Los Angeles Times Snip

Steve Chan

August 29, 2018 

District Equality on the City Council

** This was published in the Los Angeles Times & Daily Pilot August 29, 2018, under Letters to the Editor. The headline offered with the letter has been corrected to read as it was submitted.

Costa Mesans should demand district equality on the City Council

Under threat of litigation, Costa Mesa's City Council voted to approve the placement of Measure EE on the 2016 ballot with the least acceptable option. The vote was 3-2, with then-Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Katrina Foley voting no.

The majority's three votes completely disregarded the voice of the residents, the staff recommendation, City Manager Tom Hatch and demographics expert David Ely.

The California Voting Rights Act, although mandating districts for voter equality, turned out to be a council-majority hijack and scheme of six districts, plus an at-large elected mayor, instead of the most popular alternative - five districts and a mayor elected from within the council members.

During the town halls allowing public input, it was clear attendees preferred five districts, with a council-selected mayor.

"Katrina Foley voted against the six plus one scheme in June 2016, and has since flip-flopped on the matter. Then-candidate and current councilmember John Stephens stated his opposition to this on the campaign trail leading up to the 2016 elections. He too, has changed his position."

The 'six plus-one' unfairly allows one district to have two votes out of seven on matters the council hears. On matters that closely split the council, this inequitable advantage is magnified as those two votes are 50% of the four votes required to prevail. All the other districts have 25% voting power in these situations; they need to get three more votes.

To add insult to injury, districts with a low voter participation level have a much higher hill to climb to achieve the exalted two-votes-for-one district. An at-large elected mayor wins in citywide voting and has a numerical advantage simply by running strong in their home district with strong voter participation.

Costa Mesa deserves better. Each district should have equal voting power on the City Council. Contact your council members and candidates to demand an end to this unjust, discriminatory scheme.