District elections proposal heads to city, aims to give neighborhoods a voice
A push to change the way City Council members are elected appears to have resurfaced in Richmond. If successful, the initiative would draw six new districts in the city, each with an elected representative.
The issue of whether Richmond ought to have district elections is again rearing its head after an organization, Richmond Citizens for District Elections (RCDE), announced this week its goal to let Richmond voters decide the structure of elections in the city with a ballot initiative.
Residents Group Wants to Do Away with Citywide Elections in Richmond
A small group of residents is hoping to make elections in Richmond more inclusive by instituting district elections, as opposed to allowing each councilmember to run citywide. The group, called Richmond Citizens for District Elections, is aiming to get a voter initiative placed on the November 2016 ballot that would create six district seats and allow the mayor to run at-large, said Cesar Zepeda, president of the Hilltop District Neighborhood Council and the group’s spokesperson.
Press Release: GRASSROOTS CITIZENS GROUP PROPOSES DISTRICT ELECTIONS FOR RICHMOND CITY COUNCIL
The grass roots organization, Richmond Citizens for District Elections (RCDE), was established by Richmond residents frustrated by the lack of neighborhood representation on the Richmond City Council. Historically, a disproportionate percentage of Council members elected through an at-large system have come from only a few affluent neighborhoods.
If you live in a California city that elects its council citywide, rather than by district, a change may be on the way.
The state Supreme Court denied review Wednesday of a ruling that requires charter cities to switch to district elections if they have a history of racially polarized voting that reduces minority representation. The ruling, issued in May by a state appeals court in Los Angeles, is now a binding precedent for trial courts statewide.
There are 120 cities with self-governing charters in California. Of the more than 20 charter cities in the Bay Area, the largest — San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland — and some smaller cities, like Berkeley, Alameda and San Leandro, already elect council members by geographic districts. But most local communities, including Richmond, Hayward, Albany, San Mateo, San Rafael and Vallejo, conduct at-large, citywide elections.
RICHMOND -- For years, some residents have grumbled that the city's political leaders were not representative of the 100,000-plus population, with many hailing from the affluent Point Richmond, where the majority of residents are white.
By contrast, 66 percent of Richmond residents are black or Latino.
But when Vice Mayor Jael Myrick proposed Tuesday that Richmond study switching to district elections -- where one representative is selected from each of the city's seven districts -- the idea was quickly trounced by both council members and residents who described it expensive and unnecessary.
Has at-large voting outlived its usefulness in Richmond?
After days of heavy rains, Jason Myers’ house looked more like an island. He and his wife had unwittingly just purchased a home at the bottom of a flood basin in the Richmond Annex. Water was up to the doors on their ’63 Ford Falcon.
Myers wrote to city council members to send out a crew to fix the storm water drains. He complained at meetings, made a series of YouTube videos, started a blog. He was also a brief media sensation, garnering national coverage as an example of a citizen slighted. Still, he said, the Richmond council and city manager turned a blind eye.