On Dec. 16, City Council members Reggie Moore and Mary Rocha voted to approve Davis’ nominations of Tina Sorenson, Bonni Bergstrom and Steve Culcasi to the Economic Development Commission. But Moore and Rocha put Davis on notice that they are looking for diversity in his future appointments, and Davis responded that it was something he would pay attention to.
On Jan. 13, Moore and Rocha voted against Davis’ nomination of Mike Langford to the Planning Commission and instead supported the reappointment of Kay Trail. Trail is African-American. But Langford was approved with the votes of the other three council members. All of the council members supported Davis’ appointment of Vincent Manuel to the commission.
On Jan. 27, Rocha voted against Davis’ nominations of Jim Lanter and James Kyle to the Economic Development Commission, while Moore voted for Kyle but against Lanter. Both nominees were approved with the votes of the other three council members.
As they had at the previous two meetings, Moore and Rocha were critical of the lack of diversity in Davis’ appointments.
“This is very hard; both of them (Kyle and Lanter) are my friends. Jim Lanter was on my committee to get elected,” said Rocha. “But I am sticking to my guns concerning diversity. And I am very strong on the issue that we need to have community people to represent the whole community in our commissions in the future.”
Moore said to Davis, “I was disappointed that you did not move the nomination of Melvin Chappel. Mr. Chappel has applied for many boards and commissions, and it’s my understanding that he’s a former member of the county Grand Jury, which indicates to me that he is eminently qualified or at least well qualified.
“He would have met the diversity that Mayor Pro Tem Rocha and myself have been pushing so hard to achieve in this community. It’s my hope that in the future you will give strong consideration to a more diverse group of individuals who want to serve this community.”
In the past couple years, the council usually rubber-stamped former Mayor Don Freitas’ nominations to city commissions. Moore never raised concerns about diversity when voting to approve those nominations.
In the previous two meetings, Councilman Brian Kalinowski remained silent on the issue, but at last week’s meeting he defended Davis, pointing out that the mayor interviewed all of the applicants, and it is Davis’ role as mayor to nominate the best candidates.
“I guess, as a council member, unless I feel that his appointments are reckless or don’t make sense as far as qualifications go, or (he) demonstrates the inability to nominate people who are actually qualified – unless those occur I’m going to support the mayor’s appointments,” said Kalinowski. “On the subject of diversity, my comment is that I expect the best applicants to come forward who present themselves the best, who answer the questions the best, be the ones who be suggested, nominated and approved to serve this council.
“I’m running under the assumption, unless I hear from the mayor differently, that those two people are the two in his mind that produced and performed in that manner – without any disrespect towards the other people who applied and appreciation for the fact that those people did apply and want to be part of things in this community, and there will be other opportunities.
“A couple of times I’ve heard ‘diversity,’ and I respect that. However, I expect the best applicants to be ultimately approved. Until the mayor shows otherwise, I will follow his best judgment.”
Davis defended his nominations, saying, “I selected those that I thought would fit with what the city needs at this time, given our current economic situation, given our current makeup of our retail and business development throughout the city.
“I made my choice based on their expertise and involvement in the community and their business experience. Mr. Kyle and Mr. Lanter are both local business owners. Also their background in the city, they have been here many, many years. So, I think they are key individuals.
“Also, I nominated them the last time we brought this forward (Dec. 16) and … there was no way I was going to renege on what I had already announced to the public. So, Mr. Kyle and Mr. Lanter were good fits for what the city needs at this time.”
Moore suggested that each council member should be allowed to nominate one Planning Commissioner. But he abandoned that idea after being informed by City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland that state law requires the mayor to make nominations to city commissions that are then voted on by the whole council.