Changing how we elect the Elk Grove City Council

Changing how we elect the Elk Grove City Council

 

By Doc Souza

 

After being unsuccessful in their push to get a police commission in Elk Grove, the same group of Sacramento based progressives is now pushing for a change in how the city elects members to the city council. Currently council members are elected “from” district. That means they live in a specific district but are elected by the whole city.  Proponents of the change want to change it to “By” district. That would mean only those who live in the district would vote for their council member. There are pros and cons to both, that I had mentioned previously in an article last year,  Should Elk Grove change how the city council is elected?

 

The opponents have tried various tactics in trying to provide a convincing argument. They previously said the current system gives incumbents an edge and makes the elections more expensive, thus making it harder for a non incumbent to win. That will the be case either way. Incumbents always have an edge. They have name recognition and they can raise more money.  The opponents want you to believe this is a grass roots movement supported by Elk Grove residents. That’s not the case. This is a movement pushed by progressive democratic party activists. Even moderate democrats don’t support them. This same group recently tried to keep the democratic party from endorsing current democrats in office because they feel they aren’t liberal enough.  This group is backed by Sacramento politicians and labor unions. They have been pushing this for a year. There was an effort made by a resident to get an initiative placed on the ballot.  That fizzled out.  The fact is that there is not a big push for this except by a handful of people pushing it for political reasons.

 

This group which includes Amar Shergill and Tracie Stafford, who is running for Mayor of Elk Grove this year, have pushed this agenda for the past year.  They have pushed race in every opportunity possible. From the police commission, to the racial makeup of the city council, police department and city staff, and Stafford’s email to city officials last fall suggesting a change of venue for the community racial relations.

 

Let’s focus for a minute on Stafford and her email to city leaders because this hasn’t been discussed in depth. It was shared in social media and not all of the facts were presented at the time.

Below is an excerpt from her email:

This gathering, focused on volatile issues including white supremacy, hate crime and implicit bias will let out in a dark/dimly lit park. This is of grave concern, not only to people of color, but to supporters alike.

It is rumored that the location was chosen to deter people of color from attending, knowing the imagery that would be sparked by the dark woody park combined with racial unrest. (aka most lynching experiences ever described or depicted in book and film) It is also rumored that some would not feel safe unarmed in such a situation.

 

That email set off a firestorm when I shared it on social media. Stafford and her supporters claimed the email was private and not to be shared publicly. An email sent to public officials is not private.  In fact on email responses from government officials there is often a disclaimer about it not being private. One supporter posted on social media that Stafford said it was only sent to 8 people, and that was not the case. This email was sent to 15 people including the City Council, city staff, two private citizens and two local media persons. The same day the email was sent out, there was another community meeting at a local church and at that meeting Stafford gave an interview to one of the media members from the Elk Grove Citizen.

 

The email was sent on October 19 around 5 pm.  Later that evening was the community meeting.  Stafford spoke to the Elk Grove Citizen about the meeting and echoed essentially the same sentiments from her email. The posted the story.

Community forum focuses on local race relations

Tracie Stafford, a mayoral candidate who plans to challenge Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly next year, told the Citizen on Oct. 19 she was concerned about the meeting’s location. The pavilion sits near East Stockton Boulevard at the park’s western side. That facility’s parking lot has dim lighting at night.

“This (Oct. 23 meeting) could be a highly charged meeting,” she said. “I’m expecting that we’re going to have people that are not of like mind there. And I’m just concerned. And people are saying they’re afraid to come.

“I’ve heard people say that they’re (not going) there without packing. But think about every lynching movie you’ve ever seen – there are trees everywhere. And for us, that imagery is not OK. And that’s what I’m hearing.

“I didn’t even think about it and I heard someone say, ‘Hell, I’m not going out to the park.’”

So now in an effort to try and change the voting system the same people are using race as a reason.  They are implying that our current system is biased against women and minorities.  They have cited lawsuits in other areas with similar voting systems as an example.  The Elk Grove Citizen published a story about the threat of a lawsuit.

In the case of Elk Grove, Shenkman argued that the at-large system is “demonstrative of the Latino vote dilution” and causes the “inability of Latinos to elect their preferred candidate.”

Shenkman also mentioned that although 18 percent of Elk Grove’s population is Latino, there has not been a Latino person elected to the City Council for several years.

 

Time for a history lesson! In 2000 Elk Grove became a city and as part of that election, the residents voted for city council. The top 5 vote getters would become city council members. Of the first 5, the leading vote getter was Jim Cooper, an African American. Also in the top 5 was Sophia Scherman, a Latino female.  There were also 3 white males.  Scherman served from 2000-2012. When Elk Grove switched to electing a mayor in 2012, she ran for mayor against Gary Davis and lost.  Jim Cooper served from 2000-2014, when he ran for Assembly and won.  Each won multiple re-election campaigns during their time.  Currently the city council has two white males, two Asian males and one Asian female. Does it perfectly reflect the city? No. That’s not always the case, but it doesn’t mean it is unfair or lack diversity.  For those that care, I support Nguyen and Suen, both of which are democrats. Political party means nothing in local races unless people make it about that.

 

Now the group pushing for change is alleging that the current system dilutes minority votes. In other cities that faced lawsuits, there were areas of the city that were primarily one race, usually Latino. In those cases the rest of the city could vote in someone that was not Latino, thus denying them representation. That is not the case here. There is no specific area that is primarily one race.  Elk Grove is either the 5th or 6th most diverse cities in the US, depending on which study you use.  There isn’t an area that is primarily one race. Some areas may have more than others, but minority votes or candidates are not being diluted.

 

They are citing the lack of diversity on the council. History will show that is not true.  They are saying that being an incumbent gives them an unfair edge and hurts minorities. Incumbents always have an advantage. Just as with the racial makeup of the police department and city staff, you can’t just look at numbers and then say is racism.  You need to know how many people are applying for jobs. Or in this case, how many are running for city council. Who are they? Were they qualified? Did anyone know them? That’s a factor.  Being active in the community is a factor. You can’t just do throw your hat in the ring 6 months before and expect to win, and then if you lose blame it on race. It’s not going to happen against an incumbent.  You can’t just make blanket statements and look at the city council and say “there has not been a Latino person elected to the City Council for several years.” without knowing who ran, and in this case it is an out of town lawyer who doesn’t know anything about the city.

 

On Wednesday, March 14, at the city council meeting, several community members that support making a change spoke out. They mentioned the threat of a lawsuit, racism, how it is unfair to minorities etc.  Amar Shergill has said in the past the the Elk Grove School Board also needs to change how they are elected.  Interesting because that board seems fairly diverse. There are four women and three men.  Three of the woman are minorities, one is white. One of the three men is white, one black and one Hispanic. So of the seven school board members, only two are white. Curious how any group is being unfairly penalized there.   You can view the current school board for yourself by going to the district website.  Does it look like it isn’t diverse?

 

Since there was not formal agenda item to discuss the change in voting, there were not speakers in favor of maintaining the status quo. Obviously the group in favor of change did have a plan, as several of them showed up to speak from various organizations, ACLU, Sacramento NAACP, a Sacramento Latino group and others.  All trying to portray the current system as unfair to minorities. One man did speak up in favor keeping the current system, but also mentioned studying if we should change. Randy Bekker, a longtime Elk Grove resident offered his opinion on the issue.

 

 

On March 21 the Cosumnes Community Services District board will discuss changing how they are elected. It is likely they will change and go along with the wishes of the activists with several board members aligned politically with them, including Orlando Fuentes, who spoke at the City Council meeting in support of the change.  Interestingly enough, Fuentes is running for the city council against Stephanie Nguyen, who was appointed just over a year ago.  Nguyen is also a democrat, but has come under fire for not exclusively backing democrats in local races. The city council is a non partisan office.  Fuentes has also come under fire for challenging a woman during an election season where women are running for office in large numbers. Fuentes was just elected to the CSD Board in 2016, so just over a year into his four year term, he is running for city council. Sounds familiar.  It will make for an interesting race as the two democrats, both minorities battle for the 4th district seat.  I support Nguyen. I have met with her several times and talked to her many times about issues. We may not agree on all issues, but she is open minded and is not playing politics. She came under fire for supporting Pat Hume. Just as Darren Suen came under fire for supporting Steve Detrick.  Local democrats were not happy about that.  How dare they support someone they feel is better for the city instead of someone from their own political party.

 

Don’t be fooled by people who pretend to act in your best interests. They are not. This is all political and contrived.  I talked about this a year ago.  When all the sudden after the election everything became about race. This was part of the plan.  Elk Grove residents will get to choose who they want and they should. Not a group of people backed by Sacramento politicians, that try to tell US what is best for US, and act like speak for US.  This group is not seeking diversity, they are seeking divisiveness. The more there is division, they easier it is get their agenda through.  They talk about bringing the community together, but if everyone is together and happy, then there is no reason to change. By continually pushing a race based agenda, they are dividing the community more and more.

 

These people are the true bullies. When they can’t get their way, they resort to bullying tactics, just as they did with me a few months ago.  http://elkgrovelagunanews.com/2017/11/18/making-fun-of-how-someone-talks/

Just as they did with the City Council a few months ago when this group wanted the council to condemn Trump and make a statement on racism in Charlottesville. The council said it was not their job as Elk Grove City Council members to discuss national political issues, and it’s not. Worry about Elk Grove issues. So this group, led by Shergill drafted a letter and asked all local leaders to sign it.  It was a form of bullying. Basically sign it or else we will use it against. So of course all of them signed it. So now they are bullying by threatening a lawsuit.  They know the district voting is not an issue of race. The fact is there is no widespread support for this. They have mentioned outside money and outside influence. In the last election, unions donated over $100,000 to Steve Ly in his race for Mayor. That is far more than those evil developers donated and Ly even got some of that too.  Here’s why they want to change. They have the support of unions that are using union members money to support local candidates whether they want to or not. The unions will donate more money than anyone else to the campaigns. By being able to focus that money on smaller races and use union members to help in the campaign, they can have an easier time electing their candidates.  Once their candidates get in office, they will not be complaining about incumbents winning or the unfair advantage. They won’t complain about campaign funds.

 

Their candidate for Mayor of ELK GROVE, Tracie Stafford has been busy holding fundraisers outside of Elk Grove. With one in Roseville and two in Sacramento. The Roseville one was a “meet and greet”. People in Roseville can’t vote for Elk Grove Mayor. Why she up there “meeting” people.  From Stafford’s Mayoral candidate Facebook page

You may remember me as the Emcee of the women’s march, science march, equality march, tax march, black women’s march, Governor Appointee, Assembly District 9 Elected Delegate and countless other actions over the last 15 years in support of economic and gender equity and justice.

That’s a lot of marching and a lot of time spent in Sacramento.  To be fair, she has held fundraisers in Elk Grove too.  And if you think they won’t make this a partisan race, well they will. A quote from Amy Champ on the Elk Grove Laguna Forums Facebook page. She was quickly admonished by Amar Shergill that this is a non partisan race.  Oops.

 

Luckily the Democratic Party supports Tracie and we will do everything in our power to get her elected. Trolls, get ready. Amy Champ Regional Director, CDP Region 4 cc Dennessa Atiles

 

 

 

When you see names on the ballot, know who they are running on behalf of and who supports them. So far there are three names that I will not support simply based on who they are aligned with.

Tracie Stafford

Orlando Fuentes

Jaclyn Moreno

They will asked for your vote based on their gender or race, not on their character. Stafford has said Elk Grove needs an African American woman on the city council.  If the city residents want to vote based on gender or race, they can do that.  Not sure how that is any different than what they accuse people of doing now. We should vote for the best person to lead our city, not what they look like.

 

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