Here are some notes and thoughts about Monday night’s mayoral debate sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
For starters, the two challengers for mayor (Steve Alexander and Mike Ceremello) have sufficient government and educational experience to handle that position.
The event was a rare chance to see Ceremello wearing a suit (but no tie). His two opponents read their opening and closing statements from notes while Ceremello didn’t.
Alexander came out strongly against Dixon taking over water delivery from the Dixon Solano Municipal Water Service, saying you can’t argue against its low water rates. He more or less said he’s not a politician, despite having served in the past on the city council. He supports more transparency in city government, but not by using Measure N.
Ceremello stressed his considerable college education (multiple degrees), and knocked “government by the few” as well as the performance of current mayor Batchelor.
Batchelor related some of the high points of his term in office, including a balanced budget and the Altec expansion. Ceremello later said Batchelor couldn’t take personal credit for increased hiring at Altec. Batchelor joined Alexander in not wanting to leave the Dixon Solano Municipal Water Service (DSMWS), which Ceremello voted to do.
The eternal subject of a possible train stop for Dixon presented itself again. Both Alexander and Ceremello came out against the expensive pedestrian underpass and the ‘A’ Street underpass that would be needed for a train stop, while Batchelor defended the pedestrian underpass as necessary for safety. However, Batchelor has backed away from wanting to spend additional millions of dollars to bring a train stop in Dixon.
When the meeting turned to questions from the audience, former council member Kay Caylor asked if the three would all sign a civility pledge – obviously aimed at Ceremello, who has assigned terms such as Fluffy, Backroom Jack, and The Fooler to other council members. Ceremello responded, “I guess I’m the cockroach,” assigning himself a moniker for the first time, and saying that in council chambers he has been more respectful. Alexander said name calling was embarrassing.
I asked all three how much transparency they would be willing to provide regarding ongoing negotiations between the city and the film studio people (Morning View LLC). They all avoided answering the question directly, maybe because they didn’t want to jinx the project. Ceremello, who’s in favor of Measure N, the Sunshine Ordinance, said he wants greater transparency for employee pay and benefits negotiations. Alexander tied the question to Measure N, which he opposes. Batchelor said that transparency concerning Morning View negotiations wasn’t a mayoral issue at all, because city staff would be conducting any negotiations. He said that sufficient transparency would be provided during possible public hearings.
For the closing statements, Batchelor again plugged the city’s balanced budget, and emphasized the need for regional involvement. Ceremello profusely thanked the Chamber for conducting the debate, and said we pay too much in taxes. Alexander again argued against the city taking over the DSMWS’s water service, ending with, “God bless the city of Dixon.”
One thing’s for sure: if Ceremello loses, he’ll be off the council (the same for Batchelor). Ceremello’s taking a risk here, betting that his core of supporters plus those in the city who like the candidness and dissection of issues in his Independent Voice columns will give him enough votes. Turning off some people will be his aggressiveness, activism and lack of desire to roll over and play dead when confronted by the powers that be.
Ceremello could win if Batchelor and Alexander divide up the votes of those in the community who are arrayed against him. Batchelor certainly enjoys strong support in Dixon, but I’m not sure how much support Alexander enjoys.
Batchelor strikes me as a person who likes to wield power, who enjoys the status of the mayoral position and likes to represent the city on various regional boards, where he can cruise and schmooze with other cities’ reps and position Dixon for receiving grants and so on. He is part of the traditional ruling group in Dixon, which consists of past city staff and various movers and shakers. That power was eroded when Ceremello, Bogue and Besneatte were elected to the council. Batchelor doesn’t cast much of a critical eye upon people in government, preferring to trust them unless they let him down.
Ceremello, on the other hand, has a tendency to look into every nook and corner, and question things, and not take anything for granted. His libertarian bent conditions much of his thinking, which means keeping laws, taxes, and government spending minimal. His support of Measure N goes against that grain somewhat.
I wonder how Ceremello would take to the ceremonial aspects of the position of mayor, and representing the city regionally.
As for Alexander, I didn’t live in the city when he served on the council, so I really don’t have much of a read on him. I know that he was active in youth sports and he’s intelligent. I detect that he was dismayed by the imbroglio between Batchelor and Ceremello, and wants to foment a friendlier city council. He seems practical, destined to follow traditional paths, and not rock the boat much.
This is an important election for Dixon and will play a part in setting the course of the next four years. Politics are never boring here.
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