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Ukiah City Council expected to cancel March election

By GLENDA ANDERSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

When Steve Scalmanini decided to run for a seat on the Ukiah City Council, he figured his odds of winning were fairly good.

It turns out they’re even better than he expected.

Scalmanini was the only candidate to file for the election and now is likely to simply be appointed to the council.

The Ukiah City Council Wednesday night is expected to cancel the March special election for the seat vacated by former Councilwoman Mari Rodin.

“I would chock it up to my luck and the city’s good fortune,” Scalmanini said, noting a special election would cost the city about $30,000.

While Scalmanini was the sole candidate to file paperwork, he was not the only one to show interest in the council seat.

Five others took out filing papers but never turned them in, said City Clerk Kristine Lawler.

One prospect arrived at the city offices just an hour before the Dec. 9 filing deadline, then changed his mind, she said.

Only two of the dropouts could be reached to explain what had happened. Kevin Doble, a Ukiah planning commissioner and stormwater consultant, said he’s willing to serve but was too busy to mount an election campaign.

Michael Haehl, who works as a groundskeeper for the County of Mendocino, said a series of events got in the way of filing the paperwork.

Incumbent council members say they’re not all that surprised by the candidate shortage.

“I have a hunch that each person who thought about it thought, ‘Hell no, I don’t want to go,’” said Mayor Doug Crane.

The job requires hard work and dedication while its rewards are less than impressive, Councilman Benj Thomas said.

The pay for managing the city’s $63.4 million budget is just $490 a month and the job comes with an array of critics.

“Who needs the abuse?” quipped Thomas.

Scalmanini said he’s not sure what to make of the lack of competition.

“The fact no one else turned in their papers gives me some pause. I hope I’m making the right decision,” he joked.

Dick Selzer, a Ukiah real estate broker and member of a conservative, politically active business group, said he’s disappointed in the lack of civic participation. He’s also not pleased the council will continue to be dominated by liberal-leaning members.

“In my opinion, he’ll be the most liberal of the City Council people,” Selzer said of Scalmanini, a former college roommate when both attended UC Davis in the 1970s.

Scalmanini, 62, considers himself a moderate, saying he is liberal on some issues but is fiscally conservative.

He has been involved with numerous high-profile issues since moving to Ukiah in 1999. He campaigned for a successful measure that banned genetically modified crops in the county and against a developer’s ballot measure aimed at getting a shopping center approved without the customary environmental studies and county input.

He opposed a Wal-Mart expansion, which was denied, but has remained neutral on a current proposal to build a Costco in Ukiah. He’s noted that Costco, unlike Wal-Mart, pays a living wage to employees.

Scalmanini is a retired engineer who worked for Hewlett-Packard in San Jose and Agilent Technologies in Santa Rosa. He currently works part-time driving a truck for Yokayo biofuels.

Scalmanini also hosts a radio show “Corporations and Democracy” on the local public radio station and belongs to several organizations, including the Alliance for Democracy, which aims to end corporate dominance.





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