By Ted AYALA
The municipal free-for-all that was the wrangling for who would finally be appointed mayor found its apotheosis last Tuesday night.
After the previous meeting, which had ended in a deadlock and some grumbling, the City Council finally named Councilmember Frank Quintero as the city’s new mayor. Outgoing Mayor Laura Friedman, who had been away last week in South Korea, cast the tie-breaking vote.
Quintero, who won by a 3-2 margin, with councilmembers Ara Najarian and Rafi Manoukian dissenting, had nominated himself for the position after assuring his colleagues and audience that he would not seek reelection next year.
“I’d like to reiterate that I will not run for reelection for the City Council seat,” said Quintero in the moments preceding the vote.
Friedman, whose vote was decisive in Quintero’s victory, explained the rationale behind her decision before the voting process began.
“I hate to come back to the perception that my vote is breaking the tie,” she said. “All our votes are equal and mine doesn’t carry any more weight than anyone else’s. It’s a very difficult vote not because of what’s resting on it, because everyone nominated will do a fine job. But it’s difficult because for the next year I have to work with everybody.
“I wish I could vote for each one of them. By voting ‘no’ it seems like I’m not confident in them, which is the furthest thing from the truth. But I’m going to vote for one and only one because Mr. Quintero has been on the Council for three terms; served as mayor twice. He’s asked for the courtesy of a third term as mayor for his last year in office. He has promised that he won’t run again and I take him at his word. I feel that extending this courtesy to him is just that – it’s a courtesy that I would extend to anyone else on the dais. Since I know that both Mr. Manoukian and Mr. Weaver will serve in the next few years, I personally don’t see the harm [in my vote for Quintero]. I hope that none of them sees it as a slight or a personal attack.”
Councilmember Manoukian, who seemed bemused by last week’s deadlock, spoke with bitter disappointment over his loss, claiming that the position should have been his.
“If Mr. Quintero is voted mayor, it will be the first time, since I remember, that a councilmember has served [as mayor] twice during their term,” he said. “It has never been done before. Traditionally it would’ve been my turn to be mayor. I urged my colleagues to respect that. I voted for them when their turns were up.”
He also appeared to make a jab at Quintero’s promise not to seek reelection.
“Talk is cheap. Action is what matters. To me that’s what matters,” he said.
But ultimately he was resigned to the inevitable outcome of the vote.
“It’s apparent that the [tie-breaking] vote has already been pretty much cast. It is unfortunate. But I do look forward to working with whoever the next mayor is.”
Councilmember Ara Najarian for his part offered conciliatory words to the new mayor.
“I look forward to working with [Quintero] in the years ahead. He has been a stable, creative, and driving force. I hope that, regardless of what is said tonight, whether he runs for mayor or not, he considers running for reelection next year. I will personally be one who will not hold him to a pre-election promise.”
“Congratulations, Mayor Quintero,” spoke Weaver at the end of the vote.
As his first act, Mayor Quintero presented former Mayor Friedman with a plaque commemorating her mayoral term. His mayoral term will see the city grappling with various issues and problems unprecedented in the city’s history – something Mayor Quintero understood by eschewing any speeches of thanks.
“We have business to get to,” he said tersely.