Councilman Jim Vreeland has been conspicuously absent since he was reelected in Nov. 2010.
He's missed something like 12 or 13 city council meetings (I stopped counting after a while) since coming in . This has many community members, myself included, wondering, "What's going on? Will he resign?"
Tom Clifford, a city council hopeful in the last election, expressed as much at Monday night's city council meeting.
Clifford suggested that the council select the next vote getter from November's election to replace Vreeland (which would not be Clifford) and concluded that he "just wants to be represented."
There's been no word whatsoever of resignation and rumors about why Vreeland's been gone have run rampant. I won't get into those here as they're strictly rumors except to say they fall into two camps: pure apathy and medical issues.
And, honestly, the reason behind his absences is beside the point. Illness or no, Pacifica needs a full city council in order to deal with the daunting task before it now that the fire suppression assessment tax : cuts to city services, layoffs and economic development.
There is no doubt in my mind that Vreeland could lend insight and experience to current council discussions about those issues.
He was the first Pacifican to chair the City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG), which organizes land-use policy in San Mateo County and aids cities in improving infrastructure and developed land, and held on to that post for two terms.
Vreeland, along with others, played a large role in the rehabilitation of Linda Mar State Beach and the planning of the coastal trail that will eventually (hopefully) link the Manor with Devil's Slide and beyond. He's also been on the San Mateo County Transportation Authority and served as Pacifica's mayor two or three times.
In short, he has a beefy résumé regardless of how notorious he's become in some residents' minds for his flightiness, temper and inconsistency.
That experience, however, means nothing if the councilman does not attend meetings.
There is one way the city council can depose Vreeland without his resignation according to state law. If he racks up four unexcused absences within a period of 60 days (he currently has 2 that are applicable), a community member can step forward and issue a formal complaint. That's all it takes.
There is no limit to the number of excused absences a councilmember can have. What is considered an excused absence and what isn't has, until recently, been largely up to the city clerk. Stricter rules may be coming, however.
If Vreeland is formally booted, it will be up to the council how it chooses a new member. It could hold another election, but it won't. The expense for that would fall on the city and the it doesn't have the cash. It could choose the next vote getter in November's election, , but my bet is that it wouldn't do that, either. There are too many ideological differences between the current councilmembers and Leon for him to be an attractive choice. The only other option for choosing a new member would be to pick an individual at large. It could be me (I, of course, would respectfully decline), it could be Todd Bray (the new blogger opponent of many at city hall and on the council), it could be a former councilmember such as Julie Lancelle or it could be the guy who sits with all of the pigeons by the Pacifica Pier on sunny days. Who knows?
Vreeland can save his seat indefinitely very easily, however. If he shows up to one meeting before he accumulates four unexcused absences, the count begins all over. He can miss a huge number of meetings by balancing unexcused absences with excused absences and occasionally popping in at meetings. This raises a question: should the law be changed so that it's harder for a councilmember to reset his or her unexcused absence tally? Is it right that he can skate by with little to no engagement?
I ask again, what is going on with Councilman Vreeland?
Will he resign?
Will he make the city council whole again?