Riverbank will elect mayor in November

RIVERBANK -- A deadlocked City Council couldn't choose a new mayor, so the people will.

At a special meeting Monday night, the City Council split 2-2 on whether to appoint or elect its next mayor. The council must fill the seat vacated by David I. White, who resigned abruptly last month.

Appointing a mayor requires a majority vote. With council members too divided to reach that majority, the city must hold an election, said City Attorney Tom Hallinan.

The news was greeted with cheers from some and bitterness from others. Loud applause broke out in the Riverbank Community Center on Monday night when officials announced the election.

The outburst prompted Vice Mayor Dave White to tell the audience in an icy tone, "If you folks think we should go to an election, why don't you start donating toward the cost? You can give it to our city clerk." White ended his suggestion with a pound of the gavel and adjourned the meeting.

White and Jesse James White both wanted the council to appoint a new mayor. Council members Sandra Be- nitez and Danny Fielder favored an election.

Both Dave White and Jesse James White said the cash-strapped city couldn't afford to pay for an election.

If Riverbank holds the election in November, it will cost between $8,000 and $11,000, said City Clerk Linda Abid-Cummings. The city will join in November's consolidated district election. Holding a special election would cost the city about $30,000.

Jesse James White said the council should appoint a new mayor because council members are elected to make such decisions. He said two of his colleagues, Dave White and Benitez, would make fine mayors.

"That's what we're elected to do, and that's why we're here tonight," said Jesse James White. "There's no shame in us making the decision to save $30,000, because that's our job."

Fielder disagreed. An election would be a financial burden, but only an election would help a splintered city move forward, Fielder said.

Riverbank has been increasingly divided since the surprise resignation of Chris Crifasi, who preceded David I. White as mayor.

A group of residents has organized a recall effort against council members Dave White and Jesse James White, who are grandfather and grandson.

Recall supporters have until July 1 to gather 1,800 signatures from registered voters.If they succeed, voters will decide whether to keep the Whites on the council.

David I. White is not related to Jesse James White and Dave White.

Recall supporters have gathered about 300 signatures so far, said organizer Sergio Lopez. The recall group walked door-to-door last weekend to gather signatures.

They also unveiled a homemade mobile billboard that says "Grandfather + Grandson = Bad Leaders."

Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at or 578-2378.

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