CATHEDRAL CITY – City Councilmember Ernesto Gutierrez is no stranger to being the voice of dissent on the four-member governing panel and makes no apologies.
Gutierrez also told Uken Report he will not cave to pressure.
Gutierrez, elected to a four-year term in November 2018, cast the dissenting vote last month when the City Council voted 3-1 to call for a special election in August. The City Council elected to call for a special election after some community members said the appointment process was rigged and fixed.
There were threats of lawsuits and allegations of impropriety.
Gutierrez said there were plenty of good candidates from which to make an appointment.
This week, when the passing a Resolution to officially call for the special election seemed all but a formality, Gutierrez was again the voice of dissent.
He proposed appointing Rita Lamb, a resident of District 1, to fill the vacancy created when Mayor Gregory S. Pettis died in January. She was one of 14 applicants when the City Council was considering appointing someone to the vacant seat.
Gutierrez’s motion died for lack of a second.
Some of his critics said Gutierrez was “trying to pull a fast one.”
“I believe the city does not need to spend what has been estimated between $50,000 or more for the special election,” Gutierrez told Uken Report. “We have had many residents from (other) cities attend our Council meetings recently, which I’m very thankful for. They might find our city to be very special, because they probably do not even attend council meetings in their own city. I will hear what they have to say, but I will not listen to them.”
Gutierrez added, “I will only listen to residents and constituents from our city of Cathedral City. Many of our residents do not attend our Council meetings, unless they have a special agenda or are requesting free funds from the city. This small group does not represent the entire city. They are only a special interest group. I will not waver under pressure from this group. I will not cave, I will stand for our residents and what is best for the entire city.”
The current vacancy is an at-large vacancy, Gutierrez said, adding that he was willing to compromise and appoint a candidate from District 1.
“Our City Council has in the past appointed residents to City Council,” Gutierrez said. “It has worked great and it cost the city zero dollars. Perfect example of an appointment is our outstanding Councilmember John Aguilar. He was appointed for two years, six year ago. As a matter of fact, he was appointed twice. There was no uprising from the same group of people that we’d had attend our recent council meetings. By appointing someone to the vacancy, the city could save tens of thousands of dollars and we can have the vacancy filled in days. From what we have heard, it will cost the city the amount of approximately $500 per hour to have someone fill the vacancy via Special Election. This is a conservative dollar amount according to estimates. Our city can spend the money in much better ways. The city has over $68 million dollars in unfunded liabilities. Many employee positions that occurred do to lay-offs, have not been filled. Our streets in many neighborhoods are in desperate need of repair. Many employees, who voluntarily reduced their pay during hard financial times, were never compensated. I can go on, and on…,” Gutierrez said, explaining his vote of dissent.
“Why waste money on a special election when we had a total of six well-qualified individuals to choose from?” Gutierrez asked rhetorically. “My choice was Rita Lamb for the following reasons. Rita Lamb makes an incredible candidate to fill the vacancy. She is an asset to our city. She lives in District #1. She is extremely qualified. She can fill the lack of gender diversity in our Council. She is willing to serve, and she has been a longtime resident. Plus, she has many other attributes.”
Defending his voice of dissent, Gutierrez said, “Again, I will not cave into pressure, I will stand firm to my morals and I will always have the best interest of all of our residents in mind. I do have an agenda — what is best for our residents.
The vote-by-mail-only election is set for Aug. 27 for residents in District 1 only.
The person elected in the special election will finish Pettis’ term, which will be about 15 months by the time the special election is held in August.
- Dissent: Shutterstock