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Santa Maria Sun / Letter To The Editor

The following article was posted on April 19th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 7 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 7

District elections are here, like it or not

By Elizabeth Schneider - Santa Maria

To the writer of "Let the people decide" (April 6), Robert Scott, you're about three steps behind where we are now. The first step happened in the '90s, when Santa Maria was sued over its citywide elections. The city defended its citywide elections, which cost the taxpayers $1 million.

Step two resulted in the California Voting Rights Act being enacted in 2002, based on the Santa Maria lawsuit, and a whole lot of other factors.

The law allowed candidates from under-represented groups, who weren't elected to fill a council seat, to sue cities that still had citywide elections. It also limited plaintiffs' awards to $30,000. Based on the results of the 2016 council race, the city was notified by the attorney representing a losing candidate, threatening to sue the city over its citywide elections.

Several California cities were sued on that basis, spending millions of taxpayers' dollars doing so. All those cities lost! That was step three. Our City Council wisely saw the handwriting on the wall. The Feb. 21 City Council agenda introduced a resolution, authorizing city staff to start the process of transitioning to district-based elections in our city. The council heard reports by the city attorney, city manager, and members of the public before approving the resolution on a 3-2 vote.

The California Voting Rights Act gives city councils 120 days to complete the transition process. That's where we are now. The next public hearing about it is Thursday, April 20, at the Edwards Community Center, where everybody is encouraged to comment on the various proposed district maps.