Rick Ernst has already gotten the first political victory in the 2011 City Council campaign and he hasn't run for office yet. Ernst was given the green light Tuesday afternoon to pull nomination papers by City Attorney Heather McLaughlin.
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Ernst arrived at City Hall at around 4:40 p.m. to pick up the nomination papers and emerged from the back of City Hall where City Clerk Lisa Wolfe had explained the process of gathering signatures for is nomination as well as other nomination procedures.
There had been some question regarding the legality of Ernst’s claims that he was a legal resident of Benicia and about his voter registration status. McLaughlin has been considering the issue for some time now.
Ernst is registered to vote at 3001 Bayshore Road, Unit 23. Records at the Solano County Registrar of Voters show he changed his registration to Green Party on March 11, 2011.
McLaughlin wasn’t able cite a specific state or municipal law that would preclude Ernst from running when interviewed Monday, but said she was continuing to look at the matter. She is out of town attending to family matters so was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
When asked what had changed overnight, Wolfe said, “The city attorney did the research she needed to do and came to a determination.”
Two council seats are in play in the Nov. 8 election, as the terms of Tom Campbell and Mike Ioakimedes are expiring. Ioakimedes has said he . Campbell and Sharon Petrellese took out candidacy papers Tuesday. Dan Smith and Christina Strawbridge took out papers Monday. The candidates have until Aug. 12 to officially file.
Ernst said he is ready to campaign. “I’m excited about running for City Council,” he said. "My priority is getting the budget and spending under control. I hope to have some impact there.”
His second priority is economic development. “We need to try to grow the economy in Benicia,” he said. “The Benicia Business Park (Seeno) is a priority. I’ll probably try to talk to Albert Seeno.”
Ernst also wants to focus energy on business development. Part of his idea for the Seeno property is to create a store that will entice Trader Joe’s to locate in Benicia.
Noting that City Manager Brad Kilger is well versed in economic development issues, Ernst said, “I’d give Brad Kilger and Mario Giuliani (acting economic development director) a green light to move forward on any economic development initiatives.”
Ernst believes he can be an effective councilman because of the relationships he has built over time. “I would say I’m basically friends with everybody on the council,” he said.
“Being on the City Council gives me the opportunity – maybe – to effect change,” he said. “I know I have to get three votes to get anything changed.”
Ernst doesn’t dispute the fact that the building where lives isn’t zoned for residential use and mentioned that all the tenants in the building received notices Tuesday stating it is illegal to live in their units and that anyone living there will be evicted.
Here is a copy of the email McLaughlin sent out earlier today:
Rick Ernst could pull papers if he wants to. We have advised that he needs to be able to say that he is a registered voter and a resident. We have information from Mr Ernst saying he is residing elsewhere. I think he has to swear that the info (residency) is correct and that he can be sworn in if he wins. If he can do that then the papers can be taken out.
And later if it is not true he could be prosecuted for perjury.
For planning commission he needs to be a resident as well. If he claims now to be living at Bayshore, we could bring it to Council since having a PC member living in a place not so zoned makes a conflict on code enforcement and probably other issues. He has told us that for PC he is living on London Circle.
On the last issue, it is a code enforcement issue and the property owner has been notified.