Santa Rosa panel leaning against district elections for city

Voters shouldn't be given the chance to decide whether members of the City Council should be elected from districts instead of the city as a whole.

That is the preliminary conclusion of the city's Charter Review Committee, which took its first straw poll Thursday on the most controversial issue before it: district elections.

Like two previous such committees, the 21-member body appointed by the existing city council is taking a dim view of the notion that carving up the city into districts will create greater diversity and accountability in local politics.

Of the 16 members of the committee in attendance Thursday, 10 said they favored keeping the status quo, while six expressed support for districts.

"I don't think our system is broken or dysfunctional to the point where that change would help matters," said Doug Bosco, a lawyer and former Congressman.

Bosco said he was not swayed by claims that districts would decrease the cost of elections, better represent minority groups and ensure more equitable distribution of city services.

Political consultant Terry Price countered there was plenty of evidence district elections would do most of those things, and voters should get the chance to consider it.

"This is a democratic process" Price said. "Let's let the voters decide if they see that district elections would better represent them in the governance of their city."

Price said it was significant to note that nearly everyone who voted against district elections was appointed by a member of the current council majority, while all who voted in favor of them were appointed by the minority.

The only exception was Bill Carle, who was appointed by Gary Wysocky but voted against district elections.

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