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Wednesday, March 20 , 2019, 1:14 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara City Council Adopts District Elections Map

Three of the six district council seats will be on November's ballot as required by the lawsuit settlement agreement

Benjamin Cheverez, left, Jacqueline Inda and Frank Banales (with Sebastian Aldana Jr., not pictured) sued the City of Santa Barbara last July alleging California Voting Rights Act violations. The city settled in February and will be implementing district elections for council races in November.
Benjamin Cheverez, left, Jacqueline Inda and Frank Banales (with Sebastian Aldana Jr., not pictured) sued the City of Santa Barbara last July alleging California Voting Rights Act violations. The city settled in February and will be implementing district elections for council races in November. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara’s City Council adopted a district elections map Monday evening, setting the stage for the first three districts to head to the ballot box in November.

All three maps under consideration Monday had the blessing of the plaintiffs, who sued the city alleging violations of the California Voting Rights Act and diluting Latino votes in the at-large system. The city entered a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs, agreeing to move to district elections in time for the November council races.  

Monday’s decision on a final map was made fairly quickly, after the council threw more than a dozen other maps out of consideration last week. Now the map will be presented to a Superior Court judge for confirmation.

Mayor Helene Schneider said she hopes future councils will continue to work together and think of the city’s interests as a whole, a sentiment shared by other members of the City Council.

“It’s having that focus on where you are and then how that connects to the city as a whole, and how the city as a whole connects to who we are as a community,” Schneider said.

It was a 6-1 vote for the adopted map, with Councilman Dale Francisco dissenting. He agreed that the adopted map would work, but preferred the 3A draft map.

The city is only doing this because it’s forced to, he reiterated.

“When we look at voting, I hope, the best people will win whoever they are,” he said.

The majority of public speakers at Monday’s meeting supported the map that was ultimately adopted.

Members of the City Council and the public brought up the idea of moving to even-year elections, and several council members supported putting it on the ballot in an attempt to boost voter participation.

After the final vote, three of the lawsuit’s four plaintiffs shook hands and hugged tightly, experiencing the last public meeting related to the legal battle and settlement with the city.

“It was fast and furious but well worth it,” Benjamin Cheverez said.  

Frank Banales said they were all happy with the district mapping. Their attorney firm, Cappello & Noel, submitted a map for consideration but the public engagement process came up with an even better one, Banales said.

He hopes to convince fellow plaintiff Jacqueline Inda to run for the open Eastside district council seat that will be on November’s ballot.

“We’re all trying to encourage her to run,” he said.

Councilman Randy Rowse is expected to run for re-election in his district, which includes the Mesa neighborhood, and Councilwoman Cathy Murillo is running for re-election in the Westside district. The Eastside district will be open, since Francisco is termed out and doesn’t live within those district boundaries.

Banales said the change will be a success if it means the streets in his neighborhood are fixed, and sidewalks and lighting projects get funding.

If district elections come through with the intent of the change, people in every neighborhood will want to register and vote because they feel they’re being represented, and have someone to listen to them about their neighborhood’s needs, Inda said.

It’s about proper representation and giving people a reason to be engaged, she said.

The plaintiffs believe the switch to districts will make it less expensive for candidates to run for office and pushed for the number of required signatures to drop from 100 to 50. That was accepted by the city in the settlement agreement – candidates have to collect 50 signatures from registered voters within their district or 100 registered voters citywide to qualify for the ballot.

The Eastside and Westside districts, which have a majority population of Latino citizens of voting age, have fewer registered voters than the other four districts.

“Voter registration will be the next big thing,” Cheverez said.

The plaintiffs brought up the change for even-year elections in settlement talks, but it wasn’t a priority with the focus on district elections, Banales said.

The adopted map, shown below and seen full-size here, splits the city into six districts that have to be almost equal in total population.

District 1 includes the Eastside, East Beach and Waterfront areas and is one of the majority-minority districts required by the settlement, with 50 percent or more Latino citizens of voting age population.

District 2 includes the Mesa, Alta Mesa, Bel Air and West Beach areas.

District 3 includes the Westside and Lower Westside areas and is one of the majority-minority districts required by the settlement, with 50 percent or more Latino citizens of voting age population

District 4 includes the Riviera, Upper East, Eucalyptus Hill, East San Roque and Foothill areas.

District 5 includes San Roque, Hitchcock, Upper State, Samarkand, Hidden Valley and Campanil areas, as well as the airport.

District 6 includes the Downtown, West Downtown, Oak Park and Laguna areas.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

The six-district election map was adopted by the Santa Barbara City Council on Monday. (City of Santa Barbara photo)

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