With 5 members again, Moreno Valley City Council is back on track – San Bernardino Sun

The Moreno Valley City Council had a rough 2021. Over the course of the year, two of its five members died. (That’s 40%. Is “elected office” MoVal’s most dangerous job?)

An attempt to fill one vacancy by appointment had critics, including the District Attorney, crying foul over the likely Brown Act violation. The move was rescinded.

Meetings were dominated by anger and name-calling. A political protest took place next to the city’s official Christmas tree, lights twinkling, as people chanted that two council members should resign.

MoVal? More like MoDrama.

After the November election, a new member, Ed Delgado, was sworn in to replace Carla Thornton, who had died that January. Delgado brought the council up to four members. That was progress, but it swiftly hit a pothole.

The council, in two ideological camps, was divided on whom to give the ceremonial title of mayor pro tem.

Ulises Cabrera promoted David Marquez. Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez backed Delgado. After a couple of 2-2 votes, the mayor gave up.

“Both motions fail. So we’ll just not have a mayor pro tem until April,” Gutierrez said cheerfully.

I was back in the Council Chambers on Tuesday for the first time since December

At the previous meeting, Elena Baca-Santa Cruz was sworn in after an April 12 special election to fill the last vacant seat. It had been held by her mother, Victoria Baca, until her death in October.

Moreno Valley’s City Council is back to a full five members for the first time in 16 months after elections filled two vacant seats. Chatting during a break in Tuesday’s meeting are, from left, Elena Baca-Santa Cruz, Ed Delgado, Yxstian Gutierrez, Ulises Carbrera and David Marquez. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

With Baca-Santa Cruz’s elevation, Riverside County’s second-largest city has a full complement of council members for the first time in 16 months.

But is it a functioning City Council?

Signs Tuesday were encouraging. Votes were unanimous. The council even selected a mayor pro tem without rancor.

It was Delgado.

Baca-Santa Cruz nominated him. Several speakers said he was the logical and best choice. Delgado’s colleagues agreed, even the ones who’d voted against him in December.

“You’re one who makes a concerted effort to keep us together. I’ll be proud to vote for you,” Cabrera said.

Marquez said he and Delgado had gone to two conferences together and gotten to know each other. Echoing Cabrera, he said Delgado had been fair and apolitical.

“You watch my back. I watch your back,” Marquez said. “Things have changed. I’ll give you that vote.”

A mayor pro tem title doesn’t mean a whole lot other than being a handy way to confuse voters at election time. You hear “mayor pro tem” and think, “oh, the mayor.” The old standby title of vice mayor seems to be on the wane in local cities, probably because it makes the holder’s junior status more obvious.

Practically speaking, a mayor pro tem will run the meeting if the mayor isn’t there and can likewise fill in at community events.

Gutierrez said Delgado had already stepped up to fill that role unofficially and done well as a representative. Baca-Santa Cruz said she has relied on Delgado for guidance when the mayor isn’t available.

A voice vote was taken. Everyone was a yes. Delgado’s vote for himself drew chuckles. “Sure,” he said. “Yes.”

He was duly sworn in. I don’t believe this was necessary, but what the heck. Then Delgado gave a little speech, which was even less necessary.

“I’m for the people of Moreno Valley,” Delgado said, declaring that he doesn’t play games, play politics or use “political rhetoric.”

“I don’t know how to do that,” he said. He added: “I don’t want anyone to teach me.”

For anyone keeping track, MoVal hadn’t had a mayor pro tem since February 2021. Also, Delgado’s short term ends in November, meaning he can run for re-election while touting himself as mayor pro tem.

It wasn’t as if everything is suddenly coming up roses at council meetings.

During the comment period, some speakers remained angry at Cabrera and Marquez for ramming through an appointment for LaDonna Jempson to Baca’s seat in Gutierrez’s absence on Oct. 19. (She was removed Nov. 18 in the face of a legal threat from the District Attorney.)

“What fools you both are,” one speaker said.

“You guys are disgusting,” said another, using a profanity twice.

A third said she is a resident of Marquez’s district, “where dreams don’t soar, they die.”

Another told Cabrera, “You’re prostituting yourself for the teachers’ vote.”

So the meetings are not entirely family-friendly. Troop 100 of the Boy Scouts was in the audience, sitting quietly, and a bit goggle-eyed.

Some adults simply tripped over the English language.

One speaker referred to “exuberant” administrative costs. He should invest in a dictionary, if the price isn’t exorbitant.

And Delgado said he recently encountered a man who expressed a positive attitude about Moreno Valley, and did so sincerely. Said Delgado, who happens to be a RivCo assistant sheriff: “He was convicted as he said it.”

Is liking Moreno Valley now a crime?

Afterward I chatted with Gutierrez, telling him there was a lot less emotion than the last time I was in the audience.

“I think things kind of calmed down,” Gutierrez said, smiling. “That’s a good thing.”

A good thing for Moreno Valley, perhaps. As a journalist, I’m less sure. I’m certainly not convicted.

‘Beauty’ update

The painting owned by Loma Linda University, “Beauty Examined” by Kerry James Marshall, went up for auction Thursday from Sotheby’s as scheduled.

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