Second Voting District Formation Meeting
My sweet and very patient wife and I spent a few minutes at the second community meeting designed to inform the public and gather input for the process of creating voting districts as required by a lawsuit apparently filed to enforce a perceived violation of the California Voting Rights Act.
SMALLER TURNOUT, SAME INFORMATION
This meeting, held for a couple hours at the Halecrest Park meeting facility this morning, was billed as a duplicate of the one we reported on last Thursday. We, along with a smaller crowd of fewer than 24 residents, sat through the beginning presentations by consultants hired to facilitate this process. Demographer David Ely presented the information again and responded to questions, again. We left as they were about to break into smaller groups for the exercise of creating maps that represented the preferences of the smaller groups.
NOT MANY LATINOS
I noted that there were only three Latino people attending this meeting that required translation assistance, and they left early. At the earlier meeting there was grumbling from social service organizations that there had been virtually no time to organize folks to attend the meetings.
GATHERING AND COMPILING
Ely will now homogenize the information he received at these two meetings and compile new maps that take into account not only the information gathered at these two meetings, but the earlier mini-meetings, billed as "Meet The Expert" meetings.
NEXT ROUND OF MEETINGS ARE CRITICAL
On June 15th and June 18th there will be two more meetings where that information is presented and members of the public will be encouraged to add further input and discussion into this process. After THOSE meetings Ely will present information during a public hearing on July 5th. The council is scheduled to make a decision on which map to place on the November ballot at their only meeting in August.
SOME APPARENT OPTIONS
A couple things came up during this meeting. First, it is possible for the council to arbitrarily decide to NOT place the issue before the voters and just select one of the maps and adopt that change. I had the impression from the way Ely discussed that issue that he thought such a move could/would result in legal action. Also, if the public votes to NOT choose to change the way we elect council members in November the lawsuit that is driving this action will likely move forward and a judge will ultimately decide how districts will be formed.
2018 WOULD BE FIRST DISTRICT ELECTIONS
Assuming this issue will appear on the November ballot, the earliest the City will begin selecting council members by district would be in the General Election of 2018, when two positions will be open. In 2020 the three remaining seats will be up for grabs. It's still unclear how this process will actually shake out.
ANOTHER LOOK AT DISTRICTS AFTER 2020
Also, because there will be a new census in 2020, and because the sensitive Westside area that seems to be the primary focus of this activity is morphing as we write this with hundreds of high-end housing developments being built in the heart of that area, it's possible the demographics of voting age people in that area will change - which will require this process to be tackled again. That's pretty discouraging, to say the least.
NEED MORE PUBLICITY
These meetings have been poorly advertised, hence the turnout of only around 50 people at both of them. I certainly hope the City does a better job of advertising the remaining two meetings and the two public hearings in July and August when this monumental change to the way our city is governed takes place. Assistant CEO Rick Francis and City Clerk Brenda Green both attended this second meeting. I certainly hope they took notice of the sparse attendance and will do something about it for the future meetings.
INFO AVAILABLE ON CITY WEB SITE
Information on this process, including links to displays and an email address to which members of the public may send their own ideas about voting districts can be found at the City Website, HERE.