After several nomination motions failed for lack of seconds, Councilwoman Crystal Ruiz was named San Jacinto’s newest mayor, and Councilman Russ Utz became the city’s mayor pro tem at the Dec. 5 San Jacinto Council meeting.
Ruiz will take over the mayoral slot for San Jacinto replacing Councilman Scott Miller as mayor, and Utz will assume Councilman Alonso Ledezma’s former position of mayor pro tem.
In San Jacinto, the mayor’s position comes up for election by the council at the end of each year.
The annual nominations for the city’s 2018 mayoral position and reorganization became somewhat contentious following the first nomination by Utz who nominated Ruiz for mayor with Councilman Andrew Kotyuk seconding. An attempt to nominate Ledezma for mayor by Miller failed with no second. A third motion to nominate Miller to serve a second term also failed, leaving only the first motion for the council to cast their votes.
The first motion brought to a vote to elect Ruiz as mayor saw Kotyuk, Utz and Ruiz voting for Ruiz as mayor, making her the city’s newest mayor.
A similar nomination period with Kotyuk nominating Utz for mayor pro tem was seconded by Ruiz. When Ledezma was nominated as mayor pro tem by Miller, Ledezma declined the nomination, leaving the motion to elect Utz as mayor pro tem on the table. Utz was elected with votes by Kotyuk, Ruiz and Utz voting “yes,” and Miller and Ledezma voting “no.”
The mayoral and mayor pro tem election that evening showed an apparent division between the council, particularly in the recent controversial marijuana cultivation issue in the city, with Ledezma and Miller strongly objecting to the cultivation of cannabis in the agricultural areas of the city.
The council still voted to permit 16 indoor and outdoor marijuana cultivation sites in the city after numerous public hearings and workshops held since voter approved Proposition 64, The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, was passed that is tied into the 1966 Proposition 215, Compassionate Use Act, which allows the distribution and use of medical marijuana even though marijuana is still considered an illegal drug in the United States.
The council has heard both proponents and opponents for the cultivation of marijuana, testing and distribution finally agreeing, in ordinance, to cultivation only. The city has kept in place ordinances prohibiting dispensaries. The creation of testing laboratories also has not been approved. City law enforcement continues to close illegal marijuana dispensaries plaguing some parts of the city.
Tuesday night’s public comment time before and after the mayoral election brought more criticism of the council’s final action on marijuana by several members in the audience who strongly pleaded with the council to rescind their previous ordinances, permitting marijuana cultivation.
One audience member, representing a recently permitted a marijuana cultivation business, praised the council for their action and promised the new industry would bring millions of dollars in new revenue to the city and jobs for the community.
Ledezma and Miller told the audience they “regretted” their actions in permitting the marijuana grows in the city and said they would do everything they could to rescind the ordinances in future meetings.
Bringing the marijuana industry into the city continues to be a strong issue in the community and appears to be a dividing point in the council’s thinking as the Tuesday evening vote showed.
The council took a break at the conclusion of the election and awarded Miller a ceremonial gavel plaque and thanked him for his year-long term as mayor and the achievements in hiring a new city manager, bringing new business to the community and continuing to improve the city’s financial status following the recession.