Council votes to continue transition to district elections

Encinitas will continue its transition to district elections despite two council members' requests that residents should have a say in how the districts are implemented.

After a short discussion Feb. 19, the city council voted 3 to 2, with council members Tony Kranz and Mark Muir dissenting, to continue with its November decision to convert from at-large elections to district elections, with the city divided into four districts.

Kranz and Muir proposed at the meeting that residents should be able to decide whether the city moves to four districts with an elected mayor or five districts with a rotational mayor.

The two council members, who each expressed opposition to districting during council deliberations last year, requested in November that staff bring back a report regarding the placement of the issue on the June primary ballot or November general ballot.

The council, during that same November meeting, voted 3 to 2 — with Kranz and Muir dissenting — to adopt council member Tasha Boerner Horvath's "Citizen Map 016," which divides the city into four districts with an elected mayor. Representatives for districts three and four, as well as an at-large mayor, would be voted on in 2018, and districts one and two would be decided in 2020.

At the Feb. 14 meeting, Muir contested other important issues, like marijuana cultivation, will be decided by residents, so they should also decide how the districting process will go.

"I can't think of any bigger issue than this to go to the voters," he said. "If we're willing to take marijuana and other issues to the people, we need to take this to the people. It's an opportunity to let the public speak."

Kranz motioned that the voters should decide in June whether they prefer five districts with a rotating mayor or four districts with an elected mayor. He added he favored five districts to lower the “significant” impact on the characters of the city’s five communities.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Deputy Mayor Joe Mosca and Council member Boerner Horvath disagreed with Kranz’s motion, thus keeping the status quo of the November vote.

Prior to the decision to implement district elections, Encinitas residents were asked to vote for two at-large candidates for city council and one candidate for mayor every two years. In the past, the mayor was a rotating position.

In August, the city council declared its intent to move toward district elections to avoid litigation and is deciding whether to implement four districts with an at-large mayor or five districts with a rotating mayor.

The city received a letter July 20 from Santa Monica-based attorney Kevin Shenkman, who threatened to sue the city if it did not move to district elections.

In his four-page letter, Shenkman said Encinitas is diluting the votes of minorities with its current at-large election system, thus violating the state’s Voting Rights Act of 2001.

He also accused Encinitas of being discriminatory against Latinos, saying the city has a long history of hostility toward Latinos as evidenced by the fact that its first mayor repeatedly made racist statements during council meetings in the late 1980s.

Shenkman has targeted many cities around California to move from at-large elections to district elections. In San Diego County, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Poway and Vista recently made the moves to district elections to avoid litigation from Shenkman.

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