Consider these numbers: two and 145.
Santa Rosa became a city 145 years ago. Since then, two westside residents and two minorities have been elected to the City Council.
Here's one more number: 20. I've lived in west Santa Rosa for just over 20 years, and the council has been talking practically the entire time about the lack of racial and geographic diversity in city government.
Talk is great — for council members. As long as they stick to talking, and maybe wringing their hands for effect, no one's seat is in jeopardy. Residents of the northeast neighborhoods that dominate the council, the planning commission and the rest of the city's policymaking boards continue to do so.
If the council allows voters to weigh in, that might change. If voters opt for district elections, we would immediately see new faces, from more neighborhoods, looking up from the dais.
Would that guarantee better government? No.
Would it ensure a more racially or ethnically diverse council? No.
Here's what district elections would do:
<BL@199,12,11,10>Give residents an elected official, with a stake in their part of town, to approach with neighborhood problems.
<BL@199,12,11,10>Promote accountability because there's a specific representative for each neighborhood.