When the annual rotation of the mayor is also the evening when the Culver City City Council seats the newly elected members, it can be a short meeting. This was not the case on April 30, 2018 . The outgoing council members – Jeff Cooper and Jim Clarke – were given a reception in the Pattaccia Room, a number of commemorative plaques and much applause, all standard to the occasion. Clarke read a prepared speech offering advice and encouragement to the incoming members, and Cooper spoke off the cuff, both of them true to form.
The newly sworn in members – Alex Fisch and Daniel Lee – swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California. What they did not swear to uphold was the policy of mayoral succession of Culver City.
After taking their oaths of office, there were several speakers from the audience who had come to address the rumor that Goran Eriksson – the senior council member who would have been installed as Vice Mayor according to the standing policy – was going to be overlooked. Laura Stuart, Jamie Wallace and Crystal Alexander were a few of those who took to the podium to speak against changing the succession. Alexander quoted the policy that the council – including Thomas Small and Meghan Sahli-Wells -unanimously approved in 2017, and noted that if the policy were to shift, it should be shifted through the legislative process. More than one person who commented on the 2017 meeting noted that Daniel Lee had spoken from the audience in favor of the policy.
Of those who spoke to changing the policy, Noah Zatz noted that since the policy was not followed consistently, it should not be considered inviolable. Recent mayoral succession had made exceptions to the policy.
Throughout the meeting, the standing-room- only crowd applauded, burst into boos and catcalling, heckled various speakers from both the dais and the podium, and seemed barely a breath away from transforming from an audience into a mob.
Council member Sahli- Wells, who was to be moved into the Vice Mayoral post, was silent, not even looking at those who spoke towards upholding the policy.
Eriksson spoke to the situation, noting that if he was to be passed over in favor of Sahli-Wells, then “the policy should be vacated. There’s simply no point in having a policy that we don’t follow.”
A motion was made to confirm Vice Mayor Small as the new mayor, and that passed without any challenge.
Both Small and Fisch went to great lengths to justify both stepping over the policy and installing Sahli-Wells as Vice Mayor. Small seemed conflicted about changing his position on a policy he had so recently approved, but spoke in favor of Sahli-Wells. Fisch noted that “since we have four year terms and there are five members of the council, we should consider changing the mayoral term to nine months, and give everyone equal time.”
Lee wasted no time justifying his position. Referring to his comments at the podium in favor of the policy, he said “that was just politics. My politics are very important to me.”
The motion to install Sahli-Wells as Vice Mayor passed on a vote of four to one, with Eriksson voting against.
The post of Mayor of Culver City does not grant any additional authority, and is considered a ceremonial position.
Photo shows Disa Lindgren, Co-Manager of the Lee campaign, with Council member Daniel Lee, and Julie Bernard with spouse Council member Alex Fisch just before the swearing-in ceremony on April 30, 2018.