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Newcomers defeat 2 city councilmen

DJ Becker/The Madera Tribune Newly elected city council members, from left, Steve Montes and Santos Garcia, and reelected councilwoman CeCe Gallegos, pose for an interview in front of Madera City Hall Wednesday night as they celebrate their wins in the Nov. 6 election.


Rigby, Oliver upset by Santos Garcia, Montes In a surprising turn, two sitting Madera City Council members were soundly defeated by challengers running on a platform of change of direction for the city

. Santos Garcia defeated incumbent Charles Rigby in District 5, 339 to 257.

And Steve Montes defeated incumbent Will Oliver of District 3, 383 to 339.

Rigby and Oliver had consistently followed the lead of Mayor Andrew Medellin, earning them the nickname of “The Three Amigos,” who along with Council Member Donald Holley, had consistently resisted and voted against residents’ demands for transparency, public participation and change.

Both challengers said they had been motivated by recent events — the residents’ discovery that city salary rates and benefits for senior department heads were some of the highest in the Valley, and the apparent unwillingness of the mayor and existing city council to effect any meaningful reductions in those pay packages or in the direction of the city.

For the last year, the Mayor and city council had heard and ignored residents’ complaints of cronyism, lack of transparency and oversight, and their objections to the salary and benefit packages that residents called excessive for a small mid-valley town facing million- dollar budget deficits.

Water rates had also doubled and major infrastructure repairs had not been made and those accounts had also not been adequately funded, according to consultants. Other significant operational costs had also been shifted onto the backs of Madera residents in the form of fees, large sidewalk repair costs, and street tree removal and replanting costs. Santos Garcia said it was all about change.

“We need a better effort, and more done for the residents,” he said. “Rectify the budget (deficit) but not on the backs of residents. We all worked hard and (managed) to change the composition of this city council, for the benefit of the residents. And we’ve got more hard work to do ahead.” Santos said.

Steve Montes agreed and said, “We still have a lot of work to do. But this (election) shows people were upset and wanted a change. I’ll ask the tough questions and not stick with the status quo. We went up against the mayor and incumbents, now we have to do our best to clean up these issues. Everything is on the table,” Montes said.

Business owner Khalid Chaudhry, a frequent critic of the Mayor and council, said “Last night’s election was an amazing night. We (residents) got heard. This is what happens when you (council members) do not listen to the residents. I hope this is a new beginning — and an end to the corruption and incompetence here at city hall.”

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