Cord Bauer, San Clemente

I called the city attorney for Santa Barbara this week, not to turn someone in for plastic straw distribution, but to ask him about their voting process. Santa Barbara was sued in order to switch to district elections. My specific question to him was about money; how much did the lawsuit cost?

“Just shy of $1 million,” he said.

The money wasn’t for a trial but simply to settle the case out of court.

In California, there is a group of lawyers who sue cities that has a significant minority population but don’t have district-style elections. The concept is that minorities never run for City Council because they know they’re fighting an uphill battle against candidates with more money and a system that protects incumbent officials.  California cities have learned to expect lawsuits for district elections when a minority group in town reaches about 20 percent of the population. San Clemente’s Hispanic community now represents about 18 percent of the total.  From what I’ve read, the group of lawyers have never lost a lawsuit for districting against any city in California.

To be blunt, San Clemente can’t afford a “no” vote on district elections. The city’s legal budget is already 250 percent higher than it was three years ago, and sooner or later that lawsuit for districting will happen. Can’t that money be better spent elsewhere?

A San Clemente citizen’s initiative for district elections was put on the ballot two years ago, but the City Council decided to shelve the vote in order to “study” the issue. The city has apparently spent $18,500 on a study regarding district voting. I haven’t seen the study, have you? I truly hope that the city releases this study far and wide so that the voters in town can see how their money was spent.

The district initiative on the ballot is not perfect, but it can be improved with input from the residents. If we wait until our town is sued, it will be money wasted on a lawsuit that could have been avoided.

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comments (13)

  • We know from history that districting has nullified our representation with the OC Supervisors in battles with the TCA, and with the School District. Not cool.

    Doing this at a city level just nullifies our vote to 1 person every 4 years whereas right now we can vote on all candidates up for election every two years.

    In some parts of town, you’d be limited to a single candidate to vote on for lack of participation. That could lead to the same person getting re-elected over and over again indefinitely.

    Let us say that there was a proposal to put a sewage treatment plant right behind your home. How well would you be represented by only 1 councilmember that was accountable to your vote? What good would a 1 vote out of 5 do to stop this from being put behind your home? Doesn’t it make more sense to have all 5 councilmembers accountable to voters?

    The people that got this on the ballot did so because they wanted to do whatever they wanted with their VRBOs. Thankfully, the City took a measured approach instead of banning VRBOs all together like other OC cities like Anaheim did.

    In summary, if you want the most representation, then vote NO to Districting AND any candidate that is not opposed districting.

    • I agree. I have yet to hear a cogent argument on what actual problem district elections in SC will solve. The friends I talk to about this think it’s silly and unnecessary,

  • Districting is a terrible idea and being pushed to weaken our voices within the city – we can end up with candidates that are less qualified – fortunately there are other lawsuits challenging this limiting the democratic process for cities that are under attack by special interests and unscrupulous bad actors.

  • I have mixed feelings about this issue. I am a very strong taxpayer / student advocate in the Capistrano Unified School District. After the 2010 Teachers Union Strike they made a big push to have elections by area rather than by at larges. The result made it easier for the Unions to buy seats because they only had to get information out to two or three areas each election cycle so the expense was cut in half. And what really bothered me is that I am a very passionate and engaged member of the public and as much as I wanted to vote for a Trustee in a UNIFIED school district I was not able to because Idid not live in an areas that was currently up for election. Lets be honest we at one time could all agree that the Trustees represented all the children- not so much anymore- A “Unified” district has the ability to divide communities and pick winners and losers as we have seen with the toll road..

  • I have mixed feelings about this issue. I am a very strong taxpayer / student advocate in the Capistrano Unified School District. After the 2010 Teachers Union Strike they made a big push to have elections by area rather than by at larges. The result made it easier for the Unions to buy seats because they only had to get information out to two or three areas each election cycle so the expense was cut in half. And what really bothered me is that I am a very passionate and engaged member of the public and as much as I wanted to vote for a Trustee in a UNIFIED school district I was not able to because Idid not live in an areas that was currently up for election. Lets be honest we at one time could all agree that the Trustees represented all the children- not so much anymore- A “Unified” district has the ability to divide communities and pick winners and losers as we have seen with the toll road..

  • I appreciate Cord Bauer’s letter and agree wholeheartedly. I am supporting Measure “V” on the ballot this November. I encourage you to do the same. 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. I am the only city council candidate of the 12 people running for City Council who resides in the Talega neighborhood of San Clemente. With 12,000 residents who represent one-fifth of San Clemente’s total population and who fund well over 30% of the City’s number one revenue source –ad valorem property taxes– it is time to have more representative government through district-based elections. @districtelectionsnow #districtelectionsnow

    • Wow, flip-flopping on fundamentals issues like you are on districting are not historical very good for the candidates.

      Sounds like you really do not understand divisive and nullifying districting has been and will be when used for the wrong application as it is in a city our size. It’s either that or you are want to be elected so badly that you do not care about the implications to San Clemente.

      Whatever your true motives are, the facts remain the same, districting when used incorrectly as it will be here will nullify our representation from 5 candidates to just 1. Worse is we can only then elect 1 person every 4 years. Big mistake.

  • I support district elections for so many reasons, but the practical reason is that our city is ripe for a law suit to force district elections. I don’t like that–not one bit. But given the history of these suits being brought against cities in California, it’s either go to district elections or spend millions of taxpayer dollars for a law suit,…and THEN go to district elections. Why waste our money?

    The levers of power are held by too small of a group in San Clemente. It’s time for broader representation in our town.

    • Cord, if you are referring to state laws that require it to prevent minorities from being disenfranchised then your assertion is wrong.

      If you look into this further you will see that districting in San Clemente will violate state laws as it will lessen the representation of minorities from 5 representatives to just 1.

      • Enrique, no I am not referring to those laws, therefore the straw man argument does not work.

        • Cord,

          I’ve already addressed the facts about forced district requirements which does not apply here because the total minority percentages in San Clemente are too low.

          Other than profiteers and people who are clearly deluded, there has not been any case of underrepresentation.

          With that said you’ll need to provide some facts and understanding regarding your two unsupported statements (below) if you want people to see what you are referring to:
          A) “our city is ripe for a lawsuit to force district elections.”
          B) “The levers of power are held by too small of a group in San Clemente. It’s time for broader representation in our town.”

  • Folks, there is some smoke and mirrors going on by those who want to divide up San Clemente with districting.

    Here are the facts…
    The past 3 elections we’ve had candidates run from Talega. Laura, Mortenson, and Bane. All of which had/have the opportunity to run every two years, instead of once every four because of open elections.

    Also, people move within our community. She’s moved, Dan Bane has moved since the last election. The mayor pro tem has moved 3 times which would have been in 3 separate districts.

    The truth is that districting only hurts the representation of residents in smaller cities. Districting is only needed in much larger cities or where large minorities are not represented, neither of which are the case here.

    • You are spot on – districting will harm San clemente and make our voices not heard – special interests are pushing for this. As far as doing this for the fear of lawsuits – there are many lawsuits for the poor cities that have adopted districting. San clemente residents deserve a voice in every election – no to measure v and districting!

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