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SCSQUARED halfBy Eric Heinz

Since its inception, San Clemente has been a city that elects its representatives on an at-large basis; everyone who runs for City Council represents the city as a whole.

Jim Bieber, a San Clemente resident, has been in the midst of heated debate during City Council meetings recently. Bieber’s positions on the city’s short-term or vacation rental policy prompted him in January to speak directly to councilmembers, and arguments have ensued.

Now, he and a few other residents are putting together a petition to compel the city to move to districted elections. Bieber claims the current City Council members, according to addresses pulled from public record and real estate sites, show most of the councilmembers live within walking distance of each other in the southwest area of San Clemente on the west side of the Interstate 5 freeway. One councilor lives on the other side of I-5.

“They live in their little cocoon,” Bieber said during an interview. “I don’t see any downside to people in unique neighborhoods in our community to have their own representative.”

On San Clemente’s City Council, five council members are elected and they appoint a mayor and mayor pro tem to a one-year term. Districting, according to the residents who want change, would have one elected official from five different bureaus.

Bieber said he believes the petition will gather enough signatures to try to put the issue on the November ballot.

“You have entrenched people who view other people in other parts of the city as interlopers,” Bieber said. “They should take some leadership and put it before the voters, and avoid a lawsuit and initiative process that isn’t positive in bringing people together.”

Many small cities, below a population of 150,000, have functioned with a revolving mayor, but cities on the larger end have established districts.

San Clemente has a population of about 65,000, according to a 2014 U.S. Census estimate.

Capistrano Unified School District’s Board of Trustees also moved to districting a few years ago. A collection of cities throughout California have started the process of districting due to California Voters Rights Act lawsuits or potential lawsuits that base their claims on varying infringements.

City Councilman Tim Brown said he would not be in favor of districted representation because the public hasn’t demanded it.

“I don’t really see the critical mass and public outcry for it,” Brown said. “I think that what you have here isn’t necessarily a move for the greater good for San Clemente to protect the electorate. (This issue is from) people who have an ideological ax to grind.”

Mayor Bob Baker also said he would not favor districting.

“Residents I meet, no matter their address, want to preserve San Clemente’s small-town charm,” Baker stated in an email to the San Clemente Times. “Recently (the public) has voted out council members who tried to sell their open space. They have ousted council members who tried to sell beachfront parking for pennies on the dollar. They have elected people who have remodeled the Ole Hanson Beach Club, opened the La Pata extension and are trying to save the (San Clemente) hospital.”

Baker said people should vote based on their candidates’ principals and not their home addresses.

San Clemente resident Brad Malamud said if district problems are not solved, they can be altered by elected officials every four years.

“It will be far less expensive to run for office in a district composed of 8,000 rather than 40,000 voters,” Malamud said. “District councilmembers will understand the concerns of their residents. For example, where would a Talega resident go to speak to a current council member that might share their concern? Four live in the southwest and one lives just across the freeway from the southwest (part of the city).”

Malamud said he would not want an at-large mayor as a nonvoting member because it has the potential to give that person too much veto power on legislative actions.

Dan Bane, City Planning Commissioner from 2010 to 2011 and a Talega resident, said representation would give a stronger voice to the other communities in San Clemente.

“I feel like right now there’s just a small group of people and, granted, they’ve been very organized and got people who will represent their viewpoints,” Bane said. “I think redistricting will level the playing field.”

During the Tuesday night meeting, Bieber said that there have been some issues that have been looked at by the current council that represent the city as a whole, but having individual representatives would give more insight from individual communities.

An email sent last week to Councilors Lori Donchak, Kathy Ward and Chris Hamm by the San Clemente Times regarding redistricting was not responded to by press time on Tuesday.

Privacy Concerns

At the Tuesday, March 1, City Council meeting, Bieber presented a pamphlet that pointed out the addresses of the councilmembers, although he did not announce the specific addresses.

Brown took issue with this, saying Bieber was putting councilmembers’ families at risk as they were on the dais and the meetings are broadcast live.

According to the California Public Records Act, addresses are exempt from disclosure on Department of Motor Vehicle records, gun registration, government housing and public employee “records.”

There are other ways addresses could be obtained, but San Clemente elected officials have the option whether to disclose their residence or not when they run for office.

Candidates for elected office are required to provide proof of residence when running for office.

Editor’s note: Due to the San Clemente Times interpretation of the California Public Records Act, we have chosen not to publish the specific addresses of the City Council.

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comments (33)

  • I fully support the dividing San Clemente into districts so that one person has only one vote.
    I suggest 5 districts divided as follows Talega, North East, east of the I-5 and north of Pico, South East, east of the I-5 and south of Pico, North West, west of the I-5 and north of Pico, and South West, west of -the I-5 and south of Pico.

    I like I-5 as a dividing line since it separates the part of the community into those they are normally subject to smog and noise from the part of the city that gets little smog or freeway noise since I believe that at least 90% of the time the wind comes from the west over the ocean.

  • I think districting is a very good idea and I support it.

  • Honestly, a better idea would be if people actually bothered to get informed and vote.

  • Lets walk through this shall we using an example where this logic was an utter failure. The school district did this. It reduced our city from having 7 trustee ears to just 1. It has been a colossal mess and taken away accountability and made things worse for students.

    Now if someone lived in Talega and did not want some atrocity to happen in their backyard but their one electable council member is the only vote they had because of the lack of city wide accountability — this would make thing worse.

    How about if your neighborhood could not find someone to run and the person that gets elected is not of the caliber needed to represent your neighborhood properly — not good either.

    Bottom line is that all city council members should always be accountable to every resident in San Clemente. To do otherwise is like the mess we have with national elections where New York and California determine what is best for the whole country without considering the needs of the fly over states.

    This smells of someone with money being selfish instead of being selfless and considering the greater good.

    It is better to do what is best for all for San Clemente than have some elites putting their pet projects in your backyard. Let’s spend our energies doing some helpful and productive things for San Clemente instead.

    • Well said. I’m not concerned that 4 current council members happen to live very close to each other in southwest SC. Had such a map been made just a few councils ago it would have looked much different and dispersed. Council members come and go, and their geographic distribution in town changes over time also. This is a non-starter. Someone has too much time on his hands and should find a real issue to invest energy in.

    • Enrique,
      There are two points in your post like I’d like to adress. First you claim that district voting in CUSD led to San Clemente ” having 7 trustee ears to just 1″, even though residents from San Clemente never made up the majority of the board. Everyone else in the district would be very angry at the lack of representation if that were the case.
      Second, “It is better to do what is best for all for San Clemente than have some elites putting their pet projects in your backyard” is very contradictory to what you’re saying above, because as is the case in most local governments in California, the wealthy (or retired) elite from a certain part of a city almost always hold a majority on a city council that does not have districts.

      • @Average Joe, it seems you lack the political acumen or relevant knowledge to understand what I am talking about. Parents and Students in San Clemente Schools are under represented and our school buildings are in shambles. This took a turn for the worse after being limited to 1 trustee. What you fail to grasp is every council member needs to earn votes from all residents otherwise it negates accountability.

        This is nothing more than some elitists trying to serve their own needs. None of it is driven by the intent to do what is best for San Clemente — just for themselves.

        As it relates to posting or replying to posts you have no credibility whatsoever when you hide behind an alias.

  • I 100% fully support the push to district elections. Heading into the future it is the only fair and logical way. Who on earth could be seriously opposed to this?

    • It is the furthest thing from fairness or logic if you look at this from end to end.

      The people opposed are experienced with the downstream nightmare this causes. San Clemente schools, students and parents have seen up close how districting took away our representation. Then if you look at national elections where California and New York take the votes away from fly over states.

      Elitism has no place in San Clemente. ALL elected officials should be accountable to ALL residents. That is logical and supported by local examples where districting has and will not work

      • Your comment about the electoral college is mistaken. Smaller states actually have more power, per capita, than larger ones. California has more electoral votes because more people live here. The population of California is 66 times that of Wyoming, but we only have 18 times the number of electoral votes, for example.

        • @Jimmyshi03, your “more power” comment is inaccurate as demonstrated by all the elections in the last 30 years. However, your statement about it being per capita makes my point clear about how districting does not work because the fly over state votes will never overtake the largest states that.

          Heads up on netiquette when commenting online using your real name lends credibility whereas when an alias is used the perception is that of a drive by spammer.

          • Why should smaller states, where fewer people live, have more power than larger states, where more people live? Also, have you paid attention to elections since 1992? Ohio, which would seemingly fit your definition of flyover country, is the focus of every election, where California, New York and Texas are not. That’s due to being a bellwether. We don’t get presidential election ads in California, in the general anyway, because one side takes it for granted and the other sees it as throwing good money after bad. In Ohio, or Iowa, or Nevada, where things go back and forth, there’s more attention.

          • @Jimmyshi03, you are free to believe whatever nonsense you want. Until you use your real name you are nothing more than a troller.

          • @Jimmyshi03, you are free to believe whatever nonsense you want. Until you stop using aliases you are nothing more than a troller.

          • @Jimmyshi03, you are welcome to believe whatever nonsense you want. Until you top hiding behind your alias and focus on the real issue at hand you are nothing more than a troller using the cyber-handle of a person living in Nevada.

          • @Jimmyshi03, you are welcome to believe whatever nonsense you want. Until you drop the alias and focus on the real issues at hand you are nothing more than a cyber troll that using a cyber handle that belongs to someone living in Nevada.

  • While I like the idea of districted representation, I am wholly and completely against VRBO’s anywhere and everywhere, 24/7/365. If the fight is really about VRBO’s, then I want nothing to do with redistricting. I want a community–not a mini-hotel or a sober living house next to my house and my kids. If it’s about good government–and it doesn’t require a lot of money and work–then sure.

  • I 100% support voting districts. Been saying it for years! San Clemente needs to grow into one community representing all of the community. Right now it represents a very vocal and active minority of residents.

    • “San Clemente needs to grow into one community representing all of the community. ”

      So carving the City into five districts, with each council member fighting for only the interests of that district, is supposed to help us become “one community?” I highly doubt it. I don’t support change just for the sake of change. This sounds like a solution looking for a problem. We have other truly important issues to deal with, let’s not get distracted by this.

    • @Sonja, you are contradicting yourself. Right now every elected city official is subject to all the voters. With districting they won’t be. Worse it would be like Los Angeles a divided city with no one representing all of the community as your state.

      The districting noise seems to be the work of some elitists that are exploit San Clemente to profit from their VRBO enterprises. They do not care about San Clemente. They just care about their pocket books. All this noise is the direct result of recent changes relating to VRBOs.

      Districting would just be a trap, like it was for the School District, that takes away representation and accountability.

  • When the town council is from one side of San Clemente, the other side will always get the homeless shelter. If your local council member lives two blocks away, then they’ll KNOW that there is a speeding problem on a local street and care enough to address it. This is not about losing power, this is about pushing the local government down as close to the community as possible.

    • @cb, until you use your real name you have no credibility. you just sound like another of the VRBO elitists trying to exploit our town and making up any nonsense you can to support your claims. Districting is divisive and does not work.

      Here’s a challenge to you and all your cronies …. how about citing some real examples using your real names?

      • Enrique, I’ve seen that there are some unbalanced people on some of these forums. Therefore for the safety of my family I prefer to remain anonymous. However, I’ll endeavor to be civil. I hope you would as well.

        • @cb, the irony of your civil comment is that you seem to support Bieber (aka Mr VRBO) who is showing off pamphlets indicating where elected officials live.

          Note that civility requires integrity and accountability in addition to respect. If you are not willing to subject yourself to a public venue then it may not be appropriate for you to get involved here.

          As to districting it would be best you researched this. Have a close look at how San Clemente lost out when this was done for the School District. Then see what other cities our size geographically and population wise have needed to do this and how it worked out.

  • Connect the dots for me Enrique. While I think that having districts within San Clemente would increase representation, I would expect to be represented by the entire board. How would this benefit the VRBO crowd? My neighborhood–and I’m assuming most others in SC–would not want a mini-motel on their street. Just a small part of town would. How would representatives from the quieter parts of town be advantageous to VRBO advocates?

  • Walk me through your reasoning, Enrique. Everyone I know in my neighborhood would not want a mini-motel on our street. I’m going to take a stretch and assume that all the quiet neighborhoods in San Clemente would feel the same. Perhaps the duplex owners and 2nd home owners would not, but they’re certainly a minority, right? And to clarify, while I like the idea of having at least one council member as a neighbor, I would expect that ALL of them would represent me as a citizen of SC. What am I missing?

  • The selfishness from the elitist VRBO owners behind this push is bent on getting their way at the expense of what is good for the residents.

    This article nails it – https://suburbantendencies.wordpress.com/2016/03/15/districts-in-san-clemente-yay-or-nay/

  • Tried twice last night to post this—hope it doesn’t come out triple. Enrique, walk me through how districts would help the VRBO cause? For example, the neighbors in my “district” would absolutely be against VRBO’s, as would just about every quiet neighborhood in SC. How would districting help their cause?

    • @cb, it is best if you find out when doing the research. have a look at the article link I just posted. Then if you still have question click on my name in the article and contact me through social media so we can talk it through.

  • I read the post. There’s no reason why a districted council can’t work together. In fact, I’d expect that from them as each council member would represent ALL of SC; they simply would be from different parts of SC. I still see no reason how districts would benefit VRBO’s. And again, I’m against VRBO’s. Someone besides Enrique, please enlighten me.

    • @cb, will gladly provide the enlightenment. just contact me as suggested earlier. just click on my name and it will take you to me on social media where you can contact me any number of ways.

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