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Should Elk Grove change how the city council is elected?

Should Elk Grove change how the city council is elected?

 

Opinion by Doc Souza

 

This is going to be the next hot topic being brought forward by the same group that is promoting the police commission. If you missed it, you can follow the link to see who supports that plan and this one.

 

Currently the city council is elected in what is called “from district”. This means that the person must live in the district they represent. Elk Grove has 4 council districts and elections are every 4 years.  Everyone in the city votes on each council race.  The group that wants this changed, would like to change it to “by district”. That would mean that each district votes on it’s own representative, and not on the others.

 

There are pros and cons to both. In the current system, the cost of running for a council seat can be more expensive because a candidate needs to canvass the whole city. The candidates with more money will be able to reach more people. Under the proposed system, a candidate would only need to campaign in their district, and the campaign could be less expensive. The thought is that it could allow for someone that doesn’t have the money to win an election because they only have to campaign in their district, but it will not change who wins.

 

Those proposing the changes have put out what they feel are the issues. Some of it is inaccurate. Below is what they have posted in italics, with my comments in regular font in parenthesis.

 

Current System
• Voters outside the district have more power than voters inside the district  – (All voters  have the same power throughout the city to elect each council member)

• Voters cast ballots for councilmembers outside their district  – (Yes. Voters vote for all the council members)

• Candidate can lose the district but still represent it – (That has never happened. )

• Minorities, women and underfunded groups have difficulty raising $100,000 needed to compete in the whole city   –  Incumbents and those backed by special interest groups will continue to receive the money.  The group backing the change has strong ties to organized labor and they will donate money and supporters to get their candidate elected.  This will come from Sacramento politicians.

One District, One Vote

• Only voters inside the district are counted –  (That leaves out the other 3 districts who are affected by the votes of the council member of that district. )

• Voters cast a ballot for only their own councilmember  – That council member can then vote to affect the whole city but is not responsible to the other voters.

• Candidate must win the majority of votes in their won district  –  (They have done that so far in each election. Each candidate must get support from their own neighborhoods to win. )

• Any candidate can be competitive in a small district just by organizing neighborhood groups  – (Organizing a neighborhood group is not going to win the election without money. The group proposing this will pour money into the campaign to support their candidates. )

 

Under the current system, everyone in the city votes for all the council members.  This makes the council member accountable to understand all the issues facing the city and to all the residents. Under the proposed change, that council member would only be accountable to their district, yet vote on issues facing the whole city.

 

In Elk Grove, there are different areas. Sheldon is more rural, more history. East Franklin is newer. Both have different issues, but decisions affect the whole city. Each council person votes on areas affecting the whole city and as such, should be elected by the whole city. This is one of the reasons Elk Grove became a city. When Elk Grove was part of the county, we had one vote out of five and often times votes would be 4-1, with Elk Grove on the losing end. We had no voice. Want to know why we have no jobs? The county made the city into a bedroom community and put jobs in other areas. Elk Grove wanted a shopping mall and the county said no because they didn’t want it affecting other shopping areas in the county and the other supervisors joined up to prevent it. So the residents here voted for becoming a city. Changing how we elect our city council, takes us back to the days of being in the county.

 

Changing how we elect our city council returns us to that same problem.  It makes them not responsible to the whole city.  Keeping our current system, keeps governance at a citywide perspective vs district focused. You can see it on how Congress works. Congressional reps work to get money for their districts. That’s their goal, what can I do for my district? Someone representing Laguna West may not care about issues in Sheldon and visa versa. You could have 3 council members get together to vote to approve or move a project into an another district. 3 of them could vote to approve more low income housing in specific areas to keep them out of their districts. If approved, less residents would have less say in how the city is run, not more.

 

Proponents claim that their plan will make the council more responsive to the needs of their district and they can hold smaller meetings. That all sounds great, but that same opportunity is already here. Every citizen can arrange a meeting with their councilperson now. They can call or email. Many already do.  They don’t hold regular meetings because they will not be well attended. Case in point, the Elk Grove Police Department used to hold “beat” meetings in all the different areas. They were not well attended so they switched to one meeting for the whole city. The last one had maybe 50 people, out of 170,000. The council members are very accessible and if there is something that comes up, then they can hold a smaller meeting. Last year the Camden area had a few crime incidents and held a meeting and their council member, Steve Detrick, along with the Elk Grove PD attended. Also last year the East Franklin area had some crime incidents and called a meeting and again the EGPD and their council member Steve Ly attended the meeting.  All of the council members attend many functions throughout the city and do meet and communicate with residents.

 

The group proposing the changes, as I said in my article on the police commission, has an agenda, and that agenda is to make Elk Grove be more like Sacramento. Sacramento council members are elected by district. So someone in South Sac doesn’t know or care about the issues in North Sac. They care more about their district. Sacramento is a mess. Council members are constantly fighting with each other. Areas are becoming more and more run down as the city focuses on redeveloping the mid town area and not providing services and policing to the other areas. Crime is up in Sacramento. It is down in Elk Grove.

 

Elk Grove should not aspire to be like Sacramento. It should aspire to be like Folsom, Roseville and Rocklin and be independent of the political party chaos. These are non partisan elections, yet the democratic party is choosing to focus on these local elections by supplying and endorsing candidates for the city council (Tracie Stafford), the CSD (Jaclyn Moreno) and the Elk Grove Unified School District.

 

Elk Grove residents need to be aware of what is going on, and who is pushing the agenda and why. The three main backers of this are Stafford, who is running for Mayor of Elk Grove, and has been groomed by the democrat party. Shergill, who is involved with local democratic party leadership and Sasso, who is a labor leader and doesn’t live in Elk Grove.  You’re going to see and hear a lot about them in the next year.  Nothing that happens will be a coincidence. They are not doing this out of the love for the city, but out of party politics. Since the 2016 election, the democrats have chosen to focus on the lower levels of politics as part of a grass roots effort to change the political landscape. This is the party of Jerry Brown, Props 47 & 57, early release of criminals, weakening of punishments for criminals, higher gas taxes and in the city of Sacramento, paying criminals not to use guns and politicizing racial issues.

 

Stafford is pushing for diversity on the council and insists Elk Grove must have a black woman in city leadership.  Race and gender should not matter. That’s what we are told over and over, but now she is saying race and gender do matter.  No one should be elected solely based on gender or race.  Stafford has become obsessed with issues that affect only a small percentage of the Elk Grove population and ignored the issues that affect the whole city, such as crime, jobs, bringing in businesses to make the city better.  The issues with race can be addressed as well at the same time, as the city is currently doing with their community meetings on race relations.  Elk Grove is no different than any other city when it comes to race. Every city has these issues. Unfortunately it has become a polarizing issue the last 9 years in the United States, and more so the past year. The city can’t stop racism. It can make it clear that it is not acceptable and won’t be tolerated, which it is doing. It can bring more understanding to the issue so that hopefully people will speak out against it. It can also be divisive if there is an agenda that keeps people away and that is a concern for many residents. It will be an ongoing process. In the coming weeks the meetings will be forgotten, slogans will fade away and people will go back to their lives. Time will tell what happens in the future.

 

The number one concern for Elk Grove residents is crime. Many do not feel safe even going for a walk in their own neighborhoods or shopping at night.  The community needs to come together to address this issue. What can we do as residents and parents to address this and keep our youth from getting involved in crime? This should be the focus of the various groups in the city. This impacts the way of life for all residents and the future not only of our city, but our youth. Other important issues are jobs and bringing businesses to Elk Grove and improving our quality of life by adding more amenities.

 

Sign the petition to let Elk Grove residents decide what is best for Elk Grove

 

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