WALNUT CREEK -- It's official: There will be no municipal election here this November.
The City Council decided at a special Aug. 21 meeting to cancel the election after the minimum number of candidates necessary -- two -- filed for the two council seats up for election this year. This will be the city's first uncontested election since 2002.
At that same meeting, the council decided to appoint Councilwoman Cindy Silva, a two-time mayor, and former attorney Rich Carlston to the open seats. They will take the oath of office and begin their four-year terms in December.
Incumbent Mayor Kristina Lawson had decided not to seek re-election.
Canceling the election saves $50,000, according to the city clerk.
This move also means that there can be no effort for a write-in candidate to win election. Lawson voted against appointing both Silva and Carlston, though she did at the same meeting vote in favor of appointing the unchallenged fifth-term incumbent City Treasurer Ron Cassano.
"I would have preferred that our residents have the choice to cast their votes however they saw fit -- whether for a write-in candidate, either of the two qualified candidates, or for neither candidate if that was their preference," she said. "Our city treasurer has appeared on the ballot many times uncontested. I think there is great value in going through the process of voting and reviewing the elected offices and candidates, even in an uncontested election."
She said while the election of Silva and Carlston may well have been a likely election outcome, she doesn't consider it a waste of money to inform about their choices for City Council through both the ballot pamphlet and the ballot itself.
Silva did not vote on her own reappointment to the council, but did vote in favor of appointing Carlston.
City Clerk Suzie Martinez said three other people did pull papers to run for election and one, business owner Matt DeLima filed them. But he failed to qualify for the election because he did not have the correct number of registered Walnut Creek voters' signatures on his paperwork.
Ralph Hoffman, a resident who pulled papers to run for election, said at the meeting last week that he decided not to run and instead wants to start a political organization "Republicans for Reversing Climate Change While Saving Money." The election shouldn't be held, he said, and the money saved spent on the Free Ride trolley bus that trolls downtown.
Councilman Justin Wedel said that, as the most financially conservative person on the council, he liked that the city could save money by not having an election. But he went back and fourth on canceling it after reading about the Lafayette City Council's discussion on whether to cancel its election. One Lafayette council member's rationale for canceling was that no other candidate had tried and failed to get on the ballot, and that she wasn't inclined to hold an election for write-in candidacy. However, in Walnut Creek DeLima had filed and intended to run.
Councilwoman Loella Haskew said if DeLima was a serious candidate he would have submitted his papers much earlier and made sure he had qualified.
"To have an election for a write-in candidate that did not meet the qualification, seems likes an extraordinary waste of money," she said.
In the end, Wedel struggled but agreed and voted to appoint Silva and Carlston.
Mayor Pro Tem Bob Simmons said he was disappointed that more did not seek to run for election.
"I hope in future elections we will have more people in the community step up and serve in this capacity," Simmons said.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617 or firstname.lastname@example.org