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Former Councilman Marcel Rodarte delivers controversial speech
seemingly aimed at influencing the selection process.
By Brian Hews
The resignation of Norwalk Councilman Marcel Rodarte, coupled with the political motives of Vice Mayor Cheri Kelley and the inaction of Councilman Leonard Shryock, will cause gridlock during Norwalk City Council meetings for the next seven months.
At the August 16 meeting, the Council, with Mayor Mike Mendez and Councilman Luigi Vernola clearly frustrated but forced to vote due to an impending lawsuit, voted 4-0 to fill Rodarte’s vacant seat during the next election in March 2017.
Rodarte resigned from his seat June 30 of this year to take the Executive Director position for the California Contract Cities Association (CCCA).
The Council could have appointed a Council member until the March 2017 election avoiding gridlock, as Mendez and Vernola wanted, but Kelley and Shyrock were vehemently against any appointment.
Many residents told HMG-CN that Kelley’s maneuver was politically motivated, as she is up for re-election in March and did not want another viable candidate in the race.
And in what looked like a calculated political move by Kelley and Shryock, Marcel Rodarte delivered a controversial speech in favor of waiting for the March election.
In his prepared speech, Rodarte said, “I was not able to attend the last meeting. I commend the young man who volunteered for the council seat, but it is my opinion that you have to earn that position. It is not something that is a gift for you to give. It is a seat that should be earned by someone that is willing to put their blood, sweat and tears into earning it. That is why I am here tonight. I firmly believe that waiting another six months, that the person should have access to fund raising, access to city hall and access to the city council. I have heard you, the Council, say how you stand for democracy, so I am asking you to do that tonight. I was elected by the people, and the same should stand for my replacement. Anything less is not a true democracy. While I respect each of your positions, I hope that you will put the best interest of this community first. I expect nothing less. If you were to call for a special election, there is not sufficient time for anyone who might be interested in serving as your colleague to do what is necessary to run for office. You cannot risk a potential lawsuit, spending thousands of useless dollars. Norwalk residents need to be informed of the selection of a new council member and each official candidate deserves to enter the race equally.”
After the speech, Kelley immediately moved to vote and made a motion that they hold a special election for March 2017.
Shryock seconded saying, “this is due process and keeping with what Marcel said. It is keeping in line with democracy in terms of letting the people make that decision. It is an estimated two to three thousand dollars more to have an additional two seats on the next election. If we appoint somebody it would be more expensive, because that person would generate a stipend, and whatever other expenses are attached to sitting on city council.”
Observers in the room were not happy with Rodarte’s speech, given that he is now the Executive Director of the CCCA saying Rodarte should not be involved with this process, and that he is attempting to influence an election in a City that is a member of his organization.
HMG-CN received a phone call days after the meeting saying some members of CCCA were extremely upset at Rodarte’s speech, and with his appointment overall, with as many as 8 cities considering pulling out of the organization.
The caller said the group would be sending a letter to each member of the CCCA Executive Board stating their overall concerns pertaining to Rodarte, and also their concern as to why he continues to be involved with Norwalk Council elections.
When told of Rodarte’s speech, one long-time area politician and former Mayor said, “the speech means they (Rodarte and friends) have a candidate they want to run. They want cover for council. They want their person on the Norwalk City Council.”
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