By and large, Santa Rosans agree on the problem. Over the past three decades — an era of dramatic change for this community — only four City Council members have come from the west side of town. The majority have come from the east side, specifically, the northeast quadrant.
Relatively few candidates have even emerged from the northwest and southwest regions of the community, a source of ongoing debate about what Santa Rosa should be doing to broaden its geographic representation and stimulate neighborhood engagement.
This newspaper has a record of encouraging increased government involvement by Latinos and from west side residents and heartily agrees with the objectives of this latest campaign to address this historic imbalance. But, in the end, we do not support the proposed solution.
Measure Q seeks to resolve this problem by dividing the city into seven districts of equal population with each district represented by a single council member. The advantage, supporters note, is that districts would lower the cost of running for office ensure geographic diversity and improve access and accountability.
We see positives from this approach, but regrettably they are outweighed by the many negatives. One is the likelihood that this system would introduce not only parochial politics but parochial thinking in a community, that despite its growth spurt during the previous three decades, remains too small for this kind of solution. If approved, Santa Rosa would join Salinas and Rancho Cucamonga as among the smallest cities in the state to have district elections.
For all its political squabbling over the years, the Santa Rosa City Council historically has not looked at its resources in terms of how they can be evenly distributed across the city map. The focus has been on addressing needs where they exist. The majority of capital expenditures — roughly 56 percent — over the past eight years, for example, has in fact been spent on the west side of town.