And, the Winner Is….
In a not-so-surprising move on the dais, Hizzoner nominated the mayor pro tem, John Nielsen, as mayor for the coming year. We had a bet that Jerry would try for an unprecedented third term but, that didn’t happen. Nielsen was our longshot. It could be that Jerry just couldn’t muster his troops to vote him in for a third time. Nielsen has actually voted against the good mayor on a couple of important issues recently, indicating to me that he was tiring of Amante’s grandstanding self-righteousness. And face it, no one on the left side of the dais had a snowball’s chance in Tustin of becoming mayor or pro tem. That left only Nielsen as the logical candidate.
Nielsen is an interesting choice. While he is solidly aligned with the right, he is not so solidly aligned with Amante’s vision for the city. In fact, as I have said before, he has voted at least twice this year against the good mayor. If there is one piece of advice I would give John, it would be to dispense with the histrionics that he and the mayor have been known for and try to build some consensus from both sides of the dais. This is going to be very important if development of MCAS is to continue in the coming year. One thing that occurred this year under Amante that I support is the city of Tustin taking over as master developer of the base. More has been done in the past few months under their umbrella than has been accomplished in the years prior. If things continue on track, we could see real construction out there in a year or two.
What was really surprising to us was the nomination of Councilmember Al Murray to Mayor Pro Tem. In his first year on the council, Murray has managed to look like the perfect yes man to Amante. Hopefully, he has just been keeping a low profile and will come into his own as he backs up our new mayor. So far, he has demonstrated limited and narrow thinking with almost no regard for the citizens of Tustin at large as he spent most of his time kissing the rear end of Hizzoner. That made him a perfect third vote for the majority on the dais but did little for the residents. Maybe this year one of the other councilmembers will teach him how to say “no” on cue. By the way, Al, you need to take off your police captain’s hat when you are sitting on the dais. We need a councilmember that will do the will of the people, not babysit us with nanny state thinking.
What should have happened is that the Mayor pro tem should have been at least offered to one of the two women on the dais. While we have all but written Deborah Gavello off as a lost cause (she was absent again and the excuses are running thin), Beckie Gomez, for a rookie councilmenber, has shown us that she can think for herself and that she has the best interests of the city at heart. She could have provided that counter-balance for the mayor that has been sorely lacking for many years in the Tustin council chambers. And, while she will remain on the dais, her tenure as a pro tem would have reminded the rest of the councilmembers that they are supposed to be non-partisan. Although Beckie also has the qualifications, there is nothing written in stone that the pro tem must necessarily ascend to the mayoral throne. Lastly, it doesn’t hurt that she appears to have grudging respect from her peers.
Of course, Jerry will continue to be a presence on the council. He has one more year and, as was pointed out during the meeting, the past mayors apparently have a good old boys club that comes out from time to time to welcome the new inductee with cake and ice cream. Their influence may be minimal but they have Jerry as their mouthpiece for awhile longer. Hopefully, John Nielsen will be the kind of mayor that Tustin deserves. Although the mayor’s authority is technically limited to presiding over the council meeting, everyone knows his or her authority extends much further in influence and actual power as committee appointments are made and policy is formed. We think Nielsen, despite his love of Amante, could be a good mayor. Just keep Amante in line and learn how to cut off his mike when he goes into a tirade.
As an aside, today is Pearl Harbor day. I am honored to have served my country during time of war and I have the honor of knowing a few Pearl Harbor survivors from my American Legion post. There are not many of these valiant men left and I am always in awe when I meet up with one of them. Please take a moment out of your day to say a prayer of thank you to those who came home and for those who did not.