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Article Launched:10/12/2006 01:25:39 AM PDT
No democracy in San Anselmo?
Tad Whitaker

Five candidates were interviewed this week for a vacant seat on the San Anselmo Town Council, but the session became a debate about the fairness of appointing council members.

Critics charged Tuesday night that the council is sliding into an undemocratic situation because, with the next appointment, three of the five Town Council members will have landed on the elected body without first winning an election.

One of the candidates, Ford Greene, narrowly lost to Ian Roth in last November's election, only to see Roth resign the four-year position in September.

Several people, including the other two unsuccessful candidates in last year's election, called for him to be appointed.

"I voted for Ford in November, and I want my vote to count," said Tom Fallon, a candidate in that election.

Council members will discuss the candidates and decide whom to appoint at a special meeting Tuesday.

The unusual situation dates to November 2002, when former mayor Judith Hodgens resigned because she needed more time to rebuild her house after a major fire.

The remaining four-member council appointed current Mayor Barbara Thornton to fill Hodgens' seat.

The next year, Thornton ran as an incumbent and won a full four-year term. Thornton ran alongside former mayor Peter Kilkus during an election that also featured a referendum on a controversial town garbage contract he supported.

Kilkus also won another four-year term, but then resigned 11 months later, saying he'd only sought another term to support the garbage contract.

The council then appointed current Councilman Wayne Cooper in November 2004 to fill the remainder of Kilkus' term.

That means two of the current four members started as appointees.

Roth's replacement would be the third.

The five candidates under consideration are:

- Greene, a lawyer who sued the town over a controversial political sign on the side of his office building;

- Judy House, a health-care administrator who is already on the Planning Commission;

- Casey Logwood, a loan agent who has lived in town for 33 years;

- Avner Sofer, an attorney who moved to town two years ago;

- Richard Taylor, a manager at the University of California at Berkeley who moved to town a year ago.

During Tuesday's meeting, the five candidates sat beside each other at a long table that faced the four council members.

Mayor Barbara Thornton asked each one the same seven questions that involved identifying serious town problems and solutions, ideas to reinvigorate the commercial area on San Anselmo Avenue south of the post office, their opinion about controversial businesses such as an adult bookstore that was proposed recently, flood response and proposed remedies, recent layoffs and reduced library hours, and proposals to build more affordable housing.

More than 40 people attended the 90-minute interview session. When it was over, residents spent more than half an hour discussing the situation and, in particular, whether Greene is entitled to Roth's seat.

Like Fallon, Lujza Mehling ran unsuccessfully for Town Council last November and asked the council to appoint Greene.

Her husband, Herman, ran unsuccessfully against Kilkus in 2004.

Lujza Mehling called for the council to adopt an ordinance that prevents the current situation from happening again. Whether the council opts for a special election in the event of a vacancy or some other solution, she said Greene is the obvious choice now.

"I believe he is the one who should be taking that seat," she said.


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