Holding elections by splitting cities into districts was the subject of lawsuits threatened in four cities in Santa Barbara County in 2017 with the goal of gaining diversity among elected officials. Goleta, which received a set of the legal papers, agreed to the demand rather than attempting a lawsuit that was bound to fail. At the time, naysayers claimed not every district would be able to bring forward a candidate. That claim will begin to be put to the test on Monday, June 7, when Goleta holds the first of three district-drawing workshops to define city neighborhoods.
The city’s first district election is set for 2022, a compromise reached by the city and litigants to set the first district elections after the 2020 Census. The terms of Roger Aceves, on the council since 2006, and James Kyriaco, the newest councilmember, are slated to expire that year. By then, four separate political parts of the city will exist, but where those boundaries will be drawn is as yet entirely undetermined. The borders are determined in part by raw population numbers to be pulled from 2020 Census. Notably, Goleta had the highest reply rate in the county at 76 percent. The city hired National Demographics to analyze the Census data and draw maps in draft form, but the final maps depend on citizen input.
“They will reflect the will of the people,” Kyriaco commented, “and the need to have proportional districts that reflect communities of interest.” Before his election to the council, Kyriaco was appointed to the Public Engagement Commission, which has met for the past four years and with this map-drawing in their sights. In part, their task has been to assemble information on the best way to reach, inform, and work together with different groups despite language or physical differences.
As to the concerns that no one would run, city voters increased councilmember salaries in response in 2018, from $585 per month to $3,500, or about $42,000 per year. It was the first time city electeds received compensation close to a living wage since incorporation in 2002, and was an increase recommended by the Public Engagement Commission.
The conversation on what distinguishes four city sectors starts with three workshops — to be held June 7, June 26, and August 2 — in English with Spanish translation provided. Drawing the district borders will be based on the characteristics of the city, its neighborhoods, natural boundaries, and less-visible boundaries of areas united by communities of interest. Tools that citizens can use to draw boundary maps will also be described.
The first workshop on Monday, June 7, takes place online at 6 p.m. The second and third are anticipated to be in person, as COVID safety guidelines should allow them by then. Goleta City Clerk Deborah Lopez is accepting comments on or descriptions of a community of interest at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the June 7 workshop, register at https://tinyurl.com/9zdtmkdh, webinar ID 972 1928 6351.