Bill to Force District Elections on Cities Introduced
Posted by OC Insider on February 24, 2014
For those unfamiliar with legislative deadlines, each year there is a date where all legislation must be introduced by. For 2014, that was Friday, February 21st. We will look at many of the bills that have been introduced as they move through the process, but one bill in particular strikes this writer as an all-out assault on local control.
AB 2715 by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) looks to require cities with a population over 100,000 (based on the last census data) to have district based elections. The bill does not specify how many districts a city could have, but each district will vote for only its own council member. Hernandez had been threatening this for months, but finally introduced it at the last-minute. The law would apply only to non-charter cities, meaning that the cities of Costa Mesa, Garden Grove and Orange would be subject to district elections by July 1, 2015.
If you follow Orange County politics at all, you know that this has been one of the paramount issues in the City of Anaheim. The council finally agreed to place district based elections on the November 2014 ballot, after much debate and discussion. Other cities, like Palmdale, have also been forced to move to district based elections. In Orange County, there are currently three cities with districts: Newport Beach, Santa Ana and Seal Beach.
Hernandez states that “this bill would adhere to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by providing underrepresented groups throughout California an opportunity to have their voice represented.” Hernandez believes that citywide election results don’t always reflect demographics, particularly in cities where large minority populations haven’t resulted in minority representation on city councils.
These types of bills are an assault on local control. While it is clear that minorities are becoming a more significant percentage of the population, these types of decisions need to be made at a local level. The same can be said of mandates like plastic bag bans. Each community is unique, and must be allowed to make these types of decisions for themselves. This author is not advocating for districts or at large elections, but it is not the state’s place to dictate how a city like Orange or Costa Mesa should be governed. If the community wants to change it, let the community decide the best way to go about that.
The bill will likely be amended to address specific issues, but hopefully our cities, businesses, and other stakeholders will weigh in to stop this blatant violation of local control.