Veteran mayor faces possible change

FRESNO, California "The democratic process is let the people elect their mayor and that's the way it should be. I don't want any appointment," said Lopez.

Under the city's form of government Lopez is a member of the city council, but elected Mayor, by the voters. Unlike the "strong mayor" form of government in Fresno, he wields no veto power over the council.

Measure O, on the June 8th ballot would have the Mayor appointed by the city council, not elected by the people. Each council member would then take a turn as Mayor. Council Member Glenda Hill and all of the other council members, except Lopez voted to put the measure on the ballot.

"Because it's healthy. You have fresh ideas and you have a different person every two years casting vision and leading in that vision," said Hill.

Lopez has been the man to see in Orange Cove. But questions about the financing of projects, and the fact he's had family members on the city payroll have raised eyebrows. But, he's a favorite of California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who came to the dedication of a skating facility and park named for her.

Measure O Supporter Eldon Thompson says longevity has given Lopez too much power.

"Once you've been there that long people assume you've got authority that you don't have, assumptive authority is a powerful tool and he's an excellent person at wielding assumptive authority," said Thompson.

Thompson believes rotating the mayor's seat is a more progressive way to go. Political Analyst Don Larson of Fresno says it's a system used by most small Valley cities.

"I don't think it's any less democratic it's just another way of exercising democracy. They are electing the Mayor and City council as one body and rotating the office. That's as democratic as it can get," said Larson.

But it's not for Victor Lopez. He says if measure O passes, he'll quit. But until then, the former boxer vows to keep fighting.

"And I'm gonna go for it one more round, and if I make it fine, if I don't I'm still proud. I'll always be proud because the record speaks for itself if you look at Orange Cove people tell me from all of the cities, Mayor you're doing a helluva job and I feel good," said Lopez.

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