- Terelle Jerricks
By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter
“We’re the laughingstock of the South Bay,” asserts Joseph Gordon, who’s currently running for one of two contested seats on the Carson City Council. “If I had a business and I wanted to come to this city… I would look at our city council and say this is a place I don’t want to do business.”Gordon, a city planning commissioner and a veteran, is hoping to change that with a self-funded campaign. He believes his background in business and labor negotiations will help bring the council together. “Why I’m running,” he says. “We should come to some kind of agreement and move forward, not just opposing for the sake of opposing.”
When Carson voters go to the polls on March 5, they’ll also be voting on Measure M, which would return Carson to its former system of rotating the mayor’s position between council members. Gordon sees the measure as one example of the current divisiveness on the council.
“I oppose Measure M and this is one of those issues that has been settled,” Gordon argues. “The only reason we have Measure M on the ballot is because they’re trying to take away power from the mayor,” especially the mayor’s making all commission appointments.
Regarding what Measure M is, Carson must comply with the same laws as California’s other general law cities including neighboring Gardena. Originally Carson rotated its mayors and, in compliance with applicable state law, allowed all council members to appoint commissioners. In 1992 voters approved direct election of the mayor, and under applicable state law, an elected mayor must make all commission appointments but with the approval of the council.
In Carson three council members often block the mayor’s selections. “You have a divide on the city council because the mayor wants to do something and there’s another group of people opposing him, whether it’s the right thing to do [or not],” Gordon alleges.
“I don’t think that changing it [back] to a rotating mayor is going to benefit [Carson],” he continues. “It you’ve got a 3-2 split, they [three votes] control who’s the mayor.”
Gordon rejects arguments in favor of Measure M—that commissioners have used their offices, that some commissions are too powerful, or there are too many commissions and commissioners. He notes that during his service on the planning commission, he’s never encountered a commissioner resigning or being asked to resign over any impropriety.
“All commissioners play a role in advising the city council,” he counters. “The city council is the ultimate decision-maker.”
As another example of what he calls “politics,” Gordon cites the situation surrounding the city clerk. Helen Kawagoe served for 37 years until she resigned for health reasons in 2011. The city took the unusual step of interviewing candidates, eventually appointing Donesia Gause, a former Long Beach employee. Gordon thinks the city should have promoted from within.
The council also remains split over naming the council chambers after Kawagoe. The majority of Lula Davis-Holmes, Julie Ruiz-Raber, and Mike Gipson insist the action take place posthumously.
“The issue is not whether it will be named after her, it’s just when,” notes Gordon. “Why not give her the benefit of being able to see the hall being named after her?”
More divisiveness struck when the mayor, Jim Dear, recently attempted to name a street after himself. ”If you’re gonna honor yourself, is it really an honor?” Gordon observes. “I don’t think that a person should be able to nominate themselves—to honor themselves in a way like that.”
Gordon is also running on the issue of economic development, which he believes is especially important now the city has no redevelopment agency. He cites the Boulevards at South Bay, a shopping complex under construction, as one example of a project he’d support should he be elected.