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Last updated 10:50 a.m.
By Eric Heinz
On Wednesday, a group of San Clemente residents filed a petition for a ballot measure with the city to ask voters if they want the City Council to be elected by district, starting in 2018. The group filing the petition is called San Clemente Residents for Reform.
The ballot measure would make specific districts for each City Council representative in various areas of San Clemente.
Eva O’Keefe, who has been outspoken about rising crime rates and vagrancy in San Clemente, was one of the first to sign the petition. O’Keefe said she signed because she believes representation should be more spread out around the city.
O’Keefe said districts would take money out elections because it is “easier to raise money for a smaller area.” She said it costs about $50,000 to campaign for at-large seats rather than $10,000 in smaller district areas.
“(This) brings more accountability and access to your representative,” O’Keefe said, emphasizing the areas of Talega and Forster Ranch.
Currently, four of the five current City Council members live within a few blocks or so from each other in the southwest part of the city.
Jim Bieber, who has traded barbs with City Council since last December when short-term living units became a heated topic, said the current model of at-large voting hasn’t worked because the representation comes primarily from one section of the city.
“We have confidence that people in every area of (the city) will elect somebody who is sharp and accountable,” Bieber said.
When asked if this would divide the city more than unify its residents, Bieber said there are areas that are unable to put forth a formidable candidate from their area. Districts would allow for residents in all neighborhoods of San Clemente to have representation.
Bieber lives within the area where four Council members live near each other in San Clemente.
“I think everybody should have the opportunity to have a Council member in their neighborhood,” Bieber said.
Bieber said the group had about 25 volunteers working on gathering signatures for the petition.
The ballot measure intends to create districts that encompass Talega, Rancho San Clemente, the southwest parts of the city, Forster Ranch, and North Beach and Marblehead Coastal. These districts would have to be drawn for equal population, created by a task force made up of representatives from each district, the city clerk and the city attorney.
The city will have to examine the petition signatures to determine whether the number of signatures collected is legitimate before the ballot measure is qualified. Proponents of the measure will be notified and public information will be disbursed if it is qualified.