News

San Mateo County supervisors to let voters decide whether 'at-large' elections should stay

By Chris Cooney

Bay City News Service

A countywide measure that could change the way San Mateo County elects members of its Board of Supervisors is headed for the ballot in the November election.

The board voted unanimously on Tuesday (June 26) to adopt an ordinance for the Nov. 6 ballot that will ask voters to amend the San Mateo County Charter by changing the mode of electing individual supervisors from countywide "at-large" elections to "by-district" elections.

County Counsel John Beiers said the issue has been at "the forefront of political discussion," due in part to a lawsuit filed against the Board of Supervisors alleging that at-large elections discriminate against minorities in district communities by making it more difficult for lower-income minority residents to choose their own candidates or run for county office.

San Mateo County is currently the only county in California that continues to hold at-large elections for its Board of Supervisors.

In 2010, a Charter Review Committee recommended that the Board of Supervisors put the question of district elections on the ballot.

Supervisors rejected the recommendation, arguing that county voters had twice voted down the change in 1978 and 1980, and that at-large elections better served the common interests of the entire county.

Board president Adrienne Tissier, who was on the board in 2010 and voted to keep at-large elections, said she still agrees with the system, but wanted to bring the issue back "to let the electorate determine whether or not it's the right decision."

Ms. Tissier said that public discussion of the issue and the board's newest members who were elected since 2010 -- Supervisors Dave Pine and Don Horsely -- helped motivate the decision to bring the issue back for the board's consideration and the public's vote.

Mr. Pine, who served on the Charter Review Committee that recommended an election on the issue in 2010, said that by-district elections would encourage a more diverse pool of candidates to run for office and more competitive elections.

"I've been a longtime advocate for district elections," he said. "I do support the idea of it going to the voters."

Supervisor Carole Groom, who also voted to keep the current system in 2010, said she still thinks the county is better governed by supervisors who are elected by the entire county, but supports the notion of giving the voters a chance to decide.

"Let's put it on the ballot and let's ask the voters what their preference is," Ms. Groom said.

Comments

Posted by wow, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 26, 2012 at 6:46 pm

This is proof that the supervisors can read the writing is on the wall.

Gina Papan won her district in the May 3rd special election, where she came in 3rd county-wide. It will be especially interesting to see how the recent supervisor candidates did in District 4. We should have that information with the certification of the election.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2012 at 7:44 pm

This is a great statement from Supervisor Groom who was appointed not elected. 3 Supervisors saved her the time and money of a campaign, Don Horsley spent $452,000 and Dave Pine somewhere around $550,000.

Supervisor Carole Groom, who also voted to keep the current system in 2010, said she still thinks the county is better governed by supervisors who are elected by the entire county, but supports the notion of giving the voters a chance to decide.

When the entire county (at-large) votes the impact of Shelly Kessler and Bill Nack's 70,000 members plus spouses make a big impact. in this last election they endorsed Shelly Masur and said it would be ok to vote for Warren Slocum and Memo, and there you have it.


Posted by Change, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 26, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Mr. Stogner, you can try to blame labor council for you loss, but you still did quite well given that you had no ballot statement, an none of the newspapers said anything especially complementary about you. Maybe the NO on the labor council slate mailer helped you.

We can see from Shelly Masur's 21% in the June primary, that labor's endorsement cannot save a weak candidate. The SEIU mailers promoting Masur did not mention SEIU, except in the fine print.




Posted by SRJB, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2012 at 9:11 pm

The upcoming August trial motivated the board decision today. The lawsuit, Satorre et al. v. San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, maintains that the County Charter's current method of electing members of the Board of Supervisors "at-large" violates the California Voting Rights Act. The state's Voting Rights Act, enacted in 2002, bans at-large voting if there is evidence that it "impairs the ability" of a minority group "to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election."

The following quotes from the July 13, 2010 Board of Supervisors meeting can best be described as arrogant.

"I for one am going to recommend that we leave things as they are today. I believe it doesn't cost as much to run for the Board as it does for Congress. It is not easy to get elected countywide but it shouldn't be easy. This is not an easy job, you want to make sure you have the best and the brightest and those that truly want to make a difference, and those that are truly looking at the entire County." —Adrienne Tissier

"I would agree with Adrienne's comments and my understanding of the charge of the Charter Review Committee was to make recommendations they believe would improve our system of governance, not to decide what measures should actually go on the ballot, that's really for this Board to determine…I would support keeping the current system and not placing this on the ballot." —Mark Church

"It really serves the people of San Mateo County when you run at-large." —Rose Jacobs Gibson, the only supervisor of color on the board


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2012 at 9:34 pm

"Mr. Stogner, you can try to blame labor council for you loss, but you still did quite well given that you had no ballot statement, an none of the newspapers said anything especially complementary about you. Maybe the NO on the labor council slate mailer helped you."

I'm not blaming Shelly and Bill for my loss but I do hold them responsible for telling over 70,000 members and spouses that I am a Union Buster and Community Wrecker.

"It really serves the people of San Mateo County when you run at-large." —Rose Jacobs Gibson, the only supervisor of color on the board.

Rose Jacobs Gibson was also appointed to the Board of Supervisors not elected.


Posted by Change, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 26, 2012 at 9:58 pm

We predict that Virginia Chang Kiraly will be president of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District in 2014, and with the sole endorsement of the Labor Council and the San Mateo County Republican Party, will run for supervisor against Don Horsley.


Posted by stop the foot dragging, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 27, 2012 at 1:04 am

The sups should support District elections. This is getting ridiculous.


Posted by SRJB, a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2012 at 6:53 am

When are the Supervisors going to evolve on this issue?

Video clip from board discussion: Web Link


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm

This issue should have been solved a long time ago, 14 members said that they wanted the voters to decide against 2 that did not want the vote to go on the ballot. Shelly Kessler's position does not surprise me however a nominee of The League of Women voters does not make sense to me.

2010 CHARTER REVIEW COMMITTEE MEMBERS: April 21, 2010
CAROL BOES: AT-LARGE, YES ballot measure
(nominated by Supervisor Groom)
City of San Mateo resident, retired attorney, civic volunteer, Board Member for two nonprofits providing subsidized housing for seniors.

SUSAN BRISSENDEN-SMITH: AT-LARGE, YES ballot measure
(nominated by Supervisor Tissier)
City of Daly City resident; former CEO Daly City-Colma Chamber of Commerce and former District Coordinator for Senator Speier.

DAVE BUROW: DISTRICT, YES ballot measure
(nominated by Council of Cities)
Town of Woodside resident; mayor of Woodside, technology business executive.

DOLORES (DEE) CANEPA: AT-LARGE, YES ballot measure
(nominated by Supervisor Tissier)
City of Daly City resident; VP and Branch Manager for FNBNC, Board Member for several non-profits.

KATHY EVERITT: AT-LARGE, NO ballot measure
(nominated by League of Women Voters)
City of San Mateo resident, Former IR agent and tax accountant, civic volunteer, Senior Citizens Commissioner.

SEAN FOOTE: NO POSITION, YES ballot measure
(nominated by Supervisor Gordon)
Unincorporated Redwood City resident, venture capitalist, faculty of UC Berkeley, Chairman Yes on J Sequoia Union High School District school bond, co-founder Community Promise.

ROSANNE FOUST: AT-LARGE, YES ballot measure
(nominated by SamCEDA)
City of Redwood City resident, Acting President & CEO for the San Mateo County Economic Development Association (SAMCEDA) and immediate past Mayor and current Council Member Redwood City.

MELANIE HILDEBRAND: AT-LARGE, YES ballot measure
(nominated by Supervisor Groom)
City of San Mateo resident, Real Estate Broker and Land Use Consultant, San Mateo County Events Center Board Member, San Mateo Chamber of Commerce Board Member, Past President San Mateo County Assn of Realtors (SAMCAR).

SHELLEY KESSLER: AT-LARGE, NO ballot measure
(nominated by San Mateo County Central Labor Council)
City of San Mateo resident, Executive Secretary-Treasurer San Mateo County Central Labor Council.

BEVERLY MILLER: AT-LARGE, YES ballot measure
(nominated by Supervisor Gordon)

BARBARA NOPARSTAK: AT-LARGE, YES ballot measure
(nominated by Supervisor Gibson)
City of East Palo Alto resident, Business Process Consultant, Board Member several non-profits.

ROSALIE O'MAHONY: AT-LARGE, YES ballot measure
(nominated by Supervisor Church)
City of Burlingame resident, served 20 years on Burlingame City Council; mathematics instructor.

HENRY ORGAN: DISTRICT, YES ballot measure
(nominated by Supervisor Gibson)
City of Menlo Park resident, former Development Officer at Stanford University.

DAVE PINE: DISTRICT, YES ballot measure
(nominated by San Mateo County School Boards Association)
City of Burlingame resident, San Mateo Union High School District Board Member, attorney.

WILLIAM (BILL) SCHULTE: DISTRICT, YES ballot measure
(nominated by Sustainable San Mateo County)
City of Redwood City resident, civil engineer, consumer affairs and government consultant, Self Help for the Elderly board member, Chair of Sustainable San Mateo County.

CARY WIEST: AT-LARGE, YES ballot measure
(nominated by Supervisor Church)Unincorporated San Mateo County resident, San Mateo Highlands, Real Estate Appraiser, Past President HCA, Member County Jail Planning Advisory Committee, Member CSCSD Committee.


Posted by SRJB, a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2012 at 3:14 pm

It's only a matter of time. Since 2009, nearly 70 school boards applied with the state Board of Education to make the switch, the majority of them just this year.

The California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA) was signed into law on 9 July 2002. The act expands on the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for minority groups in California to prove that their votes are being diluted in "at-large" elections.

In 1986 the U.S. Supreme Court established conditions that must be met to prove that minorities are being disenfranchised; the CVRA eliminated one of these requirements. Unlike the Federal Voting Rights Act, the CVRA does not require plaintiffs to demonstrate a specific geographic district where a minority is concentrated enough to establish a majority. This makes it easier for minority voters to sue local governments and eliminate at-large elections.

In 2007 the California State Supreme court ruled the act constitutional in Sanchez v. The City of Modesto. The city claimed that the act was unconstitutional because it inherently favored people of color; the court concluded that the act was not racist in nature and returned to case to trial court. The case ended in settlement after the city voted on a ballot measure to use district voting by 2009. Although the city settled, they were still responsible for paying $3 million in fees for the defendants lawyers.

Wikipedia: Web Link


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