Antioch council members will discuss problems with delays in getting items agendized and whether the city’s mayor should continue to be elected during a special meeting Tuesday night.
Councilman Mike Barbanica asked for the special meeting this week after becoming frustrated that an item he wanted on the agenda was not included, and Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker agreed to call a meeting regarding the agenda procedures.
Barbanica said he wanted to “reinvent the way the agenda is handled… to give all council members much more say as to what is on the agenda.” Currently, the mayor, which is an elected position, determines the agenda.
The councilman noted that he had asked on May 9 for the tobacco ordinance to return to council after it failed on a 2-to-1 vote on a second reading when two council members – Torres-Walker and Mayor Lamar Thorpe – were absent. The ordinance, which tobacco shops supported, loosened some restrictions on the package size and price of tobacco products sold by local merchants.
“This council majority supported it,” Barbanica said. “On a technicality, it got killed last week, and it shouldn’t have been. This council majority supported it.”
Torres-Walker said she also was concerned about the timeline of getting items on the agenda.
“Since I have been on the council, I’ve had an issue with the six-month timeline on things coming back,” she said.” I’ve always complained about that. I also think we need to address the timeline on when and how things come back to the council on the agenda. I support the request.”
Thorpe said the tobacco ordinance would return for another round soon, noting he must consider staff workloads, especially since the city has a lot of vacancies. The issue also came up several weeks earlier when residents pushed for a quicker timeline on bringing rent protection proposals before council.
“In terms of the agenda now, I’ve been pretty transparent about delaying items because of the staff, staffing issues, and I’ve said I deliberately left things off,” he said. “And one of the biggest challenges I wanted to particularly get through is (finalizing) the budget.”
The mayor said he planned on calling a special meeting to do a six-month review of items waiting to be agendized.
“I get it from staff and hear what they say when they have concerns of how we are front loading so much stuff on them,” Thorpe added. “I’ve been very clear that I have slowed things down. It’s not to take away from your concerns, but allow me to have the next meeting so we can go through your six-month stuff, then I can work with staff to get a real timeline.”
But Barbanica said there were tobacco shop merchants who were at a disadvantage because of the city’s current rules; he still wanted a special meeting. Tobacco merchants have said they lost business when the city put some restrictions on sales last year.
“We are going to totally revamp the way that this agenda is done and get the power to the majority of people sitting up here,” Barbanica said.
Regarding the agenda item on elected or rotating mayors, Barbanica said he wanted to look at other options for selecting a mayor, so one person for a four-year period doesn’t “control an entire agenda and an entire council.”
“It gives the option for the voters to be able to have somebody say, for example, in our own district, who is in the mayor’s position, for at least a 12-month period, and it allows different ideas over that time. “
In East Contra Costa, Pittsburg and Oakley have rotating mayors while Brentwood and Anitoch have elected ones. The last time the city considered a change was in 2012, but voters overwhelmingly rejected the measure.
Tuesday’s special council meeting is set for 7 p.m. at council chambers at 200 H St. See the agenda at www.antiochca.gov.