We are baffled at the decision Tuesday night of the Anaheim City Council to reject district level elections for council members as proposed by the citizen’s advisory committee. The 4-1 vote was led by Kris Murray, who had initially proposed the committee process last year as a solution in response to a voting rights lawsuit challenging the city’s current at-large council elections process. Tuesday’s decision proposes a process like the one used in Santa Ana where members are required to reside in a specific ward (district) but be elected city wide.
We applaud Councilman Jordan Brandman for joining Mayor Tom Tait in voting in favor of district-level elections. That said, we are again baffled at his subsequent vote in support of Kris Murray’s proposal which is the antithesis of district-level elections. We wonder if he was so used to voting with Murray that he forgot how he had voted moments before. Maybe he just wanted to be sure he could say he voted the right way no matter who he talks to in the future.
Next up will be the council vote on July 2nd on the actual Charter amendments to be presented to voters at the June 2014 primary election. There will be two amendments. The first will ask voters to decide whether to keep the number of seats on the council at four plus the Mayor, or to increase that number to six. The second measure would ask if council members should be required to reside in districts while being elected by the city as a whole.
The citizens committee recommended that the council present amendments that would allow the voters to decide whether the council should be expanded to six or eight members, and whether the council members should be elected at the district-level. The recommendation is substantially different from what was adopted Tuesday.
The problem with the system proposed by the Council will still require successful candidates to compete city-wide. This will cause candidates to focus on raising the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to campaign city-wide, or align with deep-pocketed special interests that would run and independent campaign on their behalf. This is no different from where things are now. and it sets up a process where the higher propensity voting areas of Anaheim, the Colony district and the hills, decide who sits on the council, rather than the local residents themselves.
The council decision will be presented to a judge hearing the voting rights lawsuit on July 9th where he will consider whether this solution will solve the voting rights violation alleged.