Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA CITY HALL – Every December, the City Council names its mayor and vice mayor for the year to come, and rejiggers the numerous liaison responsibilities the five councilmembers have in relating to the outside world.
For the past year, Brett Watson has served as mayor and Michael Winkler as vice mayor. Under provisions of its newly revised Protocol Manual, the council could select its new leaders by rotation, or pick and choose as it's always done. With little discussion, it decided to go with the rotational method.
Watson nominated Winkler as mayor, with the motion seconded by Winkler. The motion carried 4–1, with Councilmember Sofia Pereira dissenting.
After the seat swap, Winkler nominated Councilmember Paul Pitino, with a second by Pereira. Pitino was unanimously voted in as vice.
Watson thanked City Attorney Nancy Diamond and City Manager Karen Diemer for invaluable support during his time as mayor.
Convening as the city's Joint Powers Authority, Winkler and Pitino were elected chair and vice chair respectively.
Pereira again concerned about Winkler
After the meeting, Periera declined to elaborate on why she had not voted to affirm Winkler as mayor. She referred to her remarks during last year's selection meeting. It occurred during the aftermath of the vote during which Arcata voters voted decisively to remove the statue of President William McKinley from the Plaza.
Winkler had been heavily criticized for his conduct as an opponent for statue removal. Among other tactics, he had penned an "open letter" to then-Mayor Pereira over her support for removal, in which he characterized statue opponents to a "lynch mob."
At last year's meeting, Pereira had spoken up with "concerns," which she said she had already talked to Winkler about personally. She called into question Winkler's "ability and credibility to lead our community in an additional leadership role at this time."
"I feel open and direct communication is what we owe to each other as colleagues," Pereira said last year. "Many constituents over the past year have relayed concerns to me statements made and actions taken by Councilmember Michael Winkler, and I want to be clear that these concerns being raised goes beyond what has been stated publicly at meetings at public comment, and it includes Arcata residents directly sharing their concerns with me."
Winkler also signed a ballot argument claiming that statue removal would cost more than a half-million dollars and cause layoffs of police officers or other city staff.
"To balance our budget, a $525,000 project would require either cutting services—terminating approximately eight city employees (eight fewer police officers or the entire recreation department)," Winkler and other statue supporters had claimed. "That or raise taxes."
Statue removal ended up costing the city $16,377 – 3 percent of the fearful projection. Mayor Winkler has never addressed the wildly exaggerated and inflammatory cost estimate.
City of Arcata press release
ARCATA CITY COUNCIL ELECTS NEW MAYOR AND VICE-MAYOR Arcata, CA, December 12, 2019 – The Arcata City Council elected Vice-Mayor Michael Winkler to be mayor
and Councilmember Paul Pitino to be vice-mayor in a special meeting that took place today at noon.
The City’s Municipal Code requires the Arcata City Council to select the mayor and vice-mayor annually at a special meeting held each December. Both Mayor Winkler and Vice-Mayor Pitino will serve in their new roles for one year.
The mayor of Arcata’s duties includes presiding at Council meetings, representing the Council at community events and performing other ministerial duties, and the vice-mayor will preside in the event of the mayor’s absence.
“I’d like to thank the Council for the opportunity to serve as mayor in 2019, it was such an honor to serve Arcata in this capacity. I’d also like to thank City staff and City Manager Karen Diemer for their extra support during my time as mayor. I look forward to continuing to serve the City and our community as a council member for years to come, and I encourage members of the public to reach out to me if they have any issues they’d like to discuss,” said Brett Watson, Council Member and outgoing Mayor.
Of his appointment, Mayor Winkler said, “As mayor, I would like to challenge myself, the council and members of the public to do everything we can to treat each other with respect, and we must look to others as having positive motives in their opinions and stances on community issues, especially in this contentious political environment. I want to thank the residents of Arcata for giving me the opportunity to serve the city, and I would also like to thank the council for the opportunity to serve as mayor in 2020.”
Mayor Winkler will preside over his first regular Arcata City Council meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 18.