James Staton, pastor and president of the 1st Ward Community Development Corporation, wrote a letter urging council members to appoint him to Anthony Davis’ vacant seat until someone is elected to fill the post.
Staton promised the city council that he has no intentions of running for the seat during the November 2015 election. He said the 1st Ward is in dire need and must not go without a representative for an entire year.
“Our city, particularly the 1st Ward has been hurting, in the absence of our representation,” said Staton. “I’m requesting to fill that vacancy until election time.”
Council members expressed their reservation in making an appointment to temporary fill the vacancy. Many have said it will set a bad precedent; others have argued it will give incumbent status to whomever is appointed thereby giving them an unfair advantage come election time.
“I’m not seeking to run for that seat, but I wanted to be appointed,” said Staton assuaging one of the fears of making an appointment. “We need representation.”
“I don’t think there’s a desire to appoint someone to that seat,” said Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman. He said there’s only one resident from the 1st Ward in the council while the rest are outsiders. Residents of the ward elect their own representative, said Tavarez.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, also said he is against usurping elective authority from 1st Ward residents. He too said the residents of that ward should be the ones to select their councilperson.
“I’m not ruling out the possibility of appointing anyone,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. After speaking to 1st Ward residents, very few have expressed a desire to have the council make a selection on their behalf, said Sayegh.
“If we choose someone, 1st Ward residents will say, it’s our councilperson, we should choose,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman.
“I’ve always said the seat should remain vacant. I don’t want to impose my opinions on the 1st Ward residents,” said Morris. However, he stated that he is in favor of organizing a petition contest among would-be appointees to select the one with the most signatures. “We may want to consider a modified petition process,” said Morris.
William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, also called for a “mechanism to discern the wishes of the 1st Ward constituents.”
“I would like to see the seat filled,” said Maritza Davila, the sole 1st Ward resident on the council. “We do need that representation.”
“They need someone there,” said Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman.
Making an appointment is simple; however, ensure that that individual does not turn around to run in the special election is a different matter.
“We could not guarantee the persons stepping forward would not choose to run,” said McKoy. Taking away an individual’s basic right to run for elected office through a notarized piece of paper may not be in conformity with the American Constitution. A city lawyer said he was not sure whether it’s legal to have someone sign a paper promising not to run for elected office.
McKoy said he trusts Staton’s words.
The council has until January 4th, 2015 to make an appointment – after that date the council loses the privilege.
“I have no intentions of getting involved in this,” said Tavarez. “It’s not a problem of filling this seat. It’s how to pick a person and who do we pick? We got one person here, tomorrow we’re going to have 40.”
Tavarez said he will speak to council members to determine whether a special meeting is needed to potentially set the stage to make an appointment.
Correction: The initial story erroneously stated Staton was a former school board member. Staton never served on the city’s board of education.