3rd Voting District Workshop A Great Success
The third Voting By District Workshop is now behind us and it was a big success. More than 40 people showed up at St. Joachim Catholic Church Wednesday evening and more than half that group were Latinos - the demographic group intended to be positively impacted by making the change in the way Costa Mesa elects city leaders from an "at-large" model to voting by districts. This was the best turnout of Latino members of our community by far.
The format for this meeting was different than the two previous events. This time instead of breaking into groups to design district maps consultant demographer David Ely explained his process briefly and explained the evolution of the sample maps on display around the room. He explained how the districts were created and that each configuration had plenty of wiggle room to tinker with the boundaries without placing the process in danger of violating state or federal law. The most current versions include two with five (5) voting districts; one with six (6) districts that would be used in concert with a Directly-Elected Mayor and one map showing seven (7) voting districts. I've displayed those below. (click on them to enlarge) They are also on the city website.
Each of these are the products of the two previous workshops, the earlier "meet the expert" small group events and submissions by members of the public of their own personal ideas of maps. The city has available on the web site all the information you need to know to understand this process and actually create your own district voting map using a "kit" provided online. You can view the appropriate page HERE and follow the links and create your own version if you wish. Remember, each district must be approximately the same size population-wise. Each of the sample maps shown are very close - plus or minus 2% (5% is acceptable). Follow the instructions on the site and have fun.
The group last night was very participative. Several members stepped up to identify their own personal preference and to ask excellent questions dealing with issues like the statistics being used and why certain characteristics of individual districts existed. One hot topic was Fairview Park, which can be included in either of a couple of the sample districts.
STRAW POLL (WITH A CLEAR WINNER)
A straw poll was taken of the participants to see how many preferred one of the four options presented. Here are the results:
District 7 (seven individual voting districts) - 2
District 6 (six districts and directly elected mayor) - 0
District 2 (one of the 5 district options) - 0
District 1 (the other 5 district option) - basically everyone else
A sub-vote was taken on District 1.
Those who chose to leave it as shown - 9
Those who wanted a change - 29
Most seemed to want a reassignment of Fairview Park, to split it so one district wouldn't "control" it. Of course, that's a bogus fear because any decision about the park would be made by a council majority vote.
NOTABLES AND OTHERS
Among the participants at the meeting were former councilwoman Wendy Leece and current council candidate Lee Ramos, although Lee did not identify himself as a candidate to the group. He was just another member of the community interested in this process. There were also a generous sprinkling of folks active in community affairs, but the majority of the folks at this meeting were unfamiliar faces - just plain, old normal folks interested in this issue - you know, the kind of folks Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer wants to see at these events. They ranged in age from very senior to children and every age group in between. It was a good mix no matter how you sliced it.
Assistant CEO Rick Francis and City Clerk Brenda Green were also in the room, monitoring the proceedings, just as they have at other meetings.
On July 5th the first of two public hearings will be held during the regularly scheduled council meeting at City Hall in City Council Chambers beginning at 5:45 p.m. Ely will present at least one map for the council members to consider placing on the November ballot for the voters to consider. The second meeting will be early in August, when the final decision will be made.
The transition from all at-large members to election by districts will take place over two election cycles, presuming the voters approve the choice presented to them. Two seats will be open in 2018 and the remaining seats will open up in 2020. The details of how this will work will likely wait until after the election. And, complicating things, there will be a new census taken in 2020, which means our voting districts will almost certainly have to be re-assessed following the availability of those numbers.
The question was asked about term limits for a directly-elected mayor should that option be selected. Ely opined that since our term limits rules were in place before there was a directly elected mayor they would likely not apply to that position, unless the ballot measure includes language defining term limits for the directly-elected mayor.
NEXT MEETING ON SATURDAY
The next meeting - the final one in this part of the process - will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at the Balearic Center, 1975 Balearic Drive from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. The format will be the same and the consultants are hoping for another well-attended event. Hope to see you there.