The council began the process in March 2021 to transition from a so-called from-district system, in which candidates must live in a given district in a town but are elected at large by all the town's voters, to a "by-district" system, in which only voters residing in a district elect a representative to that district's council seat. The change is necessary because the from-district election system is a form of at-large elections that is not allowed under the California Voting Rights Act.
The public was invited to prepare draft maps and the town's consulting demographer reviewed them at the Feb. 28 and March 15 council meetings. The council held four public hearings between Nov. 16, 2021, and March 15 to solicit public comment and draft maps.
How the transition would work
The transition to the five-member by-district council would happen over the next two election cycles. The proposed ordinance provides that elections for new council districts 2 and 3 will be held every four years starting in 2022 and elections for new council districts 1, 3 and 5 will be held in 2024 and every four years afterward, according to the town website. Each district will elect one town council member, according to a town presentation.
Current council members will complete their current terms of office. Mayor Dick Brown, along with councilmen Sean Scott and Brian Dombkowski are up for reelection this fall. The four other council members' terms expire in 2024.
Current districts are not balanced by population and do not line up with 2020 Census geography, according to the staff presentation.
Opposition to a five-member council
The town received a number of letters from residents who are inclined to support sticking to a seven-member council.
Neighbors David Burrow and Sue Sweeney wrote to the council this month that "having fewer districts makes it less likely that a district's unique set of priorities is represented on the Town Council."
"The argument that we have a hard time getting residents to run for the Town Council and having fewer districts will make it more likely to have contested elections is only speculation," they said. "Having to campaign only within your district should make (it) easier and less daunting for people to run for office. The smaller the district, the easier to run a campaign. We realize that the town cannot create a seven-district map without breaking census blocks, and that doing so may open us up to litigation — even though prior to this our district maps did incorporate broken census blocks. Fear of possible litigation is not an appropriate reason to ignore the needs and concerns of the citizens of Woodside."
The ordinance will be introduced at the Tuesday, March 29, meeting and voted on during an April 12 meeting, said Town Manager Kevin Bryant in an email.
The March 29 meeting starts at 7 p.m. on Zoom and in-person at Independence Hall, 2955 Woodside Road in Woodside.
For more information on the redistricting process go to mapwoodside.org.
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