Back in August, Fly detailed the sordid tale of fear and loathing taking place within the Milpitas Planning Commission. Mark Tiernan, a veteran in organizing local campaigns, felt he was kicked out of his commission chair position in a coup partly orchestrated by fellow commissioner Noella Tabladillo. Tiernan said loudly in a commission meeting that Tabladillo couldn’t be trusted, and she in turn called him an asshole. Tiernan then made a bold claim to Fly that he thought Mayor Jose Esteves was behind the whole thing.
That didn’t sit too well with Esteves, who has since decided to have Tiernan removed from the Planning Commission altogether. The matter will be on the Milpitas City Council agenda tonight, and a reason for Tiernan’s removal is given. Here is the agenda item:
8. Consider Current Planning Commission Appointments and Vote to Remove One Member (Contact: Mayor Esteves, 586-3029)
Background: Mayor Esteves reports that Commissioner Tiernan provided an inappropriate statement to a local newspaper. Commissioners should be held to a high standard with respect to accuracy of information given out. Therefore, he is recommending removal of the Commissioner. Councilmembers are referred to the Milpitas Municipal Code I-500-1.04 which provides that “Any or all members of the Planning Commission may be removed from office prior to the expiration of the normal term of office without cause upon an affirmative vote of three (3) City Councilmembers, at a regular meeting of the City Council.”
Recommendation: Upon recommendation of Mayor Esteves, vote to remove Mark Tiernan from the Milpitas Planning Commission, creating a vacancy in the current term that expires in December 2012.
Apparently, Tiernan realized his folly and went to Esteves to apologize for the story. The mayor wasn’t trying to hear it, though, and Esteves decided to push ahead for Tiernan’s removal. That was almost three weeks ago. Esteves botched the Nov. 15 council meeting and there wasn’t enough time to discuss the commissioner’s ouster.
All of this will have consequences for Tiernan beyond the commission, because he is now running for a City Council seat in 2012. But there could be an even bigger story at play. Word is Esteves is trying to change term limits in Milpitas to lengthen his stay as mayor.
Milpitas has a complex system on term limits, but the mayor is currently allowed to serve three consecutive terms of two years each. Esteves previously served three terms as mayor before sitting out two years and then being elected again in 2010. But if mayor gets the supposed changes he’s been talking about, it would change term limits to two consecutive terms of four years apiece. Any change to the city charter would require going to the ballot, and in order to get to the ballot Esteves would need a vote of three, including himself, in support—the same number to get rid of Tiernan.
Two councilmembers who could benefit from an extension of term limits are Althea Polanksi and Armando Gomez, who are both in their third term—councilmembers get four-year terms—and would only have the option of running for mayor in 2014. Language could be written into a new ballot measure to wipe the slate clean for the mayor and councilmembers—something Milpitas insiders suspect Esteves and a few members of the council would be open to.
As a sign of history repeating itself, Gomez had a beef with a commissioner of his own back in 2007. Heidi Pham, part of the Community Advisory Commission, was not reappointed after getting on Gomez’s wrong side, which according to the Mission City Lantern, led to this: “Mayor Jose Estevez decried the petty nature of this act and concluded, ‘I feel so embarrassed’ for the city’s image.”