City voters to decide Nov. 6 whether to change way members are elected
By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Political activists, some of them veterans, some new to the business of winning votes, gathered Saturday in Roseland, in the small living room of a McMinn Avenue home.
The campaign was on to pass a ballot measure to change how Santa Rosa’s politicians are elected and perhaps alter the balance of power in the city.
“We are going to introduce ourselves and ask, ‘Can we count on your support?’ ” said Bill Steck, a retired union leader, describing to about a dozen people the precinct walking process they were about to undertake to try and win backers for Measure Q.
The Nov. 6 measure would split Santa Rosa’s electorate into seven districts, each to elect its own City Council member.
It would be the biggest revision to city politics in decades, overturning a system that has led to councils nearly always made up entirely of representatives from the city’s east side. Measure Q advocates say that in 30 years, just four council members have come from the west side.
“I’ve lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years and it’s really under-represented and underserved,” one of those in the room, Theresa Champagne of Roseland, said Saturday.
Supporters have for years sought such a change. The City Council in June unanimously approved the ballot measure, following the recommendation of the city’s Charter Review Committee.
Opponents say district elections could splinter the city and, ultimately, harm how well voters’ interests are represented on the seven-member council.
Another precinct walk was set for later Saturday, in the Santa Rosa Junior College neighborhood. But it made sense to kick things off in Roseland, said Magdalena Ridley, a neighborhood advocate and Measure Q organizer.
“It’s definitely not a campaign just about Roseland; it’s all areas,” she said, “But I think we have a lot of people here friendly to the concept, so it’s a friendly area to start with.”
In the streets, challenges particular to campaigning in Roseland — which is fractured between areas in the city and others that are in the unincorporated county — were evident.
Mike Siegel, who lives on the east side, secured a promise of support for Q from Catherine Martin, a Dutton Avenue resident. Also, she said, “I’ve talked to my husband; I’m 85 percent sure he’ll vote yes.”
But after Siegel left, Martin realized that she lives on the side of Dutton Avenue that’s in the county and won’t be able to vote on the city ballot measure.
“Rats,” she said.
A few unanswered doorbells later, Siegel said, “Hola,” to a woman in a small ranch house. He asked for a woman named on his voters list.
“No esta ahorita,” the woman said — “She’s not here right now” — and called over a boy who said, “They went out.”
Siegel left a bilingual Measure Q flier and went on.
Down the block, Pedro Luna-Ginne answered his door. He didn’t know about the measure, he said. Siegel gave his spiel, left a flier, and moved on.
“I’m really glad they’re doing this,” Luna-Ginne said. “It’s more information about what’s going on in the neighborhood. I’m going to think about it.”