La Verne City Council cancels March Council elections

Sarah Van Buskirk
Editorial Director

The La Verne City Council has canceled the March 5 council election and has reappointed existing council members Wendy Lau and Rick Crosby, to districts two are five respectively, for additional four-year terms. 

The council approved this election cancellation unanimously in December after no challengers came forward to try and unseat the two incumbents. 

This practice is allowed under Section 10229 of the California Elections Code, which states that if no one is nominated, city officials may submit a certificate of these facts to the city’s governing body – the council – and decide whether to continue to hold the election or appoint the next eligible council members to office.

La Verne Mayor Tim Hepburn said he believes the community is secure in how their local government runs, and he noted how well he believes Lau and Crosby represent the council.

“I just think people thought, ‘Why should I get in a race when these people are doing such a great job?’” Hepburn said. “And if they weren’t doing a good job, people would have run against them.” 

But Joe Blackstock, history columnist for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, said that while this practice is not uncommon, it’s not always that simple.

“The first thing they say is, ‘Well everybody is comfortable with our administration, we are doing a fabulous job’,” said Blackstock, who also edited the Bulletin’s local news section for many years. “And of course there is no way to measure that, you can’t go and talk to every voter.”

He said it is odd that after four years they could not find a group of people who did not like what the council members were doing. 

“You would think in a college town that you’d have other candidates,” Blackstock said. “If nothing else there might be people with political ambition… They might (want) their first bit of politics, and they will go on to something else.”

Blackstock said there could be a lack of communication between council members and residents, which generated little interest in this election.

“I find it a little discouraging,” Blackstock said. “Hopefully it isn’t simply voter indifference; in other words, no one in La Verne cares, and hopefully that isn’t the case.”

Still the incumbents are enthusiastic to serve an additional four years.

“Running for an election is an honor, and not having an opponent makes it look like the residents feel the trust in what I have done in the past four years,” Crosby said.

Crosby reflected on the changes the council brought to La Verne last year, including a new city manager, Ken Domer, and department heads as well as a multi-year agreement with  employee groups to gain stability.

Lau said she was prepared to campaign, but was similarly pleased that the community seems content with her service. She said she is looking forward to making the City of La Verne more collaborative.

“The University of La Verne is in my district, and I am an advocate for the University and I believe in the things we do to help develop our students,” said Lau, who is also a member of the University of La Verne board of trustees.

Lau said her connection to the University provides a lot of room for teamwork.

Domer said a few residents did raise concerns via email about being denied their right to a Council election, but directed them to the election code. 

“The fact that no other people sought to get the nominations, in my belief, and why I recommended the cancellation also, was that the city could save money,” Domer said.

In a press release on Dec. 26, 2023, Domer noted that the $50,000 of taxpayer money saved by the election cancellation will be redirected to other priority projects. 

Domer said the money has been discussed to save for a rainy day or put toward future year budget issues.

Domer said that council member Meshal Kashifalghita recommended using that money to bring back the business assistance programs that would help insure businesses’ safety during the recent trend of local smash-and-grab robberies. 

The initial idea to hold an election came from a resolution in October of 2023 calling for a General Municipal Election to elect two members to the city council. 

Social media efforts began after that to inform the community of the two open seats, but from Nov. 13 to Dec. 8, only Lau and Crosby filled out nomination papers. 

The cancellation occurred due to the lack of competing nominees, who had to campaign and gain 20 votes prior to even being on the nomination ballot. 

“Even though these people might be the best, sometimes an election forces an incumbent to go out and to talk to the people,” Blackstock said. “They might find out things they might not have known.”

Now the incumbents only had to run once in eight years, Blackstock noted.

Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at sarah.vanbuskirk@laverne.edu.

Sarah Van Buskirk is a senior journalism major with a concentration in print and online journalism. She is the Spring 2024 editorial director for the Campus Times and has recently served as editor-in-chief, sports editor and staff writer. She is also currently a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine, and a staff writer for La Verne Magazine.

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