I've called in the experts for this Vote Local series. Today we hear from Keturah Kennedy, a woman of many talents, including thoughtful analysis and creative implementation of strategies in several industries. She gives us the scoop on the districting measure here:
When I think of drama over districts I usually think of The Mighty Ducks, one of my favorite movies. You know how it goes, Adam Banks is actually in District 5 and is forced to play with the worst team in the league or not play at all, but then they end up winning and making 2 more movies. I love that story.
These days though, districting has a new connotation for me.
Earlier this year, in response to the threat of a lawsuit alleging that Costa Mesa is non-compliant with the California Voting Rights Act, which helps protect minority populations, Costa Mesa underwent a process to establish voting districts to select future council members and replace the current at-large system of five elected representatives.
The city contracted with an outside firm to study the issue and host a series of meetings over the summer to solicit feedback from the community on the districting system. I attended two of these meetings and mobilized others to attend. I was encouraged by the participation from many in our city. The meetings produced feedback the demographer used in his final proposals and recommendations to the council.
Two themes emerged and were clearly supported in the public hearings:
One was that a majority, including myself, supported dividing the city into five districts, which would have kept the number of council members the same.
Second was that a majority was against a six-district map with a directly elected mayor, primarily on the belief that one district will have two council members represented and dilute the representation of the other districts.
At both public hearings, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer moved to use the six-district map with an elected mayor on the ballot in November, completely dismissing the community engagement process and recommendations from the experts.
To say many of us were disappointed is an understatement. And if you read the city’s flier you received in your mail, you probably got a very different sense of how the process went down.
Ultimately, the motion passed 3-2 in favor of putting the six-district map plus a directly elected mayor on November’s ballot, now known as Measure EE.
So, what does a yes or no vote on EE mean? I’m glad you asked…
First of all, I want to make it clear that no matter how you vote, Costa Mesa will have voting districts in the future. This measure is the next step in determining how many districts we’ll have and where the districts lines will be.
“Yes” Vote – If approved, starting in 2018 we will move to a 7 member city council with 6 voting districts and an at-large elected mayor.
“No” Vote– If voted down, this will lead to litigation with several possible outcomes. We will either have 6 districts with the directly elected mayor as selected by our current city council or have the possibility of adopting one of the other proposed maps. Ideally, we’d have the opportunity to go with a 5 district map.
EE has been an internal battle for me. In a commentary I wrote for the Daily Pilot in July, I said that although I disagreed with the outcome I would support it on the ballot. I felt then and still do that our voices would be heard the loudest when we elect new council members.
My hesitation in rallying to vote against EE was that it would take energy away from electing a new city council majority and dilute the other issues at hand. Fortunately, this has not happened over the last three months. For that reason, I am voting no on EE.
Like I mentioned above, districting in inevitable and I believe a 5 district map is the best. By electing a new city council majority there may be a possibility of ending up with the 5 district map many in the community supported. I'm holding out for that.