Santa Rosa's Measure Q goes down in defeat

A ballot measure that would have transformed the election process for Santa Rosa City Council members failed Tuesday night.

With all 64 precincts reporting, the vote was 60 percent opposed to Measure Q, while 40 percent supported it.

Measure Q would have ended the current system of citywide council elections. Instead, Santa Rosa's seven council members would have been chosen through district elections, similar to the system used for the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

"If this holds, I'm very gratified," said former Mayor Jane Bender, who worked to defeat Measure Q.

Bender said she and other opponents felt strongly that "the council members need to be held accountable by all the citizens. Period. Exclamation point."

Elaine B. Holtz, a member of the city's Community Advisory Board who worked to pass the measure, said supporters can take encouragement regardless of the outcome. After decades of debate, the issue of district elections was at last put to voters, and "it isn't going away."

"The public has to be more educated," Holtz said. "Any kind of change doesn't happen overnight."

Supporters and opponents agreed Measure Q would dramatically change city politics. But they disputed whether it would help or harm voters.

Supporters noted that in the past three decades, only four council members have come from the west side of Highway 101. They maintained the measure would allow voters to elect council members who live among them and better understand their needs.

Critics countered that voters now get to select all seven council members, but under Measure Q they would be allowed to vote for only one member. They maintained the remaining six council members could be unaccountable to voters who live in other districts and who no longer can vote them out of office.

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