Despite several personal recommendations and a host of emails supporting the third-place finisher in the 2020 election, the Cypress City Council voted on Monday to allow eligible citizens to apply to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Council member Stacy Berry.
Berry somewhat surprisingly resigned her seat on the Council effective July 5 so that she and her husband could better prepare for an out-of-state move.
Berry’s unexpired term on the council ends in November of 2022, and the Council discussed a number of options Monday to fill the vacant seat.
The Council agreed almost not to call a special election to fill the seat, and instead, voted to create a process with applicants. They rejecting calls for the Council to appoint the third-place finisher in the 2020 election.
Most were supportive of former candidate Carrie Hayashida, a candidate of Asian descent that somesaid they thought could effectively represent the one-third of the citizens of Cypress who are of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage.
Hayashida finished with more than 6,000 votes in 2020, and although she was not elected (because of only two seats being open), she finished more than 2,000 votes ahead of the next closest finisher.
Even Blaze Bhence, a candidate in that same 2020 race, appeared before the Council to ask them to appoint Hayashida to Berry’s open seat. “Follow the Democratic process,” Bhence urged the Council. “We have an underserved (Asian) and underrepresented part of our community,” he said, which amounts to nearly 40 percent.
“And,” he said, “we do have a vacancy.”
“The people of Cypress have spoken,” said Tim Yurien, another resident. “Whoever came in third should fill that spot,” he said, “regardless of who it was.”
Hayashida, who also attended the meeting, called the vacancy an “equitable opportunity” for the north side of the city to have representation on the council. “While I am committed to run again in 2022, it seems to me that the vacancy should go to the next person in line,” she suggested.
The former candidate, who is a businesswoman in Cypress, acknowledged that in no way did she think she was entitled to the position. However, Hayashida said she simply thought it would be the best utilization of the democratic process for the remainder of the council to appoint someone for whom the citizens of the entire city had already demonstrated such strong support.
“Six thousand and seventy voters already voted for me to serve alongside you,” she said.
Those sentiments were repeated by other speakers, both in person and virtually, and according to city officials, was also reflected in emails sent to the Council.
The Council however, had a different view and under its charter, are under no obligation to appoint any candidate for a previous election.
Council member Paulo Morales, who was earlier in the meeting elected by the Council to replace Berry as Mayor Pro-Tem, said residents in the same 2020 election also approved a process embedded in Measure P that allows the Council to have 60 days to fill any vacancy.
“We are reading the emails,” he noted, and acknowledged many of them, in fact, “spoke up for Carrie.”
Yet, he said while Hayashida received 6,070 votes, Measure P had received approximately 16,000 votes, and that included a process of 60 days to fill a vacancy.
Morales said “we (Council) were elected to speak for the community as a whole.” He said by their vote on Measure P, he thought seven of every ten registered voters were directing the council to go through the 60-day process to fill any vacancy on the council.
Morales flatly rejected calls of “cronyism” and other such suggestions by some of the emails, and quickly moved to create a selection process to fill the vacancy on the Council created by the resignation of Berry.
Council member Anne Hertz seconded the motion and the motion to start a process to fill Berry’s seat passed unanimously 4-0.
Following a long process of answering questions directed to them by City Manager Peter Grant, the Council subsequently agreed to a process that will allow residents until July 30 to submit their notifications of interest in the vacancy to the city.
During the discussion, the council agreed to provide prospective appointees with a broad outline form rather than an application, per se and allow them up to five pages to provide vision and other details.
City officials say they will coordinate the questions with legal counsel and the Council members and post all requirements, etc. on the city’s website in a few days.
Basically, the charter allows almost any citizen who is legally registered to vote, even if they register any time before the appointment, to submit their qualifications for the post, the council was told was legal counsel Fred Galante.
Candidates who have already served two full terms on the council or which the remainder of Berry’s term would put them over the term limit threshold are not qualified to seek the position, he said.
Also, the process will remain a bit fluid, the Council generally agreed to create selection criteria and begin interviewing in mid-August.
Both Galante and Grant said all applicant submissions, and subsequent hearings, will be public and will be posted on the city’s website. Interviews will also be open to the public.
The Council expects to have a selection before their deadline of September 5 (60 days from the date of Berry’s resignation). If they do not fill the vacant seat by September 5, Measure P changes in the city charter will automatically trigger a special election.
If for any reason the city has to resort to a public hearing, however, Grant said, because of various deadlines involved with election cycles, any new member of the council may not be able to take office until May of ‘22.
Grant said county officials say the cost of staging a special election would be approximately $250,000.
After the meeting, Hayashida said, “I’m extremely disappointed but now I want to serve Cypress more than ever.”