By Jim Tortolano
After nearly two hours of public comments – some of it angry and accusatory – the Westminster City Council on Wednesday night voted in favor of a special election on June 5 to change the term of the city mayor from two years to four.
The vote was three to two, with Mayor Tri Ta, Mayor Pro Tem Tyler Diep and Councilwoman Kimberly Ho in favor. Against were Councilwoman Margie Rice and Councilman Sergio Contreras.
If the proposal were approved by voters, the winner of the general election balloting in November would be elected to a four-year term. The cost of the election was estimated at $85,000.
Public comments ran 15 to 8 against, including objections in person by Garden Grove Councilman Phat Bui and – by letter – 34th District State Sen. Janet Nguyen. Bui called the proposal “reckless” and “irresponsible.” In favor was Kim Nguyen, who supported the longer term as an opportunity for a mayor to “become more effective” and needed “four years to better serve the community.”
Many of those who objected to the change cited the $85,000 price tag, but the council majority supported the June 5 election as a means of “stabilizing” the council. Diep, who had the item placed on the agenda, vowed he would not be a candidate for mayor in 2018.
“After 12 years in public office,” he said, “we see that public officials are under constant pressure to raise money.” A longer term might reduce the influence of contributors, he argued.
Among those opposed, many placed an emphasis on the idea of asking voters for $85,000 for a special election after in 2016 persuading them to support a 1 cent sales tax to keep vital services such as police and fire intact and to counter a severe municipal deficit.
After the vote, some in the audience shouted “shame” and vowed a recall effort.
In other action Wednesday night, the council voted 5-0 for an agreement with PlaceWorks to prepare a specific plan for the Westminster Mall, located at Bolsa Avenue and Goldenwest Street alongside the San Diego (405) Freeway.
The cost of the agreement will be $283,385. The mall opened in 1974 and prospered until recently when competition from the nearby Bella Terra center in northern Huntington Beach and changes in the retail industry lead to many vacancies in the enclosed center.
One of the mall’s anchor stores, Sears, will be closing this year. PlaceWorks will create a plan for the center, which is considered a likely candidate for mixed-use development, including some residential uses. Formal approval of the specific plan is scheduled for 18 months from Wednesday’s action.
FOR MORE interesting content on this site, go to http://www.orangecountytribune.com .