WatchSonoma Watch

A city divided

The final tally on the measure calling for district elections for the Santa Rosa City Council was 59.8 percent opposed, 40.2 percent in favor. In short, Measure Q got thumped. But take a closer look at the results and you’ll get a picture of politics in Santa Rosa.

There is no Berlin Wall, but if you draw a line along Highway 101 and Franklin Avenue, you’ll see a city of Ossis and Wessis.

Bill Steck, a member of last year’s charter review committee, plotted the precinct results for Measure Q. His color-coded maps – including the one below — put the line in sharp relief.


(Click on the map for a closer view.)

On the east side of Santa Rosa, where political power now lies, Measure Q lost in a landslide. In most precincts, the “no” vote ran far ahead of the citywide total. Opposition was strongest in Fountaingrove, with Oakmont not far behind. On the west side, it was a close contest. Measure Q got a majority in several precincts, and the “yes” vote ran ahead of the citywide average almost everywhere. Measure Q also scored well in the Junior College neighborhood, South Park and other neighborhoods around the fairgrounds and all along the Santa Rosa Avenue corridor.

A few other details stand out from Steck’s analysis. In the precincts strongly opposing Measure Q, the Latino voting-age population was less than 10 percent. It was 31 percent in the precincts where it carried a majority or near majority. There was a $23,000 difference in median income, and 56 percent of the voters in the strongest “no” precincts were over 55. In the precincts where Measure Q did best, just 38 percent of the voters were over 55.

The takeaway: Santa Rosa voters weren’t ready to change the election system in 2012, but the issue won’t go away. A voting rights act lawsuit is one possibility. Beyond that, demographic trends and city policies favoring growth in pro-Measure Q areas point to a different outcome at the polls within a few years.

- Jim Sweeney


10 Responses to “A city divided”

  1. C Dub says:

    I agree that East side voters will change their minds about district elections once they are outnumbered by West side voters and the city council is controlled by West side, but by then it will be too late. They’ll be on the losing side of a vote for District Elections then. That’s why I was opposed to Measure Q. Not to preserve East side control, but to ensure that the West side would control city governance once its population increased. East-siders thought they were “protecting their vote”. Turns out they were ensuring their vote won’t matter once West-siders take over. Serves ‘em right!

  2. Judy Kennedy says:

    Santa Rosa East-side politicos and the rich/white folks of Fountaingrove and Oakmont will continue to fight against annexing Roseland because when there are 6,000 more Latino voters in the city, District Elections will be a must. Otherwise, Roseland will rule every election, and you know that’s what r/w East-siders are afraid of. THEN — watch out, they will be hounding voters to put in District Elections. Yes, this issue will be back on the front burner soon enough.

  3. The Answer says:

    The real take away is that the editors at the Press Democrat do not respect the vote of the people of Santa Rosa. They, like the current President, believe that rules and laws are there to be ignored or overturned to further their agenda.

    That agenda is legal citizenship for illegal aliens currently here. Those new citizens will add their votes to the progressives and to hell with the country’s culture, language, standard of living and way of life.

  4. James Bennett says:

    No district elections.

    No regional government.

    No unelected boards and commisions making decisions.

    We don’t live in the Soviet Union.

    We don’t need to reinvent our government, we need to adhere to the model we have.

  5. Herb Williams says:

    The facts are these… A Latino received the most votes in the 2012 Santa Rosa School Board Elections. A Latino received the most votes in the 2012 Santa Rosa City Council Elections. Measure Q District Elections was soundly defeated in the 2012 City Elections. It seems to me when the voters find qualified Latinos on the ballot they are elected. There is no inequity… only unfulfilled political agendas. Clearly, the voters see beyond the agendas.

  6. BigDogatPlay says:

    Want to throw your elections into chaos and balkanize the city more than it already is? Just approve district based elections and see what happens. See Oakland and San Francisco as examples.

    Splinter groups of vocal advocates forge together coalitions along very narrowly drawn interests. Rather than be answerable to the electorate as a whole, district elected representatives become beholden to those narrowly drawn interests. Oakland is a dysfunctional mess that cannot provide even the most basic of city services because budget has been drawn off to enrich various community groups. San Francisco is little better and it’s board of supervisors amounts to little more than a clown car act passing onerous and sometimes unconstitutional regulations so as to appear to be doing something while ignoring the city’s problems.

    At least San Francisco still has tourist dollars to keep it somewhat afloat. Santa Rosa has no such luxury.

    In short, district elections sound like a wonderful exercise in democracy. When we all know that pure democracy is perhaps the most inefficient and ineffective form of governance known to man.

  7. Reality Check says:

    Boy, talk about missing the elephant in the room! The above takes the prize. The story here is that Measure Q lost on both sides of town! That it did better on the West side ignores the huge fact that district elections are unpopular in most precincts of Santa Rosa.

    The dreary part of this story is that Sweeney is right. This issue isn’t going away. Once upon a time in America losing an election settled a matter, at least for a while. No more. And especially so with the PD providing ample tailwind for the issue.

  8. Nora Gonzales says:

    Why does the Press Democrat pursue an issue decided overwhelmingly in a democratic election?

    One wonders what the real motives of the editorial staff might be? How diverse is the PD editorial staff anyway?

    Get over it. It is a settled issue and the editors lost.

  9. chris says:

    Biggest problem with a voting rights lawsuit is that the protected classes, in this case Latino voters, votes against Measure Q by over a majority. It may have been a slimmer majority, but that doesn’t matter at the end of the day. Clearly supporters failed to make a cohesive argument that district elections will benefit the citizens. I voted for it and still support it, but the blame if you will rests with those groups like the organizing project that made the issue about divisiveness, not benefits.

  10. Grapevines says:

    Scariest thing to hit Santa Rosa City Hall is that the West side scumbags may get a chance to represent themselves on the city council. Gee the East side of Santa Rosa may have to admit that the West side exists.

    What do you want to bet that they’ll need counseling after that revelation?