South San Francisco, CA August 4, 2015 Submitted by Michael Harris
PREFACE: Many cities vote their representatives based on the neighborhood, or district, in which they reside, as we do for our San Mateo County Supervisors and State representatives. This has been a conversation in South San Francisco for many years as we currently vote for the five candidates across the City, which can leave some neighborhoods over represented and others underrepresented, especially as our City continues to grow.
In addition, many have talked about voting for term limits. Some believe our current voting process addresses term limits in that an incumbent can be voted out. The other side of that equation is qualified candidates historically will not run against incumbents since they may lack the name recognition and finances incumbents have built up during their years of service.
It is an interesting conversation and we thank Mike Harris for his musing’s on this subject.
How can we change the SSF Municipal At Large Election to Election by Districts?
There are vast areas of South San Francisco with no representation at City Hall. I live in one of those districts.
If the 2014 South San Francisco Unified School District election had been by districts different school board candidates would have been elected. Had the last SSFUSD election been by District, Patricia Murray may have won. Pat lives near me.
As it stands, 3 of 5 Council Members live in the same area, near city hall. The other 2 incumbents running for 2015 reelection live near each other.
A simple redistricting scheme would have 2 seats east of El Camino Real and 3 seats west of El Camino. One of these Council Members would live in my area & represent me.
I am one of the disenfranchised. The population is mostly on the west side of El Camino Real. There are natural North / South divisions as well
I talked to Assemblymember Kevin Mullin‘s office about this last week. I favored Municipal Elections by district for cities larger than 50000 vs 100000 which is in the Assembly right now. We would have more representative government in SSF with District Elections vs At Large Elections.
The city has major problems with SSFUSD School Bond Measure J reconstruction harm inflicted on local residents. We have no council person to complain to in my area. We have no school board member to complain to in my area. They all just ignore our complaints, both the school district and city officials. There are numerous complaints about noise, dirt, flat tires. These are ignored by the powers that be in the school district and city hall.
We complain to city officials who do not even live in the city.The new SSFUSD Superintendent does not live here.
It is virtually impossible to unseat an incumbent with At Large elections.
This is not exactly Representative Government.
SSFUSD Board Member Maurice Goodman would have run for City Council, but Karyl Matsumoto decided to run for reelection instead of retiring. With District elections, Maurice would have a chance at this seat. We have never had a Black City Council Member elected. Maurice ran last election & did fairly well. Had that council election been by district, he would have won.Maurice would never have the financial resources to run a viable city wide campaign.
People should not be able to buy local elections. This is bad enough on the National Level with Citizens United in effect.
I posed this question to David Soldani, a Partner in the Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo Law Firm to which he replied, “The city process requires an election, that is to say, the electorate has to vote in FAVOR of changing to election by districts. There’s a way to get there. Many cities have done so recently. Some use an appointed redistricting commission. “
ESC NOTE: Additional blogs on At Large vs District Voting can be found on these links. Modesto/Santa Barbara, Alabama, LA Times. & Term Limits