Laura Ferguson, San Clemente
San Clemente voters will soon vote on a citizens-initiated ballot measure that seeks to change the way we vote for City Councilmembers from at-large to by-district elections. Councilmembers elected by-district still take an oath to serve all residents, yet they are more attuned to the unique problems of their constituents. District-based elections also allow the work to be more evenly divided among Councilmembers and has been shown to improve citizen participation because they represent a specific district in a city and are typically more responsive to their constituency.
At great time and expense, a group of diverse citizens obtained sufficient voter signatures in 2016 to place this on the ballot. Our city got very involved in the process and delayed placement of the measure to 2018. The City Council ordered a taxpayer-funded “study” that cost us $18,500, then later spent $16,286 in taxpayer funds to fix inaccurate language in the counter-arguments against the measure in support of by-district elections. Then, after months of requesting public records on related legal bills, the city attorney provided a list of redacted billing totaling $81,000 with no explanation.
There have been occasions when our city has compared by-district elections to Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD), which switched to district-based elections after passage of Measure H in 2010. Not a fair comparison when CUSD’s voting districts cover seven cities and six unincorporated areas. Our districts will only cover San Clemente. Also, during the Talega Mello-Roos advocacy, our very own “by-district” trustee in San Clemente did not help us, but trustees from San Juan Capistrano and Mission Viejo did help us tremendously.
All neighborhoods deserve a voice on City Council. It shouldn’t be them against us. It should be all of us, equally and properly represented. The current system is not working for San Clemente. Council has no solution for the homeless, drug sales and use, rehab homes, improving timely issuance of permits, increasing police presence, an abandoned City Hall, and runaway legal costs.
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