Cord Bauer, San Clemente
An unresponsive City Council is why I think we’re seeing a push for district elections in San Clemente. Increased crime, transients, drugs or even see-through beach bathrooms seem to get a tone-deaf response from the Council. Thousands of residents have joined online crime forums, have written letters and signed petitions, and yet the net result from our council is the addition of a “half deputy.”
For you conspiracy theorists, the Council meeting to bring up these concerns just prior to voting on the budget this year was canceled.
Now, the district question is coming to the residents of San Clemente, but somehow the City Council has found a way to delay the legal ballot measure. And even though their excuse is that they want to study the issue, they could do that from now until November while still allowing the vote to happen. But they want to delay a public vote by up to two years. How does that make our Council look? How about smell? Do their actions pass the smell test?
District elections and mixed elections (mainly district with an at-large mayoral election) are used in the majority of medium and large municipal governments in the United States, and that number is growing. You heard that right. The Council is delaying a ballot measure by two years to study a type of municipal government that takes place now all over the U.S.
District elections have smaller voting areas, reduce the cost to get elected and help ensure every area and minority of a city is represented on the Council. Most importantly, it helps take special interest money out of elections. Voting by district happens in Santa Barbara, Santa Ana, San Jose and even San Juan Capistrano, population 36,282. Newport Beach has been voting by district since 1906.
Mayor Bob Baker said this ballot measure is “dumb,” and that he wants to “squash this.” Other Council members are more reflective but still negative. And that’s fine, but it should be up to the voters now, not the Council. Don’t stop the democratic process.
If the ballot measure is successful, the City Clerk must empanel the District Elections Task Force within 30 days. The Task Force will look at all the issues and make sure districting works for San Clemente.
City Council, the district ballot measure is not about how we vote; it’s about responsive government. Right now, we don’t have one.
A link to the information provided above can be found at www.nlc.org/build-skills-and-networks/resources/cities-101/city-officials/municipal-elections.