Canceling the 2012 city elections may have seemed like a difficult task for Loma Linda’s City Council.
But the more difficult task may be engaging their residents, many of whom learned of the recent cancellation from a reporter.
“Oh really?” asked one resident, who asked not to be identified. “Why did they cancel it?”
The response was similar from other residents approached by Loma Linda Patch. Many said they were too busy to follow the city's political comings and goings. It may also point to a disconnect between the city's leaders and its residents.
So much so, that on March 22, when the city called a special meeting to discuss the cancellation of the election, only seven people were in attendance -- including the media.
Councilmembers decided at that meeting that they couldn't justify paying $10,000 for an election at a time when the city is struggling financially, instead voting to appoint the three declared candidates to the three open seats.
Election laws give the council the right to call off the vote. But during public comment, long-time Bryn Mawr resident Fred Ramos warned the council their approval rating among residents of his community was low.
"I travel the whole county ... and I listen to things that occur, especially when it comes to the city where I live, here in Loma Linda. And it's not favorable," Ramos said during the meeting. "It's not very favorable."
The depth of the division is open for debate, according to Mayor Rhodes Rigsby. The mayor said in a recent that residents may be finally feeling a certain level of satisfaction with their local government, and don't see a reason to make changes in the Council.
But that wasn't the case in 2006, when turmoil rocked the council chambers. It was the last time there was a major turnover on the panel. And that experience may be one of the causes of voter resentment now.
In 2006, then Councilwoman Karen Gaio Hansberger resigned following allegations of conflict of interest, stemming from the development of the city's South Hills -- something that was strongly opposed by residents. Her resignation led to Rigsby's appointment to the panel, and the defeat of two other incumbents in 2008.
Those incidents soured Sylvia Rangel, who lives near Baseball Field Park.
“I don’t even know the names of the council anymore, to be honest,” Rangel said. “Past experiences with the council were not pleasant.”
Things have calmed in the city, allowing her to let some of her guard down. But Rigsby’s comment about residents finding some satisfaction had her shaking her head.
“I think he may be trying to convince himself of that,” she said. “I think they are becoming satisfied with what they’re doing.”
Resident Valerie Gallant does give the current council credit for bringing calm to the city. She also remembers the turmoil and the effort to change the faces on the council.
“We’ve come out of the time when the council was bowing to pressure from developers,” she said. She knows members of the council, and is politically active herself.
“I think we have a council we know and trust,” she said.