District Elections –A symptom of California’s problems, Is all Politics Local?

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By Richard Eber, California Political News and Views     

It’s 7.38pm Standard Bureaucratic Standard Time BST at the Concord City Council.  After public testimony was heard from speakers who as a group were primarily ignorant, representing special interests, or both, the five elected officials on the dais were left to their deliberations.  The group had to determine strategy dealing with a threatened lawsuit from attorney. Kevin Shenkman.

Of concern was this weasel attorney from Malibu writing a letter to Concord saying that unless they instantaneously drew boundaries to conduct District elections for the City Council this November, he would tie them in knots with court proceedings that would likely cause their depleted treasury millions of dollars in legal fees and judgments.

In the same manor to which they followed the Brown Act to extreme levels that at times reach the level of absurdity, The City Manager and City Attorney warned of dire consequences to not caving in to Shenkman’s brand of legal blackmail.  They cited a case in Southern California where millions of dollars were awarded to Shenkman when a municipality fought and lost to them in court.

Concord does not actually belong in this category of doom.  The City Council had already reconciled to hold District Elections in 2020.  Their biggest problem was conducting this process with transparency trying to meet deadlines that required several meetings and public comment periods.  With district elections they also wanted to look into instituting a directly elected Mayor.

Another issue developed when the County Recorder said their department lacked the capacity to switch over to district elections this year in Concord.  Even a representative of the League of Women Voters backed this assessment up. If the city wanted to do it alone, the estimated cost would be at least a half a million dollars and possibly having to use different polling places than what would be utilized for the midterm election.

Faced with a Hopson’s Choice decision of delaying District elections for two years or facing the wrath of Kevin Shenkman, the City Council is facing quandary of what action they should take.  They will try to put things together in the next couple weeks prior to their next scheduled meeting.

What they did not realize is that their panic was over the top given the predicament Concord has found itself under.  If the Malibu Attorney actually went through with his threat of taking legal action against hem, what Judge would side with him given the expense and lack of public involvement that would ensue?

Concord is not alone in dealing with threatening letters and legal proceedings from what can be charitably called Ambulance Chaser attorney types.  Using Kevin Shenkman’s 4.5 million dollar judgment in the Palmdale case, cities and education boards throughout the State are being deluged with threatening letters demanding District elections to replace at large ones.  From Fremont to Anaheim and literally dozens of other places in California, the noose of District elections is tightening everywhere.

City attorneys are hiding under their desks for fear of lawsuits.  However, they may be a bit hasty in abandoning the ship opting for district elections before they are ready to make the transition.  In the precedent setting case of Serrano vs. Priest in 1977 that provided Shenkman to the ability to sue, it was stated

“Prevailing defendant parties shall not recover any costs unless the court finds the action to be frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation.”   Given the facts of the case  the judge might ask that the attorney send a check to  Concord  to cover their expenses  as the suit is little more than legal blackmail.

It is almost certain that this scenario will not take place today as district elections seem to be inevitable.  This does not discourage Hinny Penney World that prevails in most California cities where progressive agenda’s are pushed forward under the guise of the perceived threat “it’s the law.”

As my friend Hal Bray said about this entire District election mania is just another form of gerrymandering districts, as sponsored by the Democratic Party.  “So yes, Jose Moreno could not win a City Council seat in Anaheim even though more than 50% of the population is Latino, so we found a way to legally gerrymander the city to get him elected.  But no one asked the question “is he competent to be on the city council or is it just that his skin color is the right color?”

I tend to agree with Hal in most of what he says about the negative effects that District elections have on a political system that is already one sided in California with Progressive Democrats running the show.  But as we all know these folks will never be satisfied until their version of a one party state is realized.

What worries me most is that City Council members elected in districts will concern themselves primarily with their constituency rather than the entire community as whole.  Large it also cloisters a person in smaller sub-groups which tends to lack vision for planning the future. Lastly, will district Elections create better qualified representatives for public office other than skin color?

With this being said it is not the system but rather the people who make it all work which is what a democracy should be all about. However in California, things seem to be different.  Those in power from the Governor on down seem to be moving in the direction of progressive dictatorship fueled by civil service workers, union members, environmentalists,  and their oppressed minority allies.

For now the ruling elite don’t seem to care if those who disagree with them leave the State and take their business elsewhere.  The golden goose seems to be there to be plundered.  It doesn’t matter if Californian’s pay the highest tax rates in the country when property, sales, income sources are tabulated.  It also doesn’t matter that public education is in shambles.  The current boogie women Betsy Devos is not responsible for what has transpired in the past with California’s abysmal test scores.

Donald Trump can’t even be blamed for the bankrupt condition of public employee pension funds. Either.  For now, Republican’s aren’t the culprits either.  They can barely get a motion seconded in Legislative committees these days.

Also of little consequence is how many times citizens are told they are destroying the environment. Perhaps cap and trade makes them feel a little bit better about themselves but the bottom line is that the program is a failure along with being a major job killer. This is especially true for uneducated immigrants progressives are trying to help with government assistance and higher minimum wages.

But in California it is all about power and the authority of Sacramento to impose their will on the cities and counties under their jurisdiction.  Whether it is District Elections, Sanctuary Cities, taxation policies or imposing central planning to promote so called affordable housing on local communities, Big Brother is making the rules and determining what’s fair for his minions.

The word “transparency” has been hijacked by big government to produce a socialistic fog which isn’t even lifted on “Spare the Air Day.”

Richard Eber studied journalism at the University of Oregon. He writes about politics, culture, education restaurants, and was former city and sports editor of UCSB Daily. Richard is president of Amerasa Rapid Transit, a specialized freight forwarder.


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