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Emeryville City Council Updates: Priforce, Mourra Sworn in; Bauters Re-Appointed Mayor Amid New Council Tensions

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The Emeryville City Council convened on Monday via zoom for one of their final meetings of 2022. It was also the final meeting for Councilmembers Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue who both finished off their second four year terms.

Emeryville has been slow to reinstitute in-person or some form of hybrid council meetings. A format that would allow citizen input by the vast majority of people, particularly parents, who lack the time and resources to attend evening meeting that often run over four hours.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced plans to officially end the COVID-19 State of Emergency on February 28, 2023. This legislation contains provisions that allow for remote meeting teleconferencing under a modified version of the Brown Act until this date.

Some cities are moving toward a “hybrid” approach that allows speakers to participate both remotely and in-person.

Kalimah Priforce & David Mourra Officially Sworn in [2:14:00]

The city officially certified the results of the City Council Election acknowledging the victories of Kalimah Priforce & David Mourra. Priforce and Mourra won a fairly tight five-candidate race for two open seats.

Priforce jumped out to an early lead on election day and never looked back. Mourra maintained a slim lead over Sukhdeep Kaur and Brooke Westling that gradually expanded with each update on the Alameda County Elections website. The final tally had Mourra over Westling by 167 votes.

Emeryville has 6,904 registered voter with nearly 70% of these registered as Democrats.

Mourra was sworn in by new City Clerk April Richardson. Priforce was sworn in by his godmother Cathie Wright-Lewis who was deputized to perform the ceremony and joined remotely from Brooklyn, NY.

Wright-Lewis read a heartfelt poem acknowledging the odds Priforce overcame to achieve the stature of an elected official. “Made of Brooklyn grit and a Haitian heart of gold, what true kings are made of you’ve always been told”

Priforce expressed appreciation to his family from the east coast who stayed up past midnight to observe and participate in the ceremony.

Bauters’ Re-Appointment as Mayor Stirs Controversy [2:27:44]

Mourra and Priforce’s first official order of business was to appoint a member of council to a one-year term as Mayor.

Like many smaller cities, Emeryville appoints its Mayor from among its councilmembers and generally rotates the position among them annually. The role of Mayor does not have any additional voting power but the position comes with additional public obligations and time-commitments.

Bauters initially nominated councilmember Ally Medina who was serving as Vice-Mayor but Medina declined citing professional obligations (Medina previously served a one-year term as Mayor in 2019). Medina in turn nominated Bauters who does not have to juggle the career and family obligations of the other councilmembers. The motion was seconded by newly sworn-in councilmember David Mourra.

Serving back-to-back terms as Mayor is unprecedented in recent decades. Notable council-watcher Betsy Cooley implied that she was unfamiliar with this happening in her 35 years of observing city politics. A span that goes back to legendary Councilmember Nora Davis’ first term in 1987. “We’ve had a rotating mayor for the entire time I’ve been here,” Cooley Noted. “But there have always been exceptions.”

Another member of the public utilized public comment to voice opposition to Bauters’ second term. While on mute, Medina began demonstrably laughing and making gestures apparently mocking the anonymous but well-known speaker [2:31:10].

Medina began making bizarre facial expressions and gestures while on mute during public comment.

The following speaker called Medina out for her lack of professionalism. “I’m just kind of concerned why the public isn’t involved in this decision,” noted th speaker who identified herself as Yolanda Harris. “Is this a real business meeting? Are you all friends? I mean, how are you all operating this because this is my first time in your [govt.] body but I’m looking at all your facial expressions your body languages your comments your accolades throughout this whole process … this is serious and we’re the public why the public isn’t speaking. Where is the voice of the people? I know you all like each other you probably know each other work well but we are talking about how we serve the people the public and I just feel that the public should have a say to how you are switching these roles around like this. You all are elected officials … and adults. Adults!” she reiterated.

Welch stepped in to try to reason that the people were indeed given a choice for Mayor. “The public did get a vote when they elected us,” she attempted to justify. Welch’s statement is inaccurate as Bauters and Medina were both appointed to their second term in 2020 when no challengers opted to file. Welch was elected last year in a Special Election after Christian Patz departed Emeryville for a job opportunity.

Welch is a relatively newcomer to the city and to council and likely unfamiliar with its recent history. This is likely a contributor to her not being elevated to the role of mayorship.

“People are upset. It doesn’t feel right. It seems like this decision was made prior to this meeting.”
— Councilmember Kalimah Priforce

“I’m getting tons of messages,” Priforce spoke out when called upon. “People are upset. It doesn’t feel right. It seems like this decision was made prior to this meeting.” Priforce likened Bauters to a little-league player not wanting to give up the baseball bat after striking out. “You have to give others a chance to play.”

Bauters in fact screened the possibility of a second, back-to-back term in an earlier Bay Area Reporter story noting “Not everyone can or wants to do it for family or job reasons.”

Orchestrating acts such as this outside the purview of the public is a Brown Act Violation as it erodes public trust in local institutions.


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Medina fired back in an emotion laden response [2:47:42]. “I find it somewhat offensive to have a man tell me that it’s really all about Mayor Bauters’ ethics and morals. This a political decision that I after six years of serving an office have made with my judgment as what is best for the people of Emeryville.” Medina then called out Priforce for enlisting allies outside of Emeryville (Yolanda Harris identified herself as a SF resident in a prior public comment). “Be well aware that with a simple public records act request we can look at all of your text messages and confirm who is and who is not from Emeryville,” she chided.

A subsequent unanimous vote reaffirmed the initial motion with Priforce ultimately voting “aye.” Welch was elevated to Vice Mayor which would put her in line to be mayor next year based on the city’s unwritten but “traditional” protocols.

Bauters has dominated Emeryville Politics for years and his fellow councilmembers have mostly sheepishly followed along with whatever initiatives he proposes. It appears the city might actually see an occasional dissenting voice which has been lacking on council since 2016.

Notes & updates: We’ve added a direct quote from B. Cooley above to provide clarity to her public comment.
After conferring with the Emeryville City Clerk, the last time a councilmember served back-to-back 1-year terms as Mayor was in 1997-1998 (Ken Bukowski).

Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

21 Comments

  1. I don’t think I said I had never seen that happen. I think I said that they don’t always stick to the rotation schedule. I don’t even know whether or not that has happened in the past and it was so long ago I don’t know how anyone would even be able to document whether or not it had happened. It was not unusual for the next person in rotation to decline to be Mayor and in the past there have been council members who had served some period of time who were available to step in. Since I landed in Emeryville, it was always the policy that the members of the City Council would vote on who would be Mayor. (Please either delete my comment or correct what I said.). Thank you, -Betsy

    • I watched the session and came here to post that your comments were misrepresented in this article. As a contributor to the E’Ville Eye I’d like it to see a correction. In fact, what I watched and what is reported in this article demonstrates a definite bias. I hope this is a one-off situation.

      • Hello and thanks for your support. The point of that section of the article is that two speakers who both identified themselves as longtime and engaged residents were not aware of anyone serving back to back terms as Mayor. After conferring with the City Clerk, I added a note at the bottom of the story indicating that it had indeed happened 25 years ago (these records are not posted publicly to my knowledge). What would you like to see written that would clarify this?

  2. Medina’s reactions, expressions, and gestures, during nomination process were unprofessional and not becoming of a council member. Why is she on the Council, if she is not ready or able to serve the people who elected her?

    • Because she’s a socialist and 70%+ of the voters in Emeryville are socialist. Collegiality for thee, but not for me.

      Unrelated Question. Why haven’t I removed my campaign sign that has been befouling an Emeryville median since May? Pollution control for thee, but not for me.

      Socialists are hypocrites.

      • It’s illegal to post signs on public property. So technically all who did that were doing so against the law.

      • Caltrans has a policy (see below) requiring campaign signs be removed within 10 days of the election. I was elected in June but my campaign sign is still standing in the median of an Emeryville road. Emeryville should enact legislation that fines elected officials like myself my daily salary for each day my sign pollutes your city beyond the 10 days.

        Political Signs

        This is a reminder for a candidate or campaign worker for either office or a ballot measure about State law governing campaign signs. Section 5405.3 of the State Outdoor Advertising Act exempts the placing of temporary political signs from normal outdoor advertising display requirements.

        Temporary political signs must meet the following criteria:

        Encourages a particular vote in a scheduled election.
        Is placed not sooner than 90 days prior to the scheduled election and is removed within 10 days after that election.
        Is no larger than 32 square feet.
        Has filed a Statement of Responsibility certifying a person who will be responsible for removing the sign.
        Temporary political signs shall not be placed within the right-of-way of any highway, or within 660 feet of the edge of, and visible from the right-of-way of a classified landscaped freeway. State law directs the Department of Transportation to remove unauthorized temporary political signs and bill the responsible party for their removal.

  3. These are low-paid, demanding jobs. Criticizing a Councilmember for not having MORE time to serve as Mayor seems inappropriate. The fact that the alternatives were relatively inexperienced or complete newbies, it seems like we owe a debt of gratitude to Bauters for being willing to do the work once again. He seems to me to have been a force for good in the City since being elected, and his work ethic is matched by none.

    • I might argue that if they stuck to the basics of local government (Budget, Public Safety, Fire, Public Works …) the job would not be as demanding (the city is barely 1 square mile and 13K people – The size of most neighborhoods!). It appears to me that Bauters (and others) want to make names for themselves and promote their political careers by pursuing policies that get media/activist attention (i.e. their own labor policies, housing bonds, unique building & parking policies, symbolic social justice initiatives …). This is not to diminish the importance of these but they create additional work for themselves and burden staff (often at the expense of more critical, pressing issues). Many of these policies should be handled at the regional level but unfortunately the County-level Government is absolutely feckless.

      • Couldn’t agree more with this statement. I’m anxiously awaiting the trash heap that will surface at the newly created 61st street cul-de-sac. All due to Bauters train crossing calming folly. Maybe we can call it DUMP BAUTERS.

      • Totally agree that we need to nail basic city services if the Emeryville is going to do big additional thing. Public works and police aren’t perfect but they are pretty good and responsive. Bauters seems to get this and he gets the staff to take care of basic operations. The silencing of those obnoxious train horns without using any city money is going to be great. People talked about it for decades but John got it done. I’m looking forward to the new culdesac on 66th. It’s going to be a great place for kids to practice riding bikes. Maybe the city can have some food trucks set up there?

    • Whether it is a low paying job or a volunteer position that one takes, it should be done with complete dedication or you are doing a disservice and have no business being there. Moreover, Medina is just immature and given her tantrums, she shouldn’t even be on the council. Many directly elected officials with no prior experience have done great jobs. This is a self-promoting move by Bauters and the whole dynamic that came across with the three sitting members erodes public trust.

      • Medina has been a tool the moment she was sworn in. She is an empty suit that has no redeeming quality to serve.

    • Hello Mike McConnell,

      What I’ve learned about leadership is that great leaders develop other leaders. They seed growth in everyone around them but particularly those who they work closely with. For anyone to share that they are unprepared to take the mantle of leadership or that they do not have time for it when they were elected by their constituents to do the job is inappropriate. It is also a reflection of leadership dearth.

      That would be like if V.P. Kamala Harris extolled that they were ready to take the role of Vice-President, but insufficient to be President or did not have time for the role. Can you see how problematic that would be?

      George Washington was asked to fill a third term as the first President of our country. He declined. He did so, because morally it wasn’t the right message he wanted to send to the American people – to be a king and create a culture of lifetime appointments.

      My comments in response to the nomination process weren’t for John alone. It was about the health of democratic institutions. It wasn’t an ideation session wherein councilmember were trying to convince John to be mayor again. It was clearly pre-planned and premeditated, as I mentioned in the video. So there were discussions among councilmembers, but not with the public.

      If you know you are going to do something that would draw the ire of the public, have a conversation with the public about it. It’s an anti-intellectual insult to our collective intelligence to persuade, through theatrics, that this process wasn’t pre-determined, pre-planned, and that the public’s interests were at the center of this process. It clearly wasn’t.

      I’m not intentionally being a dissident on the city council. I just ask the questions the public asks, because of mediums like these, I read everything, or at least I try to, and I try my best to respond, but I talk to the public, make notes, and bring them along with me. I interact in real-time.

      We are in a global era of political leaders wanting to hold on to power and remaining there by seeding apathy, not growth. To be a public servant of the City of Emeryville is truly an honor that I do not take lightly and for those who voted for me and those who didn’t, I will not respond to the call of leadership with, “I don’t have time,” or “I’m not ready.”

      Do The Right Thing (I’m from Brooklyn) and make room for someone who has the time and is ready.

      • What was the point of your rant if you just voted for Bauters anyway? Ally turned down the nomination and Courtney wanted John to serve. Who does that leave to be Mayor? You? And what does George Washington have to do with Emeryville City council? Emeryville Mayor is basically just another council seat. City council picks who they think would be the best mayor. After all that grandstanding it’s hard to imagine that ever being you.

    • If “Welch is a relatively newcomer to the city and to council and likely unfamiliar with its recent history. This is likely a contributor to her not being elevated to the role of mayorship.” is the unnecessary dig – need we be reminded her candidacy was founded on a factual inaccuracy?
      Oh well, one cannot expect rationality when the mention of collegiality is implied to have racial overtones.
      I used to tell people Emeryville is trying hard to be left of Berkeley. Now the radical leftist Ally cannot even stand it here. RIP Emeryville.

      • Holy cats, are we still litigating the “factual inaccuracy” thing? Yikes. And yes, I’m calling out Rob’s dig. I’m not saying it has anything to do with race; you’re inferring without cause. I don’t know why Rob was/is biased against Courtney, but he is, and he should be checked on it when it happens.

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