FOR the first time in the history of the City of Cerritos, two Filipino-American politicians (one of them actually a Japanese-Filipino-American) are going to serve together in the five-member City Council.
The election of Frank Aurelio Yokoyama as council member apparently empowered incumbent fellow Filipino-American council member Mark Pulido, who became mayor pro tempore, and resulted in the appointment of Grace Hu as city mayor.
Hu and Yokoyama both won the elections held last April 11 to fill up two vacant seats in the city council.
After the program commending and recognizing outgoing mayor George Ray and council member Carol Chen, Hu and Yokoyama were swore in as new members of the city council. Thereafter, the solemn atmosphere in the chamber suddenly became explosive.
As soon as City Clerk Vida Barone declared the mayoral chair vacant; Yokoyama quickly nominated Hu. The nomination was seconded by Pulido.
Council member Jim Edwards nominated for mayor Naresh Solanki, who was then the mayor pro tempore.
In nominating his peer, Edwards averred that “the natural progression is for him (Solanki) to be our next mayor.”
However, Hu defeated Solanki in a 3-2 vote after which the newly elected mayor opened the nomination for mayor pro tempore. Acting swiftly again, Yokoyama nominated Pulido this time.
Pulido also beat Edwards in a 3-2 vote.
Edwards later went on a long rant against the appointment of his peers. According to him, it has been a tradition in the city council for the mayor pro temp to succeed the outgoing mayor.
“I feel this is a sad day in many respects. What are we saying about tradition and respect? What has been done this evening is wrong. It is not about personalities. What are we telling our children? The natural progression has been interrupted and Solanki has not been given his fair opportunity. This is not the Cerritos I have lived in. I am very disappointed in what has transpired tonight,” Edwards said.
But new mayor Hu quickly rebutted Edwards.
“Things have changed,” Hu said, “…it is a great day for the City. We have new council members to work for the City and work for the people, we were elected and received the majority vote to be Mayor and Mayor pro-temp, I congratulate Mark as Mayor pro tem. Mark is a very experienced council-member who works very hard for the City, this is not a sad day.”
Pulido for his part, said that the real “sad day” was when he received an email from a former council member that supposedly contained “a spread sheet …. dictating who should become mayor and mayor pro tem, outside of the public interest.”
“What you have seen here today may not be pretty or comfortable, but it is justice,” Pulido also said during his rebuttal of Edwards.
It turned out that in 2013, Pulido — reportedly as a matter of right as a council member — appointed Yokoyama to the Planning Commission.
However, then Cerritos Mayor Bruce Barrows and council members Carol Chen and George Ray denied Yokoyama’s appointment to the Planning Commission.
Yokoyama cited this incident as a reply to Edwards’ insinuation that the bypassing of Solanki was disrespectful.
“Mark was disrespected. He wanted to place me on the Planning Commission, his council right was disrespected, your right to appoint was denied. Thank you Cerritos voters, I am honored to serve my hometown, I will work hard for you and I will do my best for you,” an emotional Yokoyama told the gallery.