CITY HALL — Having gone mayor-less since the death of Ken Genser in January, Santa Monica will remain that way for at least two more weeks.
The City Council on Tuesday failed to select a replacement mayor after neither nominee for the post — Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor nor Bobby Shriver — received a majority vote from the field of seven council members.
The council deadlocked with three members voting for O’Connor (Richard Bloom, Gleam Davis and O’Connor) and three supporting Shriver (Bob Holbrook, Kevin McKeown and Shriver).
Councilman Terry O’Day, who was appointed to fill Genser’s seat, abstained from the vote, saying he believed the decision should be postponed on procedural grounds.
Since only the selection of a mayor had been placed on the agenda, the council was not able to select a mayor pro tem, or vice mayor, on Tuesday. O’Day said he believed both positions should be filled at the same time and declined to participate in the vote.
But O’Day was also in a unique — and perhaps uncomfortable — spot on Tuesday, because casting the decisive vote would have meant voting against one of the people who helped appoint him to the council in February. (O’Connor and Shriver, along with Holbrook and Bloom, made up the majority that gave O’Day the vacant seat).
On Wednesday, O’Day said he’s still undecided about whom to back for the mayoral slot and won’t make up his mind until he consults with O’Connor and Shriver.
“I was not contacted by either of them before the meeting, so I need to talk with them to see just what they want to do and how they view the roll of the mayor,” he said.
Choosing between O’Connor and Shriver, O’Day said, is not necessarily awkward but “may just add a requirement for more dialogue than normal,” he said.
While the mayor’s function is largely ceremonial, in an election year the position has some added significance, with the mayoral title perceived to provide a boost at the polls in a candidate’s re-election bid.
O’Connor, along with four of her colleagues, is up for re-election in November, while Shriver and Richard Bloom won’t have to defend their seats until 2012.
O’Day said the election factor will figure into his decision, but said that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll back O’Connor.
“I certainly think Pam deserves to do it, I certainly think Bobby does, too,” he said.
For City Council observers, another interesting twist in Tuesday’s meeting came when McKeown, a three-term Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights-backed council member, broke party ranks to support Shriver, a non-SMRR member, over O’Connor, a fellow, longtime SMRR member.
“Bobby is in his sixth year on the council, top vote-getter with the public, and has never been mayor. Pam’s been mayor three times already, keeping others from sharing the mostly ceremonial honor. For me, it was a vote of fairness,” McKeown said on Wednesday.
McKeown is the longest serving current council person to never be selected mayor.
Shriver, meanwhile, downplayed his mayoral ambitions.
“The good news is that Pam will do a great job if by some underhanded chicanery she manages to get a fourth vote,” he quipped.