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Welch Elevated to Mayor; Mourra Vice Mayor in Surprise Vote; Bauters declares intent to seek 3rd term

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Emeryville City Council convened on Tuesday, December 5th as they begin to wind down proceedings for 2023. Among the agenda items was the appointment of Mayor and Vice Mayor positions for 2024.

Emeryville, like many smaller cities, rotates its mayorship among its councilmembers. Typically, whomever serves as Vice Mayor is elevated to Mayor the following year. This system was not adhered to last year for the first time on recent record as then Vice Mayor Ally Medina declined the position citing time constraints.

Instead, Bauters maintained the Mayorship role being the first councilmember to serve back-to-back terms since 1997-1998 (Ken Bukowski). Medina ended up resigning from council a week later and was replaced by Sukhdeep Kaur who was appointed to the role in February, 2023 [12/19 Correction].

Priforce Slight leads to Drama in Council Chambers [2:16:25]

The biggest drama of the evening was if Councilmembers Kalimah Priforce would be elevated Vice Mayor. The unwritten rules have typically favored the elected official with the highest vote tally from the prior election which was Priforce when he was elected in 2022.

Priforce has not exactly endeared himself to Bauters and Welch often speaking against their favored policies. As anticipated, Bauters panned Priforce instead nominating ally David Mourra to the role.

“When we look at the further development of leadership, every person on council has the ability to become a leader. It takes working with other people to do that,” Bauters said making a motion to nominate Welch for Mayor and Mourra to Vice Mayor.

This motion was in turn approved 4-0 with Priforce abstaining.

“You will be removed from this meeting if you disrupt it again!”

Outgoing Emeryville Mayor John Bauters

This led to a disruption in chambers when a well known local political blogger began yelling at Bauters leading to his removal from chambers.

“You will be removed from this meeting if you disrupt it again!” Bauters fired back violently pounding his gavel before instructing EPD Chief Jeff Jennings to intervene. “He’s out! This is not a question. He’s Instructed. He’s out. We’re not going to have him harassing people at this point!”

“I’m being arrested!” the local blogger could be heard yelling while being escorted out.

Courtney Welch being sworn in as Emeryville Mayor.

After the room was cleared and Bauters regained his composure, Welch was officially sworn-in by City Clerk April Richardson.

Welch is presumed to be the fist Black Woman to hold the title of Mayor within Emeryville (The city does not maintain complete historical records but it is understood that previous Black Women councilmembers Nellie Hannon and Esther Spriggs did not serve a turn as Mayor).

The Mayor position is mostly ceremonial and does not have any additional voting power although the councilmember holding the position gets to approve the agenda and is tapped for media opportunities and ceremonial duties like business grand openings.

City Council will convene for the final time of 2023 on December 19.


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Bauters declares intent to run for third term

Now councilmember John Bauters declared his intent to run for a third term via the X platform when his current term expires in 2024.

Emeryville city council terms that expire in 2024 include Bauters’ (appointed in 2020), Welch (2022 Special Election to finish Christian Patz’ 4-year term) and Kaur (appointed this year to finish Medina’s term).

Bauters, barring scandal, is considered a shoe-in to win a third seat leveraging his incumbency and perceived popularity.

Bauters currently has a political “war chest” of over $31,000 according to his most recent Form 460 filing which is an incredible amount for a City of Emeryville’s size. Much of this was accumulated in 2020 when no challengers filed to run against the three incumbents sparing him from any campaign expenditures. A large percentage of this $31K accumulated were contributed by affiliates of Ohana Cannabis.

Despite these impressive totals, Bauters continues to solicit donations from his followers.

Eye’s on Higher Office?

It seems increasingly likely that Bauters has eyes on pursuing higher office in the region. Among the many barriers for him are that there are very few of these positions he is qualified to pursue.

There is of course a U.S. Congressional seat (currently occupied by Barbara Lee who has served for 25 years but has declared her bid for Senate), State Assembly (held by Mia Bonta who was recently elected in 2021), and County Supervisor (Keith Carson).

Carson’s position seems like the likely stepping stone for Bauters. Carson has held the position since 1993 and is 73 years old. His latest 4-year term expires at the end of 2024. County Supervisor is not subjected to term limits.

12/8 Update: Supervisor Carson announced he has opted to not seek reelection in 2024:

Barring a local official stepping down or in turn seeking a higher office, these positions are essentially a lifetime term in a deep blue district.

At 44 years of age, Bauters has time on his side and has been very vocal advocate of “electing younger people.”

Having served on Emeryville City council by itself is likely not enough to get anyone elected beyond the city. Bauters has furthered his regional profile by serving as chair on both the Alameda CTC and BAAQM.

Bauters has also been extremely effective as using the X platform (FKA “Twitter”) to further his political profile frequently posting photos and videos of himself and touting his accomplishments. He has also enlisted the support of passionate cycling and “YIMBY” advocacy groups.

Bauters clearly relishes the adulation of holding office and “hobnobbing” with other elected officials.

Bauters’ day job is as the State of Arizona Director for the criminal justice focused Alliance for Safety & Justice.

Welch has also declared her intent to seek another term when hers expires in 2024.

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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.

8 Comments

  1. Thank you for this lowdown on the Council’s history and effectiveness of Bauters taking the reins whenever it serves him to move on. We welcome the time when the Council and residents of Emeryville can sit down with the full council to discuss the new Code of Ethics. You pointed out the sudden departure of Ally Medina (who may have held on just long enough to allow Bauters to appoint rather than vote on a new councilperson to retain his control. While Bauters may not be marred in any controversy yet, it seems he sets up his “womenfolk” to obey his rules and take on a hostile tone for him – without any recourse for citizen complaints against the councilpersons. Ally Medina’s behavior, long before she reneged on her duties after being voted in again, was sometimes hostile towards residents in meetings we watched all during the pandemic. New Mayor Courtney Welsh, following in those footsteps, takes it to another level. Councilmembers ALL need big-time training on X (Twitter) and other social media. With a recent barrage of foul language toward her colleagues and our local blogger/journalist, Welsh has exasperated Emeryville residents who are sick and tired of these inappropriate, unacceptable attacks. Women councilpersons should never be meek and dutiful to the males in power, rather they should rise above the fray, and find a path to getting things done with DIGNITY. May we all be healthy, safe, and free. Elisabeth Montgomery

  2. Imagine making a video attacking every other council member then still expecting them to vote for you to become Vice Mayor.

  3. And with Bauters’ touting of the new pedestrian bridge there’s this:

    if you’re disabled and coming from the east traveling over the bridge you’re screwed. The thing isn’t accessible no matter if the sign says it is. IT DOES NOT MEET CURRENT ADA CODE.

    It’s the city’s white elephant now, just waiting for a discrimination lawsuit to be filed.

  4. I voted for Priforce because he told me what he thought I wanted to hear, and then has failed to live up to what he described as his priorities. If he runs again, I won’t be voting for him.

  5. “Medina resigned from council a few months later forcing the city to hold an expensive Special Election won by current Vice Mayor Courtney Welch.”

    This is inaccurate. You mixed up Medina’s resignation with Welch’s election. Welch was elected when Patz resigned. When Medina resigned, Councilperson Kaur was appointed.

    You should make a correction

    • Good catch! Fixed and added to our corrections page.
      The correct timeline of events was:
      – Patz resigned 5/21
      – Special Election won by Welch was 11/21
      – Media resigned 12/22
      – Kaur appointed 2/23

      This reader correction entitles you to a free item from our shop. Email us your Name, Address and selection and well get this mailed to you.

  6. I voted for Mr. Priforce, but the council made the right call not putting him in the no. 2 spot. He won’t be ready as mayor come Dec 2024. Mr Bauters probably did the dirty work by making the motion, but the other 3 council members would have made the same arrangement with Ms Welch as Mayor and Mr Moura as #2. Mr Priforce just isn’t ready. He is exceptional with community engagement and generating media attention and he absolutely means well. But he is a long way from being effective.

    In council meetings, Mr Priforce doesn’t seem familiar or prepared on how to get things done. He’s just not effective. Observe how he approaches discussion and agenda items. Compare with Mr Moura or Ms Kaur, who is appointed and came after his election. Ms Kaur comes prepared with the questions, data and research, she is succinct and passionate about articulating her take, and has a sense of what direction to give to advance legislative matters forward.

    Mr Moura and Ms Kaur are both able to ask insightful questions, and SYNTHESIZE information. I would feel confident with either of them as #2.

    Mr Priforce unfortunately meanders a lot. If he can spend more time to master how legislative processes happen, asking useful questions, he can make change happen and he will be unstoppable.

    Otherwise he’s just a voice for change.

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