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Coonerty to Face Challenge in Obama Delegate Selection 2 PM Sunday
African-American activist Metteyya Brahmana urged all those voting in the Obama caucus at Cabrillo College Sunday April 13th to vote down Mayor Ryan Coonerty. The caucus will begin at 2 PM at the Environmental Horticulture Center, Room 5005 "Top of the Campus" 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. Delegate candidates will be competing for two seats for the 17th Congressional District, one male and one female. Brahmana forwarded me some e-mail correspondence between himself and the Mayor which shows Coonerty's rationale for some of his positions as well as his short fuse.
I'd never heard of Metteyya before a week ago when he called and e-mailed about the upcoming Obama caucus tomorrow and his concerns about Mayor Ryan Coonerty being selected as the sole male delegate from this district.
I'm not an Obama supporter (check out his votes backing military appropriations and statements supporting a broader war in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as expanding the military by 100,000 troops). Metteyya is an Obama supporter. He had specific concerns about Coonerty's rules severely limiting public comment at City Council, about his support for the anti-homeless Sleeping Ban, and about his political ambitions (possibly switching to Clinton on the 3rd ballot).
Metteyya spoke about the issue at length Thursday evening on Free Radio at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb080410.mp3 .
THE COONERTY RECORD
Coonerty has repeatedly refused to follow the state Sunshine Act and make his public appearance schedule available to the community.
He has refused to divulge his calendar of past meetings (to assess the influence of lobbyists).
He has banned activists from his Bookshop Santa Cruz for peaceful demonstrations on the sidewalk outside the Bookshop (signing the ban with his (then) vice-mayor title).
He has failed to give coherent explanations of his anti-homeless positions (most notably his support for the absurd and abusive Santa Cruz MC 6.36.010a which bans sleeping on all public and much private property 11 PM to 8:30 AM).
At the most recent City Council meeting he allowed a speaker only 2 minutes public input on the Consent Agenda (which contained 19 items)--in violation of state law.
COONERTY'S TRACK RECORD IN MORE DETAIL
Politicians mirror this kind of mock democracy in Santa Cruz should not be rewarded. Those who search for higher office while baldly betraying basic democratic principles like Mayor Ryan should be denied a broader mandate.
Coonerty's record is anti-homeless, elitist, and local civil liberties-hostile. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Coonerty
His ignorance and hostility to the poor on homeless issues can be seen at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/11/14/18461204.php
In addition Coonerty has supported a significant reduction in public space. He backed a radical change in the use of Santa Cruz's previously public parking lots--now banned to all unless parking vehicles--and then only for 15 minutes. See http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/10/06/18452519.php
A CHANCE TO VOTE NO ON COONERTY
Check out the casual hypocrisy of a UCSC/Cabrillo College "civil liberties" instructor eliminating civil liberties downtown, in City Council, and for the homeless generally while posturing as a progressive!
The leadership may have anointed him, but the people don't have to go along.
I encourage the Obama-supporting community to choose someone who favors transparency in office, meaningful public input in meetings, and fairness towards the poor.
The caucus meets tomorrow at Cabrillo and is open to the public. Those who want to vote must be registered Democratic.
A large turnout is expected to choose among the 23 candidates. Apparently an early attempt--possibly by Coonerty supporters--to prune the list considerably has yielded to public pressure. (See http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_8888016)
There will be an hour's public discussion and shmoozing before the final voting.
HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom)--which has been challenging Coonerty's reactionary policies for several years now--voted to attend the caucus in order to inform interested delegates of his background and record.
Call 423-HUFF or go to http://www.huffsantacruz.org for more info if you want to support the lawsuit against the Sleeping Ban, copwatch, or other direct actions to restore civil liberties in Santa Cruz.
There will also be further discussion on this issue tomorrow (Sunday) 9:30 AM - 1 PM on Free Radio Santa Cruz.
The following are two streams of e-mails between Mayor Coonerty and activist Brahmana, the first March 19-20, the second March 25-26. Readers can judge for themselves whether Coonerty addresses the questions Brahmana puts to him. You can also get a sense of Coonerty's temperment. I think the exchange speaks for itself.
Both Coonerty and Brahmana will be at the Obama caucus to choose delegates tomorrow morning. It is a rare opportunity to question the reclusive Mayor as well. If he hasn't banned you, that is.
Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2008 18:52:01 -0700
From: mbrahmana [at] gmail.com
Subject: Coonerty and Keeley
It was good to see everyone yesterday at the Obama Santa Cruz Steering Committee meeting.
It was clear that some members seemed supportive of the idea of having two local politicians as our Obama delegate, and I wanted to hear from some of these supporters concerning why they think these individuals would be great Obama delegates.
Doing a quick Google search, I did not find any "public" statements from Ryan Coonerty in favor of Obama until February 22nd, and "no" public comments from Fred Keeley in favor of Obama at all. This raises the question of whether they were hedging their bets and waiting until they could see who the voters across the country were supporting before hitching their wagon to someone who may not help them in their political careers.
I also found this disturbing article on Coonerty, in which he is dramatically reducing the public's ability to be involved in the political process, a position that contradicts one of Obama's central premises of his campaign concerning getting ordinary citizens involved:
I am VERY concerned that we may be favoring "prominence in the community" over steadfast support and commitment to Obama and his ideals by considering these politician candidates, and would therefore be interested in hearing from supporters of these candidates (or the candidates themselves) to alleviate these concerns.
On Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 8:32 PM, Ryan Coonerty wrote:
Wow Mett. Which part of Obama's message of the politics of hope would describe your email in which you attack political allies based on 5 minutes of google research and launch allegations to the whole group?
Since we have never met, I am going to work under the assumption that you are ignorant and politically inept rather than mean-spirited and desperate.
First, I agree with you. This is an election and people should select the delegate they think will best serve the Obama campaign. No one should be given any kind of preferential treatment.
As to your points:
1. I endorsed Obama one year ago. I co-wrote the Obama SC strategy last spring, attended early meetings and rode (with Fred) on the July 4 Obama parade truck. My endorsement was not released until January because I wanted to influence the vote. If it had been covered in November, then it wouldn't have come out when people were voting. That is something you learn by working on political campaigns.
2. I was the first (and Fred was the second) elected official in the 17th CD to endorse Obama. If you look at the all the elected who did not endorse (Simitian, Laird, the SC City Council, the SC and Monterey Board of Supes, etc), it is a big deal for a local elected to endorse in a primary because you tend to anger a lot of people and gain very little. I felt so strongly about Obama's message that I was willing to put my political career second.
3. The open meeting law you cite is (1) written by political opponents who have urged violence and vandalism against my family for principled political stands (2) supported unanimously by the city council which ranges from liberal to very liberal and has two ACLU board members on it, and (3) is an effort to bring more working families into the political process who weren't able to participate because, prior to this change and others, the meetings were often more than 10 hours long and didn't allow people with kids and jobs to participate in their government.
Before you send another email like this, I would appreciate it if you would take the time to : (1) learn how to build coalitions (2) understand local politics (3) ask me if you have concerns about meeting regulations and (4) become a productive campaigner
From: Metteyya Brahmana [mailto:mbrahmana [at] gmail.com]
Sent: Wed 3/19/2008 10:53 PM
To: Ryan Coonerty
Subject: Re: Coonerty and Keeley
Sorry you so felt that my invitation to tell us why you want to be an Obama delegate was a "political attack". I do not know you personally, and I suspect others do not know you as well. When you don't know someone and they are putting themselves into a position to affect the prospects of Obama at the convention, the responsible thing to do is ask questions to elicit response.
So you waited until January to release your endorsement of Obama because you "wanted to influence the vote". For us politically inept types, please enlighten us on how that works? I am having a hard time understanding how voters not knowing where you stand helps you influence them to vote for Obama, and maybe others in the group are struggling with this as well.
I do not know much about the open meeting controversy other than what I read online, so please tell us how forcing the public to get permission from you to publicly comment on city business facilitates open debate and discussion, and how do you square that with Obama's message of open government and transparency?
Ryan Coonerty to me
I apologize to everyone for the tone of my response. Brent is right and we should do better.
For those interested in the City's policy relating to the consent agenda, please see below.
The City of Santa Cruz adopted a policy that was already in use in Watsonville, the County of Santa Cruz and hundreds of other jurisdictions across the state. This policy is only for the consent agenda items which are items about which there will be no debate and unanimous votes -- it is administrative business and is moved as one motion. Members of the public have the right to speak to the council about the consent agenda and, if one councilmember agrees to pull the item (not even to vote against it, but allow for more debate), the public has another opportunity to speak to the item.
Again, this was done because council meetings were lasting more than 10 hours and therefore not accessible to members of the public. We were also making decisions after 10 pm meaning that the public and press would not cover our decisions.
In my experience, indybay is the least reliable news source about local politics. It is dominated by a few extremists and is highly biased. I would think that if this policy really was a shutting out of the people that the Sentinel, Metro, Goodtimes, KUSP, KAZU, KZSC, KION, KSBW, etc would have at least mentioned it.
I am constitutional lawyer. I teach first amendment and civil liberties at UCSC. I firmly believe in the democratic process and, as Robin says, if you come to city council meetings you will see a a commitment to participation that I would be happy to compare to any other city in the united states.
Date: Tue, 25 Mar 2008 12:24:29 -0700
From: mbrahmana [at] gmail.com
To: ryancoonerty [at] hotmail.com
Subject: Homeless in Santa Cruz
I am taking the suggestion of a couple of people in the Obama Santa Cruz group and email you first concerning this issue before sharing what I have found with the group.
I do not know Robert Norse, so please don't confuse or conflate my concerns with his. All I did is Google: "Coonerty, homeless" and read "all" of the articles that I found there.
In one of the articles, you admit that there are perhaps 1,500 homeless people in Santa Cruz and only 50 beds. This led you to reason that lifting the sleeping ban would be a problem for Santa Cruz so you refused to consider lifting the ban. From the articles I read, it appears that the "enemies" you described in an earlier email were actually homeless persons who were upset that you would not consider lifting the ban or solving the homeless problem with more beds.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I have been homeless in Santa Cruz for about one month following the failure of a business that I started several years ago, and have personally visited the River Street shelters as a patron and volunteer, and violated the Santa Cruz sleeping ban by sleeping on the beach (it was in a Summer month, thank God) when it was warm at night and sleeping in an electrical room in a new construction site when it was cold.
I should also tell you that I once worked at a very prominent land use consulting firm in San Francisco, where I specifically recall working on deals with developers to set aside funds for homeless services and shelter construction as a condition of approving their development projects.
Having fully recovered from my homelessness, and now working as an executive at a computer company, I have the unique perspective of having been homeless "and" being annoyed by the homeless while shopping in Santa Cruz. So I really do understand fully the issue you grappled with in deciding whether to lift the sleeping ban.
I know you described me as "politically inept", and I know if you knew my full background you would be quite embarrassed to have made that statement. But rather than toot my own horn about all I have done in the past, I wanted you to respond to the substantive issue of whether you can best represent Obama as a delegate at the convention by reflecting his views on solving the homeless crisis? Here is a speech Obama delivered on homeless veterans:http://obama.senate.gov/podcast/070412-041207_housing/ And here is a bill he introduced in the US Senate on the issue:http://obama.senate.gov/press/071109-obama_introduce_21/ And, yes, I am a veteran of the United States Air Force.
On Tue, Mar 25, 2008 at 1:27 PM, Ryan Coonerty wrote:
Thanks for writing. This is an incredibly difficult issue and I am happy to talk with you in person about it. I will say the following:
1. You should feel free to call Ken Cole of the Homeless Resource Center, Yolanda Henry of the Familia Center, Carolyn Coleman of the SC Community Counseling Center, Sam Storey from Community Bridges, Matt Nathanson of the Homeless Persons Health Project, Laura Marcus of Dientes Community Dental or any other person involved in providing services on a day to day basis for the homeless and they will tell you that I have fought to increase their funding in difficult times, encouraged them to develop new programs and volunteered my personal time on their boards and at their events. Seriously ask them. These are people who have committed their lives to addressing this issue locally.
2. The City of Santa Cruz spends more per capita than any other city in the United States on homeless services. As you know, counties in CA are the governmental bodies that are meant to provide social services funds and programs. The City spends a significant percentage of our discretionary budget on these programs -- and I have supported that every year that I have been on the council.
3. Pick any other city within 50 miles of Santa Cruz and tell me a place that is more compassionate, creates more affordable housing, provides more shelter beds and programs, and has more services than the city. I am proud of the commitment of our city to addressing an incredibly difficult issue of homelessness even as the federal, state and county governments cut services. I think that Sen. Obama should visit Santa Cruz to find model programs to addressing homelessness.
4. Robert Norse is not homeless and in fact has a large trust fund. Neither is Becky Johnson, Tim Rumford, Bernard Klitzner. These self proclaimed activists have been banned from various shelters and soup kitchens because of the destructiveness of their tactics. I have been approached by dozens of homeless people who thank me for my efforts and disassociate themselves from HUFF. Including the three homeless people that Bookshop lets sleep under our alcove and for whom I have personal paid for hotel rooms and provided loans.
Reading your emails, it is clear that you are not going to support me for delegate. That is fine. I am responding to you because you raise public policy questions and I am trying to provide you with answers.
Hope this helps.
Date: Tue, 25 Mar 2008 16:53:05 -0700
From: mbrahmana [at] gmail.com
To: ryancoonerty [at] hotmail.com
Subject: Re: Homeless in Santa Cruz
Thanks for that information.
One of the reasons I shared a prior experience working with a land use consulting firm is I know the county and the city can exert enormous leverage on developers to set aside funds for the homeless. What has been your experience in this regard in Santa Cruz at both the city and county level?
Contrary to your last sentence in your last email, I have not decided whether to support you or not as an Obama delegate, but do have concerns that I have shared with you.
Your open meeting stance seems to contradict Obama's plan for citizen involvement, and I often quote this plan in trying to explain one of the key differences between Barack and Hillary in checking special interests. Have you ever considered implementing an on-line public comment scheme contained in Obama's plan to get citizens involved AND shorten council meetings?
The homeless issue is certainly tough, and no support from the feds makes it even tougher. But one of the remarkable things I have noticed in traveling to places like New Zealand, Sweden or The Netherlands is that there are no homeless people on the street. Granted, Santa Cruz may be doing more than some places, but even in Monterey they allow the homeless to sleep in some designated areas (like it used to be along the river in Santa Cruz).
I think the leverage issue I mentioned earlier is the key at the county and city level. These real estate developers are pretty bottom-line oriented, and if you can make their project pencil out with set-asides for homeless services and shelter construction, they will still do the project just like they have to do with wetlands replacement.
Fred Keeley has donated money to the Obama campaign and Emily Reilly has donated money to Hillary Clinton. From the public records available, I could not determine whether or where you or your father donated, and if you think this is too personal feel free to not answer.
The only reason these issues are a bigger concern for this particular convention, is Hillary has made it a point to target "pledged" Obama delegates who can switch after the first ballot - not just superdelegates - and will lean on women and "up-and-coming" politicians in particular with appeals to sisterhood and promises of appointments and other favors. It is therefore imperative that we select the "right" pledged delegates, and it would not surprise me if the Obama Campaign rejects some delegates even though they are elected by their CD. I wish Hillary would just concede and we can all go to the convention and have one big party, but she has vowed to fight until the end so this delegate race is a much bigger deal.
On Tue, Mar 25, 2008 at 6:38 PM, Ryan Coonerty wrote:
1. Homeless -- We have 1500 homeless people and 500 shelfter beds. We issue at most 2 tickets a night. That means .2% of the people get tickets and all tickets are dismissed by law if the shelters are full. If Monterey allows a few homeless to sleep in parks (although my guess is that they have an informal policy that takes homeless out of the community) and provides no services, while Santa Cruz provides 500 shelter beds and dozens of programs that cost millions of dollars, you tell me who has the more compassionate community.
2. Open Meetings -- I am happy to engage you about policy, but your claims that my policies are contrary to open government are offensive and factually wrong. If you continue to assert them, then I will no longer respond. Attend an afternoon session of the council and watch the rules in action. Tell me if there is anyone that doesn't have an opportunity to speak about a subject. Also, consider this: is it more democratic to allow 5 people to monopolize a meeting or reduce some participation for those folks and create an opportunity for dozens of other to participate and the press to cover the meetings? I am not saying there is a simple answer, but it is a question. Also, unless you are willing to say that most local governments in California (including SF, LA, Berkeley who all have the same rules I just put in place) don't support open government then you can't make that claim against SC. We do allow for email comments from the public during meetings -- we are the only agency in the county to do so.
3. Fees -- The city of Santa Cruz has an inclusionary requirement that 15% of all housing built must be affordable. If government funds are used then it goes to 25%. If small units then 30%. And we offer a density bonus that require housing to be provided to very low income people. This is both for rental and ownership. National developers won't do business in SC because of this requirement. It is extraordinary in what it forces developers to do and has meant the creation of thousands of units of affordable housing. We also charge parks fees, traffic fees, and green building fees (the first in CA).
4. I have donated around $250 to Obama. I make my living by being a teacher at UCSC and Cabrillo, so, unfortunately, don't have a lot more to give. My dad was an edwards supporter until he dropped out, so I don't know if he contributed.
5. If you are really worried about delegates defecting, imagine a scenario where an elected official in the city in CA that had the highest percentage of voters for Obama betraying the trust of activists and community members by switching votes. I would effectively end my political career in Santa Cruz as well as that of my father. I would argue that the stakes for me would be the highest.
Hope this helps.
Date: Tue, 25 Mar 2008 22:59:07 -0700
From: mbrahmana [at] gmail.com
To: ryancoonerty [at] hotmail.com
Subject: Re: Homeless in Santa Cruz
I appreciate your efforts in responding to my concerns.
What I am getting from your responses are:
(1) You believe Santa Cruz can do no better than what it is currently doing to address homelessness, and because "housing" developers are discouraged by low-income housing requirements, "commercial" real estate developers like the ones currently building downtown would be similarly discouraged if you used city and county leverage to get them to contribute to a set-aside fund to build more shelters with more beds and more services for the homeless;
(2) Santa Cruz City Council meetings are sufficiently open to include enough citizen input to check special interests, and you do not see a need to improve in this area; and,
(3) Despite the former Santa Cruz Mayor Emily Reilly's support of Hillary Clinton and her current bid for the open State Assembly seat held by John Laird that encompasses Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, you believe if you switched your support to Hillary Clinton at the convention that this would "end" your political career in Santa Cruz.
Is this a fair summary of your position?
If this is a fair summary, I will end my inquiry here.
On Wed, Mar 26, 2008 at 8:48 AM, Ryan Coonerty wrote:
You are wrong.
1. I support increasing homeless services and have done so for three years. I don't know about additional fees, I was just telling you what we are already doing, since you didn't have even the most basic knowledge about the issue.
2. We can improve on public input as every government can. Again I was telling you what the rules actually are, since you have never attended/watched one of our meetings.
3. My point was not the political consequences of supporting Hillary. My point was that if I stand up and ask for Obama's supporters votes and have their trust to represent them at the convention then change my vote for personal gain, I would end my career.
Let me make a couple of observations.
1. I worked from the assumption that you cared about the homeless and open government. I was wrong. I assumed that you want to know about the programs and laws in Santa Cruz before having a discussion of the many ways that they could be improved. These are hard issues Mett and I hope that in the future you actually try to improve the community you live in, instead of playing gotcha over email which hasn't helped a single person get out of poverty or participate in government.
2. You lie. You began your email saying that you were going to "contact me personally" to address these important issues. I took you at your word and responded. Bcc'ing people is not a personal email.
3. You are the toxic politics that Obama is running against. I teach and serve in local office. I do my best to serve the community. We, supposedly, are on the same side (Democrats, Obama Supporters). You ask me my positions and I tell you. We don't have to agree, but the fact that you take my attempts to address your concerns and then misrepresent them (to me and whoever you are bcc'ing) is what makes people not want to get involved.
Never contact me again.
Metteyya Brahmana to Ryan
I BCC'd "your" supporters (all three of them) because they asked me to not share my exchange with the broader group until I heard from you, and the BCC was the way of informing them that I heard them and to let them know that these concerns are very real.
You continue to make erroneous assumptions about me when you obviously do not know me. Why are you so judgmental about people you don't know? I could have easily written you off as just another politician trying to advance his career by using the Obama campaign, but I stopped myself because I wanted to hear from you first.
This is not "gotcha" politics, and the fact that you would reduce my very real concerns about your commitment to Obama to gutter politics is troubling. One of the most disturbing things about Hillary Clinton is that she believes "anyone" who challenges her is "the enemy". She also likes to operate in secrecy to hide what she is really up to.
I have given you the benefit of the doubt and was wanting to hear (1) how you plan to increase citizen involvement, (2) how you plan to do more to solve the homeless problem, and (3) some personal connection to Obama's message that gives me a sense that you are committed to his candidacy. Instead, I am just getting a lot of excuses and personal insults, which really is not very impressive.
I am a business man, not a politician. I gave up on politics long ago when I saw just how corrupt the political process was first hand, and decided that I did not have the ability or the power to improve the system in any meaningful way. Obama is what brought me back into the process, not you. He gave me hope that the system could change, not you. He inspired me to do all that I could to ensure his success, not you.
This whole inquiry concerning your commitment to Obama and his ideals is about Obama, not you.
Why is this so difficult for you to understand if you really want Obama to succeed?
p.s. I have not BCC'd anyone on this email, but I will send a note to "your" supporters that I tried to reason with you, but failed.
Ryan Coonerty lost in his bid to become an Obama delegate at the convention in Denver today. The Santa Cruz homeless advocacy group, HUFF, showed up at the election and had a protest table there, and also people handing out fliers that were critical of Ryan's opposition to the sleeping ban, his efforts to reduce citizen input at public meetings, and efforts to curb public assembly in parking lots.
These efforts by HUFF made a difference in the outcome by creating a controversy about Ryan at the election caucus, causing a sufficient number of voters to pause in their support of him as an Obama delegate.
Cudos to HUFF for all of their hard work!
The Sentinel's coverage of the event can be found at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_8917511 .
Coonerty and Carter (the winning female delegate) were out there shaking hands. I and other HUFFsters distributed several flyers advising candidates of who not to vote for ("it's as easy as "A,B,C", "Anybody But Coonerty") and encouraged Obama delegates to take a more active role in restoring local democracy, access to public spaces, community control of police, and basic homeless civil rights.
Coonerty got 147 votes. Luis Alejo got 189 votes. I was surprised at Coonerty's defeat, considering he had oodles of relatives and schoolchums in line there to vote for him.
LIES ON A FLYER?
Coonerty's dad, Supervisor Neal Coonerty--the former Santa Cruz Mayor who gave us the abusive Downtown Ordinances in 1994--denounced our flyers as being "full of lies". So did Ryan. However, when asked to single out a specific lie, the only thing Neal pointed to was our claim that Ryan "supports the Sleeping Ban".
"He was a kid when it was passed!", bellowed Neal. "The flyer doesn't say he passed it, but that he now supports it," I responded. "Prove that he supports it. He's never said that," retorted Coonerty, Sr. "What?," I replied in disbelief, "you believe he doesn't?" "More lies," roared the father.
Some minutes later I had a conversation with a high school chum of Ryan's who was remembering Coonerty's political work to allow condoms in high school (a cause I commend Coonerty for supporting). Ryan happened by. "Hey, Ryan, do you support the sleeping ban?", I asked. He looked at me. "Do you support reforming or changing the Ban," I continued. "No," he concluded.
Nice to be able to clear up that little misunderstanding between father and son.
IT MAY NOT BE OVER YET
A word of warning. Coonerty may not be out of the race. There is a "superdelegate"-sort of election coming up on May 6th. A special "double dip" for politicians that allows them to run again. The state-wide Obama caucus will choose from among public officials.
Metteyya had previously argued that a volunteer and not a politician should be elected yesterday, because Coonerty would have a second chance on May 6th. Brahmana told me that Coonerty came up to him during yesterday's delegate selection and told him that he, Coonerty, would not be running in the May 6th election.
Whether Coonerty was saying that to counter Brahmana's argument, whether he sincerely meant it, whether he'll change his mind before May 6th--the BanMaster is still potentially in the race. And, of course, we're stuck with him as Mayor for six more months, and perhaps four more years if he runs again for City Council.