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Smart Voter
Sonoma County, CA November 6, 2012 Election
Measure Q
City Charter Amendment for Council Member Elections
City of Santa Rosa

Majority Approval Required

Fail: 23,012 / 40.2% Yes votes ...... 34,273 / 59.8% No votes

See Also: Index of all Measures

Results as of Dec 17 1:47pm, 100.0% of Precincts Reporting (64/64)
Information shown below: Impartial Analysis | Arguments | Full Text

District Elections: Shall the Santa Rosa City Charter be amended to change the manner in which City Council members are elected from at large elections to each Council member being elected by and from districts created by the Council?

Impartial Analysis from City Attorney
Section 4 of the current City Charter provides that the seven city council members are elected "at large" with the terms of the council members alternated so that four council members or three council members are elected every two years. "At large" elections mean that all registered voters in the City may vote for all four or all three of the council seats that are up for election that year. A candidate is required to be a registered voter of the City at the time the person's nomination papers are issued.

Measure Q proposes to amend the City Charter to change the manner in which council members are elected to be "by" and "from" districts. Each council member would be designated as representing one of seven districts to be established by the city council. A candidate for a district council seat would be required to be a registered voter of and reside in that district at the time the person's nomination papers are issued. Only those registered voters that live in that district would be eligible to nominate and vote for the council person to represent that district.

If passed by a majority of the voters, this change in the election process would take effect in 2014 for the three council seats that would be up for election at that time. In 2016, the remaining four seats would be elected in this same manner. The city council would create the districts by ordinance if Measure Q is passed. The districts would be formed in accordance with State and Federal laws, which would require that the districts be of approximately equal population.

A "Yes" vote on Measure Q would change the manner in which city council members are elected from "at large" to "by and from districts." A "No" vote would leave the existing election process in place.

s/ Caroline L. Fowler, City Attorney

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Arguments For Measure Q Arguments Against Measure Q
District Elections will give all Santa Rosans representation on our City Council. Historically, most Santa Rosa City Councilmembers have lived on the east side of Santa Rosa. There have only been four Councilmembers from the west side of town in the last thirty years. With District Elections, we will have representatives who reflect all of us, the vibrant geographic, age, economic and ethnic diversity of our City.

District Elections mean you will have a Councilmember who cares about and understands the needs of your neighborhood. Because your Councilmember will be your neighbor, he or she will be familiar with your parks, potholes, local businesses, and the safety of you and your family. District Elections will bring new perspectives and ideas to our Council and promote a shared responsibility to tackle our toughest challenges together.

District Elections will improve access and accountability at City Hall. A closer connection between you and your representative will make the decision makers more accountable to the needs of the entire City, and encourage residents to take a more active role. Partnerships between neighborhoods and the City will be strengthened and better decisions will be made for the entire community.

District Elections will save the City and Council candidates money. The City will save $30,000 to $40,000 every election according to the Sonoma County Clerk. Candidates will be able to communicate with voters for a fraction of the cost of our current at-large system. District Elections will help reduce the influence of money in politics as candidates can counter any special interest spending by directly talking to voters.

District Elections will unite, not divide, our City. Now is the time for all of us to have a voice! Vote "Yes" on Measure Q for District Elections.

s/ Noreen Evans State Senator

s/ Denise Hill, Founding Member

s/ Donna M. Zapata President, Latina-Connection Consulting

s/ John J. "Jack" Dupre, Board member

s/ Tanya Narath, Executive Director

Rebuttal to Arguments For
Vote No on Measure Q. MeasureQ greatly reduces your right to vote for those who will represent you on the Santa Rosa City Council. Currently, every two years you get to vote on all council seats up for election. During a four year period, you have seven votes.

Measure Q reduces your voting rights to one vote every four years. You will have only one vote--not seven as it stands today. Your needs and concerns can be easily dismissed because six councilmembers will have no obligation to you what-so-ever. And only a majority of four is needed for council action.

District elections will not improve the quality of government or candidates. Responsible governance depends on hard work, knowledge and accessibility. A candidate should be judged on those qualities, not on a street address.

Look at the district elections supporters. Their kick-off flyer accuses special interest of controlling city government, but the first 14 signers are all now or have been elected officials. Nine serve on commissions. They are endorsed by 11 organizations, all having a strong history of contributing megabucks. This is their idea of keeping special interests out of elections. Really?

For years supporters of district elections have warned Santa Rosa voters to beware of becoming another San Jose. Guess what? San Jose has district elections! We should not become another San Jose. Let's keep the small-town feel of our city with a council that represents us all. Protect your voting rights. Vote No on Measure Q.

s/ Janet Condron, Former Mayor

s/ Donna Born, Former Mayor

s/ Schuyler Jeffries, Former Mayor

s/ Jane Bender, Former Mayor

Vote no on Measure Q. District election advocates are wrong in asserting that Santa Rosa needs to change the way it governs. They claim that Santa Rosa is too large and its issues too complex for at-large representation. Not true! Santa Rosa is only 41.67 square miles. If councilmembers can't make good decisions for the entire city, they should not be governing.

Advocates claim that residents would get more personal representation with "their own councilmember." Not true! They would give away representation by seven officials and be left instead with only one representative who may not even support their concerns. Advocates claim that elections would cost less. Not true! Candidates will feel compelled to out-spend their opponents regardless of district size.

Advocates claim that more people would run for office. Not true! There are legitimate reasons why more people don't run. They can't afford the necessary time off work. They have small children. They don't like the constant negativity of local politics. District elections will not change that at all. Advocates claim that Santa Rosa should "...try it and, if it doesn't work, revert back to at-large representation." Not true and irresponsible! Any change in a government structure is costly and disruptive.

In addition, a council majority could dismiss or ignore issues outside their districts or approve projects that would significantly impact just one district. Councilmembers are only accountable to the voters in their districts, not the voters of the entire city, even if the decisions they make greatly impact thousands of other residents.

District elections have the potential for pitting neighborhoods against each other and councilmembers trading favors amongst themselves in order to please local constituents and special interests. District elections will reduce voters' choice and what is best for Santa Rosa as a whole. Vote no on Measure Q.

s/ Janet Condron, Former Mayor

s/ Schuyler Jeffries, Former Mayor

s/ Donna Born, Former Mayor

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
Yes on Q. Don't listen to scare tactics by those opposed to representation for all! Special interests have controlled our City government behind the scenes for decades and don't want the system changed. Santa Rosa has outgrown at-large elections, with a population of almost 170,000 residents. The time has come for all Santa Rosans to have a voice in our local government. District Elections will unite Santa Rosa, ensuring that all neighborhoods are represented equally on our City Council.

District representation increases cooperation among elected officials. County Supervisors work collaboratively, unlike our current Council, because they don't compete with each other for votes.

District representatives can and will advocate for policies and services that help local businesses grow and create jobs, respond appropriately to local public safety concerns, while working together to strengthen our City's economy and infrastructure. The fact is many people have the time and talent to serve our City. What they don't have are the connections or resources needed to raise the $50,000 or more it takes to run for City Council in our current at-large system.

Finally, Santa Rosa runs the serious risk of facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit if District Elections aren't adopted. The proposed system is the only one that guarantees compliance with the California Voting Rights Act and provides the City with a "safe harbor" to protect us from an extremely expensive court battle. Representation by district is the right and responsible choice for Santa Rosa. Vote yes on Measure Q.

s/ Shirlee Zane, Chair, 3rd District Supervisor

s/ Efren Carrillo, Supervisor, Fifth District

s/ Kyra Janssen, Neighborhood Advocate

s/ Magdalena Ridley, Board Member

s/ Rev. Ann Gray Byrd, Civil Rights Advocate

Full Text of Measure Q

Section 1.

Shall Section 4 of the Charter of the City of Santa Rosa be revised as set forth below to change the manner in which the City elects its Council Members?

Sec 4. The Council.

(a) The legislative body of the City shall consist of seven persons elected by and from seven districts to be known as the Council. The members of the Council shall hold offices for four years and until their successors are elected and qualified. The terms of the Council members shall alternate so that three members or four members, as the casemay be, shall be elected every two years. In case of a tie vote of the electorate, the person elected shall be decided by lot. There shall be no limitation on the number of consecutive terms a Council member or Vice-Mayor may serve.

(b) No person shall be eligible to hold office as a member of the Council, unless he or she is a registered voter of the City at the time the person's nomination papers are issued and is, at the time of assuming office, an elector of the City. Each member of the Council shall be a resident of the district from which the member is elected or appointed at the time nomination papers are issued and must continue to reside in such district during the term of office. Each Council member shall be nominated and elected by the electors of the district in which such person resides unless appointed by the Council to fill a vacancy as otherwise provided in Section 31.

(c) The City is hereby divided into seven council districts, designated District One through District Seven, respectively. Council districts shall be established by ordinance. Each district shall continue to exist until altered as provided in Paragraphs (e) and (f) of this Section.

(d) Council districts shall be as nearly equal in population as may be according to the latest federal decennial census. In establishing or changing the boundaries of districts, consideration shall be given to the following factors: (1) topography, (2) geography, (3) cohesiveness, contiguity, integrity and compactness of territory, and (4) community of interests of the districts. The term "federal decennial census" shall mean a comprehensive population census which is held at regular intervals prescribed by Congress and produces population data equivalent to that described as "Block Data" in the 2010 decennial census. For purposes of this Section the six month period shall begin upon the availability or population data equivalent to that described as "Block Data" in the 2010 decennial census. The districts shall be established in compliance with any applicable state and federal law.

(e) Within six months after a federal decennial census, the Council shall examine the boundaries of each council district for compliance with the population standard set forth in Paragraph (d) of this Section and by ordinance shall modify the boundaries of districts, if necessary, to bring all district boundaries into compliance with the standards set forth herein.

(f) District boundaries may be changed by ordinance, provided that any such revised district boundaries shall comply with the population standard set forth in Paragraph (d) of this Section, except that territory annexed or consolidated with the city shall at the time of such annexation or consolidation be added by ordinance to an adjacent district or districts pending the examination of district boundaries as provided in Paragraph (e) of this Section. The Council shall hold at least one public hearing on any proposal to adjust the boundaries of a district prior to a public hearing at which the Council votes to approve or disapprove the proposal. The term of office of any Council member who has been elected and whose term of office has not expired shall not be affected by any change in the boundaries of the district from which the Council member was elected.

(g) To implement this provision, the general election for council districts one, three, five and seven shall be held in the year 2016, and the general election for council districts two, four, and six shall be held in the year 2014.

(h) The Council may act, by ordinance, to provide compensation to each of its members in an amount authorized by State law for the compensation of Council members in general law cities of comparable size; provided, however, that the Mayor, while holding that office, shall receive compensation in an amount equal to one hundred and fifty percent of the compensation received by another Council member.

Section 2. Enumeration of New Powers. This proposed Charter Amendment does not result in any new powers for the City and does not grant any new power to the Council to increase its own compensation or the compensation of other City officials.

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Created: December 17, 2012 13:47 PST
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