More in City Hall:
- Concern raised over city’s plan for new median islands on Auburn Blvd. October 21, 2021
- Public hearing to be held for Sunrise Mall redevelopment plan October 17, 2021
- Survey finds overwhelming support for steel arch option on Auburn Blvd October 17, 2021
Sentinel staff report–
In the not-so-distant past, the Citrus Heights City Council was known for its unified 5-0 votes, with council members rarely airing disagreement during public meetings. Over the past five years that has begun to change.
In 2021, the five-member council has seen a 3-2 split, with Mayor Steve Miller commonly joined by Vice Mayor Porsche Middleton and Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins. In the minority are council members Bret Daniels and Tim Schaefer.
The council first began seeing some 4-1 votes after Daniels was elected in 2016, with the councilman voting to oppose a rental housing inspection program and a proposed staff pay increase. He later voted 4-1 to oppose putting Measure M on the ballot.
Following the election of Councilman Schaefer in 2020, Daniels has gained an ally on the council, with the two vocally airing disagreement with City Manager Chris Boyd during budget discussions. Although Boyd retired this month, he is still serving as an interim manager while the city seeks for a permanent replacement.
The council was also split in endorsing the city’s failed $12 million sales tax increase last year, with Middleton spearheading the “Yes on M” campaign and her colleagues Miller and Bruins joining in active support. Daniels and Schaefer on the other hand were active in opposing Measure M and were also both active in opposing the city spending $21 million on a new City Hall seven years ago.
The split on the council is largely between its most senior members and its newest members. Bruins is the longest-serving member, first winning election in 2002, followed by reelection every four years. Miller is also a long-tenured council member, having served on the council since 2005, while Middleton joined the council in 2016 — receiving the endorsement of Daniels that year.
Schaefer formerly served on the city’s Planning Commission and in leadership in his neighborhood association, while Daniels re-joined the council in 2016 after serving as a council member early on, from 1999-2005.
The Sentinel reached out to all five members of the council with an opportunity to include a 100-word statement on the reason behind the discord on the council. Four council members replied, citing varying reasons and accusations, including divisive behavior, personal agendas, conflicting visions for the city, politics, bitterness over Measure M, mistrust in the city manager, and the need for new direction.
Their answers are included in their entirety below:
Steve Miller: We have always had disagreements among council members, discord is nothing new. We made our arguments, voted, and moved on. Sadly, I have observed two of our council members, through posts and public statements, attacking our city employee reputations, making unfounded claims about city finances, and acting on their own to find an interim city manager. This divisive behavior of tearing others down to build themselves up needs to stop. Fortunately, we still have a majority of council members that can act respectfully, consider facts, make tough decisions, and do what is best for all of Citrus Heights.
Tim Schaefer: It is clearly evident there is tension and animosity among the current councilmembers. I can only speak on my experiences and perceptions. My perception is the majority of the council have grown too close to the City Manager and have lost objectivity. This has impacted their ability to properly oversee executive staff. The goal of ensuring the current vice mayor becomes mayor in 2022 when she is up for re-election seems to be a high priority. It is also my belief that much of the animosity is due to my opposition to and the ultimate failure of the Measure M.
Jeannie Bruins: The Citrus Heights City Council has historically acted as one body, respecting one another, even when disagreeing and rendering opposing votes. The community comes first. Disparaging comments were not aired to the public. Today there are two council members who have put their own agendas ahead of the welfare of the residents and are fostering conflict with outrageous and false remarks to their unique following on Facebook. That is not serving our city well and it is time to get back to the business of the city. We have important decisions to make, foremost being attracting an excellent city manager.
Bret Daniels: The fracture in the council is more of a unusual split in the direction various council members want to go with city business. It doesn’t help when the Mayor states that other council members are being dishonest when in fact it is just a difference of opinion. It also does not help when some council members are willing to ignore problems in how the city is being run. It is time for a new direction and when that direction comes, we will likely see a more united council.
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