Michael Dacquisto says he isn’t mad, he’s just surprised. As a member of Redding’s City Council for the last several years, he expected to get a turn as Redding’s Mayor. The role, which is mostly ceremonial, usually rotates among those seated on the Council. But in an unusual turn of events, his fellow councilmember Julie Winter made a motion at the Council’s December 1st meeting, to exclude Dacquisto from his expected role of Vice Mayor this year, and likely, from the possibility of being Mayor next year.
Her motion suggested simply that Council member Kristin Schreder be named Vice Mayor and Council member Mark Mezzano, newly elected to the Council, Mayor Pro Tem, successfully circumventing the traditional cycle of Council roles, in which Dacquisto would have been the Vice Mayor this year and Mayor next year. The motion passed 4 to 1 without discussion and with Dacquisto dissenting.
In a comment to the Record Searchlight about her motion, Winter said, “In light of the significant challenges Redding is facing, I nominated the people I felt were best suited to face those challenges and be the face of the city to the public.”
She did not respond to follow up questions asking why Kristin Schreder and Mark Mezzano would be better suited to Redding’s current challenges, or what specific challenges she was referring to.
Dacquisto told Scout the role as Redding’s Mayor is mostly ceremonial, but still important. The Mayor signs city contracts, sets City Council agendas, runs Council meetings and assigns Council members to liaison positions with other government entities. Perhaps most importantly, Dacquisto said, to many citizens, the mayor is the face of city government. But, he said: “the amount of power is not as much as people think. You can’t veto anything. And you don’t have the power to overrule the City Manager,” in this case, Barry Tippin.
Citizens think of the mayoral role as powerful in part because many Californians don’t understand the difference between Califonia’s Charter cities and General Law cities. Many large Californian cities, such as San Francisco, are run under a city charter. In these cities the Mayor is a position specifically elected by citizens, and one that holds significant power and influence. In contrast, in General Law cities, like Redding, it’s the City Manager who runs the city while the City Council approves staff decisions.
But Winter’s motion raises another interesting question, one of representation. Does excluding Dacquisto from the role of Mayor and the chance to set the City Council’s agenda, mean he is less able to represent those who voted for him? Maybe not, Dacquisto said, but perhaps something close. “I think it’s grossly unfair to the 17,000 people who voted for me for the Council to do this to me, it’s a form of disenfranchisement. It’s petty politics.”
Dacquisto continued, “I think everyone on the Council believes that what they’re doing is in the best interest of the citizens of Redding – where we differ is in how we want to accomplish it. I don’t always think rubber stamping things is the best way to do it. But it’s important to remember that the five of us have also agreed on a lot of things. We don’t always disagree.“
If, in the future, he has the chance to be Redding’s Mayor, Dacquisto said he will continue to ask the kind of hard questions he has become known for, especially questions about finances.
“It takes a different personality and a different kind of mindset to say, I’m not a troublemaker, I just don’t have a problem asking questions. I have noticed that I probably ask a lot more financially related questions than other people on the Council. I like to ask those questions in public because if I have the question, a member of the public probably does too, and part of my job is to help the public understand what we do. I think they sort of expect that. At the end of the day the City provides services, but it runs on money. It can’t print money. And it’s not really the city’s money, it’s the taxpayers money.” Dacquisto said he likely has the most experience with finances of any sitting Council member, explaining that since 1997 he has worked as a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, overseeing chapter 7 bankruptcy cases. (He’s also an attorney.)
Dacquisto says moving forward, he has at least one idea for how to continue to level the playing field even without a chance at the role of Redding’s Mayor. “If you ask the average person if they think that any Council member can put an item on the Council agenda they would think so, but that’s not how it works. You can bring up an idea as part of Item 12 on any agenda but if you don’t have the support of two other Council members it doesn’t go any further. I think there should be a specific rule that any council member can put an item on the agenda. This would require Council members to put themselves on the record with respect to their position on certain issues. “