How do we begin a political discussion about a campaign to fill a City Council seat left vacant by our late Mayor Greg Pettis whose tragic passing was just two weeks ago without disrespecting him?

We begin that discussion by expressing our deeply felt grief for his loss and by recognizing that if he were able to speak to us now he’d be the most vocal advocate for the urgency of filling that vacant seat with the most experienced, honest and forward-thinking candidate and that, that candidate be a resident of District 1 in accordance with the new City Charter. That’s how we start this discussion, and that’s how we honor our late Mayor Pettis by doing what he would’ve done.

The one person with the most experience, temperament, vision and previous City Council service is Shelley Kaplan who also happens to be a resident of District 1. As a previous City Council member he played a key role in fostering the growth and vitality our city experienced over the past four years. Moving forward with the potential growth and prosperity our city needs makes his return to City Council even more essential.

This is not the time for an unproven candidate or for a change in strategy. We must build on a proven track record that’s benefited citizens and business owners throughout our city with a period of growth unmatched in previous years and a track record that our current Mayor Carnevale enthusiastically praised throughout the course of his bid for re-election.

Selecting a candidate from District 1 is crucial if we’re to avoid potential litigation citing violation of the City Charter. Furthermore, the appointment of any candidate outside of District 1 would potentially foster resentment and suspicion that allowing one District to have two representatives serving on City Council might provide that District with an unfair favoritism and self-serving conflict of interest over the other Districts. It also means District 1 would essentially be without a true resident representative at City Council serving their specific issues and interests. Shelley Kaplan knows his District, he knows his constituents and his neighborhood.

Lastly, as anyone following the national news would know, there’s a the likelihood of recession in the next two years which will hinder our city’s further growth while potentially creating some reduction in tax revenue. This will be a time when the City Council will have to make tough decisions.

Who decides which programs to cut, or which departments to reduce in staff? Who decides which neighborhoods will have a reduction in Police and public safety services? Who will these difficult decisions that typically effect those most in need? Are those decisions influenced by someone with prior City Council experience, someone with a clear understanding and knowledge of city finances, someone citizens and business owners alike trust? Or are these tough decisions made by someone who’s without the experience and knowledge of the city’s most complex functions and issues, someone learning on the job at taxpayers’ expense.

We currently have just two City Council members with prior City Council service and experience directly and uniquely tied to our city’s government and how it operates, and they would be Mayor Carnevale and Mayor Pro-Tem John Aguilar. We need this vacant seat filled by a third Council member with equally suited skills and experience to get us through the difficult times while making the tough decisions. Having a City Council with three seasoned officials and two newly elected officials with their own respected experience will move our city forward in prosperity and help us weather the storm of cyclical recession.