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COURSEY: Let the voters decide on district elections

Santa Rosa shouldn't elect its City Council members from specific sections of the city, the argument goes, because that would be "divisive."

Uh-huh.

The city's Charter Review Committee, appointed by the council, is divided on this issue, last week in a straw poll voting 10-6 (with five members absent) not to make a recommendation for district elections.

The last Charter Committee to deal with the issue, in 2002, voted against district elections by a 15-13 margin. In 1994, the Charter Committee failed to make a recommendation on the issue when it deadlocked 14-14.

Asked by citizens to put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide, the City Council in 2002 refused, on a 4-3 vote. In 2004, with two members absent, the council turned down a ballot measure on a 3-2 vote.

So, by all means, let's not make any changes in Santa Rosa that might be "divisive."

Sarcasm aside, this is not an issue about divisiveness. It's an issue about power. The folks who have that power want to hold onto it, and the folks who don't have it want a piece of it.

Plain and simple.

This scenario has played out three times now, starting with that Charter Committee in 1994. At the time it was pointed out that Santa Rosa had never had a council member from the west side of Highway 101 and that minority representation on the council had been virtually nil since the city's origins. A hand-picked group of citizens appointed by the council came within a vote of recommending a sure-fire way to change that, but the 14-14 tie left the powers-that-be exhaling a huge sigh of relief.

But the issue didn't go away.


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