Friday, December 04, 2009

ACLU Backs Eureka True Ward System

I can't imagine why the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union would get involved with the effort to return Eureka's city government to a true ward system. How does the way Eureka runs elections and city government fall within the realm of civil liberties? I don't think it's a good idea for an organization advocating certain interests to get involved in issues outside their purview.

Sure, I could see how it might be an issue if a certain group of voters was being disenfranchised, but I haven't seen any evidence of that from the discussions that have taken place over this. Changing the way we vote in regards our ward system should be more along the line of housekeeping business for city government, not a civil rights issue.

I wrote earlier on that I didn't think this issue is that big of a deal. I also said I wouldn't be signing the petition. Call my reasoning petty or frivolous, but I still won't sign the petition.

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13 Comments:

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fred: I thought the exact same thing when I read that. This has nothing to do with civil liberties.

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger Fred said...

I'm guessing they saw this as a populist issue so why not back it and get some publicity. No problem with that, in and of itself, but I've always felt that, if you're involved in advocacy for a certain cause, it's best to limit your org's activities to that cause. To do otherwise risks getting your organization in needless trouble over something that's not within the organization's scope of concerns.

An example being when Libertarian Emil Rossi from Mendocino County ran for Congress. He sent out a press release criticizing then state assemblybabe, Virginia Strom- Martin, over some issue regarding state education. That issue had nothing to do with U.S. Congress.

In Emil's case there was no fallout. Probably because, being a 3rd party candidate, nobody paid attention. But, had anyone paid attention, he could of lost the votes of some people who held different views on issues of state education and the position he was running for didn't involve state education.

Why get involved in an issue that doesn't have anything to do with the purpose of your office or organization? If you're gonna get risk getting bit in the ass, it might as well be over something pertinent to your organization or position you're seeking.

 
At 8:30 PM, Blogger Parke Bostrom said...

The Election Reform Policy of the Redwood Chapter of the ACLU can be read here:

http://redwoodaclu.blogspot.com/2009/11/redwood-aclu-policy-on-local-election.html

Support for the "true-ward" system is in line with the policy.

The opening sentence of the policy reads: "The local, state and national ACLU has long recognized efforts to protect fair representation in government. The Redwood Chapter affirms the relationship between the rights of citizens and the opportunity to cast a meaningful and effective vote. This policy falls within the scope of policies established by the National ACLU and the ACLU of Northern California."

And one later sentence reads: "District elections, such as those used to elect members of the Eureka City Council, should be accountable directly to the voters of each of the several districts, and not used solely to determine the residency of the district representative. A “true ward” system where only the voters of any particular ward would vote for their own representative is preferable to the current city-wide system, although ward boundaries must be assessed to avoid gerrymandered districts."

Prior to being adopted by the Redwood Chapter of the ACLU, the policy was reviewed and consented to by the ACLU of Northern California, as is required by the chapter's bylaws.

I joined the board of the Redwood ACLU after the above policy was adopted. While the Chapter did vote to endorse the "true-ward" system, I am personally opposed.

If any ACLU members read this and have comments, I would be happy to rely them to the chapter board.

 
At 11:49 AM, OpenID insidesunvalley said...

The only reason that the council members are backing this intiative is so that biased non-progress and anti arkley people like Larry and Linda can be elected countless times over in the same districts

 
At 12:39 PM, Blogger Fred said...

I think that's certainly on the minds of some of the lefties supporting it. They think they'll get more lefties elected if they get votes within the ward only. I think there's next to no evidence that will be the case. But, since that's why they're pushing it, that's why I'm not signing the petition although I stand by what I said earlier it makes no difference to me whether candidates are elected at- large or by ward.

 
At 12:42 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Parke wrote, "...A “true ward” system where only the voters of any particular ward would vote for their own representative is preferable to the current city-wide system, although ward boundaries must be assessed to avoid gerrymandered districts.".

Which is a rather odd position to take since, by having a true ward system, you'd pretty much encourage gerrymandering since some elements of the Eureka political scene would be tempted to realign the wards to give them an advantage in an election.

Maybe that's what the proponents of the true ward system have in mind?

 
At 1:51 PM, Blogger mresquan said...

"The only reason that the council members are backing this intiative is so that biased non-progress and anti arkley people like Larry and Linda can be elected countless times over in the same districts"

Well Rex Bohn would have beaten Kerrigan as he trumped him pretty well in the 4th ward.And the 2nd ward is made up of more conservatives than 2,3,or 5.So of the intent is control over a ward,the plan would likely backfire before producing the intended result.

 
At 2:46 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Back when I was thinking about this when I made my earlier post I came to the same conclusion. Don't recall what my line of thinking was at the time, though.

 
At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever you think of the ACLU, this ward system Eureka has is used by no other cities I ever heard of. If Parke wants to defend this peculiar institution, I'd like to hear why.

 
At 6:27 PM, Blogger Fred said...

If Parke wants to defend this peculiar institution, I'd like to hear why.

Then explain to me any problems with the current system. I think you'll be hard pressed.

 
At 7:07 PM, Blogger Parke Bostrom said...

@5:23pm

Campaigning is probably the best training for serving in office. By campaigning city-wide, candidates receive city-wide training. True-ward may make it easier to get elected, but I doubt it will make it easier to govern.

It's not that I particularly like the hybrid-ward system. I just like true-ward less.

My preferred choice would probably be at-large single transferable vote elections, or at-large approval voting.

If we are going to switch, why not at least consider multiple alternatives, and try to pick the best one, instead of only framing the choice as being between the current system and true-ward?

The proposal to switch to true-ward originally came from a campaign finance reform group, yet switching to true-ward is not campaign finance reform. I doubt this group considered other election systems and their benefits and drawbacks.

I also think Eureka is one city and not five wards. I like the idea that all five members of the council are interested in winning my vote.

So I'm opposed to true-ward for a bunch of somewhat nebulous and overlapping reasons. At the same time, I understand the appeal of true-ward. And if true-ward happens, I doubt I'll shed any tears. And if (when?) future Eureka Council members deign to introduce unconstitutional ordinances, I will still oppose those ordinances no matter how said council members were elected, and whether or not I voted for or against them.

 
At 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By your argument, we shouldn't have Supervisors representing districts for Fortuna, Arcata, McKinleville, etc. We're all one county and not five districts.

Or who needs 80 state assembly districts, I want Orange County to pick my state assemblyman. We're all one state, right?

 
At 6:54 AM, Blogger Fred said...

In the case of the City of Eureka, I don't see any compelling reason for a true ward system. I don't know that anyone can point to a weakness in our city political process because of the way the city council is elected. The closest thing I've seen to a complaint in that regard is someone saying if we had a true ward system we'd likely have a majority of "progressives" on the city council. I'd suggest that simply isn't true.

Aside from that, this city isn't divided into areas that are geographically or ideologically unique. If we were a big city like San Francisco where some residents might not even venture into distant districts, district or ward voting might make more sense.

As it stands now, it's not that big of a deal.

 

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