The Coast News Group
Districts 1 and 2 will be the first to hold elections under the new format, in November 2018. Courtesy image

District elections move forward after split vote

OCEANSIDE — City Council voted 3-1 to introduce the “communities of interests” district map and election calendar, which sets districts 1 and 2 as first for election.

Councilman Jack Feller cast the no vote. Mayor Jim Wood was absent from the July 25 special meeting.

Feller voiced his objections to district-based elections, which require City Council candidates, except the mayor, to live within the district they represent and only allow votes by residents of that district.

“I’m losing three-quarters of my voting right,” Feller said. “It hasn’t been easy for any of us, (running for City Council) I don’t think we should be making it any easier.”

A handful of residents made comments prior to council’s vote. Most said there was not enough information for residents to provide full feedback on proposed district maps prior to the final selection. Frustration was expressed over having to wait until the next official census count in 2020 to fine-tune district boundaries.

One speaker said the districting process “had to get done” and praised city staff and consultants for moving the task along and avoiding the pending lawsuit, which claims that current at-large elections do not ensure equal representation.

Going forward seated council members will continue to serve at-large until their district of residence has elections. Districts 1 and 2, which are comprised of the northwest and northeast communities of Oceanside, will hold council member elections in November 2018. Districts 3 and 4, which contain the city’s southwest and southeast communities, will hold elections in November 2020.

If a council seat becomes vacant prior to revised election dates a council appointment can be made or an at-large special election held to fill the seat.

Following the meeting Feller said he is not in favor of election rules that help underfunded candidates.

He added that Oceanside has had Hispanic, black and women council members.

“Oceanside has had a lot of diversity,” Feller said of the city’s elected offices.

After the meeting Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said district-based elections will provide a better democracy and greater government transparency.

“We’ll see more responsiveness to communities,” Sanchez said.

The process to form districts began in May and included five public outreach meetings to create and discuss district maps, and four public hearings to review and adopt the final map and election calendar.

Criteria for city districts includes equal population, a contiguous territory, visible features and boundaries and representation of communities of interest.

Three community-drawn district maps were brought to City Council on June 21, and the communities of interest map was unanimously selected.

City Council will meet to adopt the selected district map and election calendar at a special meeting Aug. 1.