Loma Linda Seal

By Sandra Emerson, Redlands Daily Facts
Posted: 05/21/16 – 5:55 PM PDT |

LOMA LINDA >> At a time of heightened political interest nationwide, the city of Loma Linda is an apparent outlier. For the third time in six years, the City Council has scrapped the municipal election.

That’s because no one has stepped up to run against the incumbent City Council members since 2010.

Three council seats were up for election this year, but incumbents Rhodes Rigsby, Ovidiu Popescu and John Lenart were the only candidates by the end of the nomination period, prompting the council to cancel the race. The council also canceled elections in 2012 and 2014.

“There aren’t any really pressing issues that sometimes brings candidates out,” said Popescu, who won his seat in 2008. “Sometimes people are very upset about one thing or another, and I think folks are pretty content with the way the city’s run.”

Popescu, along with Rigsby, elected in 2006 and appointed mayor in 2010, and Lenart, appointed in 2012, will be sworn in for new four-year terms on June 14.

The council canceled the 2016 election at its March 22 meeting. Except for elected officials and city staff, the council chambers were empty.

The city saved $10,000 by canceling the election, but the move means residents do not get an opportunity to hold their representatives accountable, said Renée Van Vechten, associate professor in the political science department at the University of Redlands.

“Officials may be performing their jobs satisfactorily, even admirably,” she said, “but democracy demands that voters provide their periodic approval or disapproval at the ballot box.”

In Loma Linda, voters elect five City Council members. The council then appoints the mayor and mayor pro tem.

The City Council canceled its election for the first time in the city’s history in 2012, voting to appoint the only three candidates running for three seats.

Among them were incumbents Popescu and Rigsby. Lenart, the only candidate to fill the vacancy left by retiring Councilman Stan Brauer, also was appointed.

In 2014, Councilmen Ron Dailey and Phill Dupper ran unopposed, so the council agreed to cancel the election and appoint the incumbents.

“I guess there’s just nobody in town interested in getting involved,” said Floyd Petersen, a former Loma Linda mayor who was on the council from 1989 to 2010.

The March 22 council meeting may prove his point.

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