Under the city of Merced’s new charter, the mayor has no more clout than any of the other six City Council members. There are no special duties or prerogatives beyond cutting a few ribbons and gaveling meetings to order. Still, four people want the job.
The three who spoke to the Sun-Star editorial board all have positive qualities, thoughts and attributes. It’s a difficult choice. But what if voters can have their cake and eat it, too?
Apologies for using a food cliché to describe politics, but the city’s switch to district elections for city council – rather than at-large choices – has created both a dilemma and an opportunity.
The dilemma is that Mike Murphy – always pragmatic, sometimes pushy and occasionally innovative – will lose his council seat at the end of this year. Voters in the district where he lives won’t elect a council member until 2018. Instead of biding his time, Murphy is running for mayor – the only seat elected by the entire city.
By accumulating nearly $70,000 and many endorsements, he is a formidable candidate.
But so is Josh Pedrozo. Following in the footsteps of his county supervisor father, Pedrozo was first elected in 2009 and established a reputation for working with others. He, too, has raised significant campaign cash (roughly $30,000). His hallmarks are collaboration and positive engagement.
If Merced voters choose Murphy as mayor, they get to keep both on the council – for now. The problem is, they’ll likely lose Pedrozo from the council in 2018.
Pedrozo’s term doesn’t expire until 2018, but he lives in a district that is selecting its representative this year. So, if he’s not elected mayor, he could be off the council in two years. That makes this a hard choice.
While the two differ politically, they are remarkably similar on issues affecting the city.
Both support Measure V, the countywide road tax. Murphy dislikes taxes but clearly sees the need; Pedrozo helped draft the measure.
Both see regional cooperation – especially taking advantage of underused Castle Airport – as essential. Murphy put it best: “We exist in the same ecosystem.”
Both believe Merced must improve its image, especially from Highway 99. Pedrozo says that starts by convincing residents they don’t live in “Mer-dead.”
Both want to see in-fill housing projects, offering reduced fees for building within the city’s footprint.
Both know the city’s future is inextricably linked to UC Merced, and both want better, more convenient ways to get students downtown more frequently.
Both are supportive – and should be – of City Manager Steve Carrigan’s efforts to shelter the city’s homeless.
There are differences in temperament and style, but their approaches to solving Merced’s problems are a question of style, not substance. When asked to speak about the blight created by empty commercial buildings, Murphy brought up more stringent code enforcement; Pedrozo spoke of incentives to clean up buildings. They’re both right.
Which is why we need both on the City Council. The only way to keep them both is to elect Murphy mayor.
That will sound like a cop-out – especially to Pedrozo’s backers. And, if forced to choose, we would lean toward Pedrozo mainly because we prefer his emphasis on collaboration and belief that fixing this city begins with making collaborative choices. But two years is a long time; circumstances could change.
Unfortunately, making either choice leaves out one of the few delights of a dreadful election season – Necola Adams. Known as “The Cookie Lady,” Adams brought a smiling enthusiasm to this campaign; her affection for the city extends all the way to the UC and its students. She knows what it’s like to live in the city’s poor neighborhoods and understands those who too often feel marginalized. Her voice is important. But we put more emphasis on the voice of experience.
For awhile, Merced can have its cake and eat it, too – but only by electing Mike Murphy mayor.