote for Cole over City Councilman David Alvarez, then the City Council’s most left-leaning member. In 2014, they helped oust former Councilman Todd Gloria, who had pushed a number of progressive reforms, and to place former City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, a more moderate Democrat, in the post.

Who serves in the post is significant. The City Council president sets the agenda for the City Council, giving that person sway over issues the City Council takes up. Sherman now wants it to be a leadership position that rotates annually based on seniority, effectively depoliticizing it.

Sherman said he was inspired by similar rotating leadership policies for the County Board of Supervisors and the city of Fresno’s City Council.

Sherman maintains his suggestion isn’t partisan or self-serving.

Sherman, one of the City Council’s more senior members, said he will remove himself from consideration if the new policy is approved. “I think it’s a good government thing,” he said.

He said he hopes to get one or two Democrats to support him.

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