<b>DRAWING LINES: </b> This map shows city voting wards in 1964.

DRAWING LINES: This map shows city voting wards in 1964.

Six Santa Barbaras?

Voting Districts, in Theory

Thursday, August 7, 2014
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Share Article

SPLITSVILLE: If the city is to be divided into six city council voting districts ​— ​one for each seat ​— ​where do you draw the lines?

Well, since so far no one’s come up with a plan for the half-dozen neighborhoods that will be able to pick “their” council members, I have.

Attorney Barry Cappello, who sued the city last week, contending that it’s violating the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA), says he hasn’t proposed the six Santa Barbara district boundaries, nor have his plaintiffs.

Barney Brantingham

That, he says, depends on what his experts come up with and what the judge okays when he or she slaps the Good Housekeeping Stamp of Approval on the switch from at-large to district elections.

Premature expectations, I guess. Which is exactly what Mayor Helene Schneider said of Cappello’s lawsuit. The City Council isn’t buying this district election switch, at least until it hears from its own expert. It, in the time-honored words of Ann Landers, isn’t ready to wake up and smell the coffee.

What are Barney’s six districts? Actually, they’re pretty logical, if you look at the city map.

For starters, the Mesa seems like one geographical area of mutual interests, including what the city calls Upper Mesa and Bel Air.

Then there’s the Hope-San Roque-Foothill area of the Northside. Mostly homeowners. That’s two. The Riviera, lower Riviera, and Eucalyptus Hill seem to have mutual concerns. That’s three.

Which brings us to the Eastside, a mostly Latino neighborhood and one of the reasons for district elections. It seems reasonable to add East Beach, downtown, and lower State, which are contiguous. Then there’s the Latino Westside and nearby areas, like East Beach. That’s five.

Which leaves the upscale Upper East, with its high-income political activism and home of Representative Lois Capps. To make its size comparable to other districts, you could add the Laguna neighborhood and Oak Park.

Do some tinkering to add or subtract fringe areas where logical. And I’m sure the judge will require equal populations in the six.

Attorney Cappello, a hard guy to beat, says his experts have done their studies and conclusively proved that Latino voters have been getting the short end of the election stick due to at-large voting that dilutes Latino balloting.

Some California cities hit by similar suits have surrendered. Others, like Palmdale, the High Desert poster child for digging in its cowboy heels, lost in court, appealed, lost again, and reportedly has racked up a $3 million legal bill. And that bill’s still growing, now that the city has taken its “never” stance to the state Supreme Court, which, no doubt, will refuse to hear it. To my knowledge, no California city has ever successfully defended one of these CVRA cases.

The Santa Barbara City Council, of course, could punt, tossing the hot potato to the voters, who according to those who take the public’s political temperature, seem sure to reject district elections.

Why go from being able to vote on six councilmembers to just voting for one, plus the mayor, who would still be elected at-large?

One reason, other than the California Voting Rights Act, is better neighborhood representation. You’d have “your” councilmember rather than phone numbers at City Hall. “A representative who’d go to bat for the district,” Eastsider plaintiff Frank Bañales said at last week’s Cappello press conference. “So that we can be part of the process.”

The Eastside needs street lighting, and there’s a bridge that’s been out for 30 years, Bañales said.

But Leo Martinez, once one of Santa Barbara’s rare Latino city councilmembers and now living in New Mexico, said, “The Santa Barbara power structure doesn’t want district elections. The Democrats should be helping us.” So should the ACLU, he said.

ENCHANTED APRIL: It’s the Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre’s next-to-last play of the season — and its final season up at the ranch. Four English women leave dreary London behind and find new beginnings in Italy. Now playing.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Face it, Capello isn't interested in voting rights, he just wants to drain the city coffers.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 7, 2014 at 1:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's putting the cart before the horse. What is the underlying reason for low Hispanic representation in politics? Do we dare ask ourselves those questions?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 7, 2014 at 3:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If district elections happens; I hope Mr, Banales runs for city council. He has been around for decades, knows Santa Barbara and is a good person.

OpenMind (anonymous profile)
August 7, 2014 at 7:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Why would the Democrats help this scam forced upon us by Republicans who want districts so they can be gerrymandered to create safe Republican districts where such Republicans never could get elected at-large?

And why does Frank Banales have such a boner for the Cacique Street bridge that only would enable more speeding traffic where it is now a footbridge that makes it easy for pedestrians and bicyclists to get across the freeway and to the beach with far less speeding car traffic on the street?

Why is this backed by wannabees and hasbeens on their fakey committee who do not have the basic skills or motivation to get elected except by changing the rules?

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
August 7, 2014 at 6:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Likely KV is correct; but even so I say punt and let the voters decide. I admit I think the so-called "Latino Westside" where I live has plenty of Anglos and IT needs better representation as well, Barney. We have high population density, lousy City services [what about those long-promised underground utilities?], lousy police service [where is OUR police substation like the Eastside got?], traffic regulation, decent public parks over here (all we got is Bohnett Park where many people still fear to go to).. We DO need ward or district elections badly. Too bad it takes a heavy lawsuit threat like dirtbag Capello's to make City Council get off its a**.

DavyBrown (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2014 at 4:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If there are district elections, it's likely that the west side will _lose_ some representation in the next election. It now has two representatives, Murillo (who'll likely win should she run again) and Schneider who will be term out in three years.

I agree with John_Adams: district elections will result in some reasonably safe Republican districts (why else would Lanny Ebenstein be such a strong proponent?!) - that's not necessarily bad to have a balanced council, depending on who the candidates are.

And as for the Cacique Street bridge, those neighbors demanding a repaired bridge should think about what they're asking for, especially since there is now that welcome Cacique underpass leading to quicker freeway access.

Even if the voters were to decide against against district elections, the proponents of this effort would say it didn't matter: the poorly-crafted CVRA requires district elections. ...So much for democracy and up with racism.

at_large (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2014 at 9:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Please don't put me in the one with all of the gang members.

banjo (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2014 at 1:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

District primaries with a city wide general seems like a reasonable way to go.

Num1UofAn (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2014 at 2:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Bill Clausen certainly dares to "ask questions" that have racist implications.

JayB (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2014 at 3:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Please don't put me in the one with all of the gang members.

banjo (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2014 at 1:42 p.m
Fair enough, I will only put you in with a few of them

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Everybody should get a few gang members so they don't feel cheated.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2014 at 6:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Don't worry Ken, with the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor in Santa Barbara, there will be a plentitude of gang members growing in numbers.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2014 at 6:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Discussing what the districts should be before the decision to have districts is made....
Obvious conjecture used to serve as the Mayor's "premature expectations" talking points.
(Why don't we all just pop some Haldol and have silent sit in?)

I think we need to take the gang turfs and the city data out of the equation. Focus on the lack of representation in certain areas and the reasons why,

touristunfriendly (anonymous profile)
August 10, 2014 at 2:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

City wards are nothing new. Why is this such a big deal? The overreaction to ward elections just shows how unsophisticated Santa Barbara is. Most cities have this. Having a city council member represent a section of the city will only increase the diversity of the council. The neighborhoods will be better represented.

Goleta_Minnesota (anonymous profile)
August 10, 2014 at 8:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Eeew Santa Barbara just got called on being unsophisticated..c'mon Goleta_Minnesota, Kim Kardashian got married here! We got high priced real estate.

Still, I don't think any form of electoral reform should cost the tax paying citizens of the City of Santa Barbara millions of dollars, and have it go to a single person who doesn't live here to boot! It's robbing our schools, our libraries, our traffic and water infrastructure, our ability to buy water, it's negatively impacting, indeed harming every citizen regardless of "law abiding" or not, right or left or in-between. It's just plain evil. If the electoral; system needs adjustment, fine. But don't punish the citizens of Santa Barbara for an electoral process they had no concrete hand in.
We need to pit aside our partisan differences and demand, if that indeed this is simply a procedural adjustment that legally must be made, nobody can financially profit from it. It's purely bureaucratic in the very long run, not some vast conspiracy of the citizenry of Santa Barbara to attack other or otherwise discriminate against other neighborhoods.
Isla Vista is a different issue and deserves cityhood.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 10, 2014 at 9:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: