Districting Issue Now Being Fought by Attorneys

Anne Pica, who has led an effort to protect the results of Measure G, has hired Veljovich Law Group and The Reyzin Law Firm, of Carlsbad, CA...

Anne Pica, who has led an effort to protect the results of Measure G, has hired Veljovich Law Group and The Reyzin Law Firm, of Carlsbad, CA to represent herself and other members of the community in preventing the Menifee City Council from throwing out Measure G.

Measure G was the ballot initiative of June 2008 to determine city council members should be elected at large, or by district. By district won by a slim margin.

Anne Pica contends that forcing a special election, that could potentially overthrow Measure G, is illegal.

City Attorney Elizabeth Martyn responded back to Anne with a letter dated May 13, 2009, that such a special election is legal.

Attorneys for Anne Pica then responded with a letter of their own, dated June 12, 2009, disputing Martyn's explanation, and reinforcing Anne's argument that it's actually illegal.

Anne's original arguments to the City hinged on two points, that California law prevents cities from overturning public vote (in this case Measure G) on matters relating to city council member election processes, and that an at-large voting arrangement is actually a violation of California's voter rights act, based on a disproportionate share of "protected class" residents in Menifee (seniors).

Martyn responded in her letter of May 13, that...
California Government Code 34871 deals with putting the issue of district voting before the electorate; read with the final paragraph of Section 34884 the statute provides a method for a special election at which various forms of district voting as well as at-large voting may be considered.
However, as pointed out by Anne's attorneys, 34884 allows a city to put forth a special election to redecide city council districts. 34871 limits such a revote to just different types of districts, it doesn't allow cities to offer a revote on at-large.

To get around this, Martyn explained there's another law, California Elections Code 9222, which allows cities to place a measure on the ballot to change existing city ordinances...
California Elections Code Section 9222, which is within the California Election Code Sections referred to in Government Code 34871, provides authority for a special election on the enactment of an ordinance, such as that for district voting.
Theoretically, the City would use this law to justify a special election that could overturn Measure G, and effect at-large voting.

But Anne's attorneys explained that 9222 does not give cities authority to create a special election that would overturn a vote of the people. That is, it limits such special elections to address ordinances enacted by council. It does not allow cities to circumvent ordinances decided by public vote. Measure G was a vote of the people.

The part about violating the state's voter rights act was not addressed by Anne's attorneys so I'm assuming there's no argument there. Anne was arguing that the high volume of seniors living in Menifee could be defined as a "protected class", whose representation could be underserved with an at-large council election. However, Martyn explained that the state's voter rights act doesn't recognize seniors as being a protected class.

At this point, it's all just letter writing, and there are no lawsuits.

The next city council meeting has penciled in Douglas Johnson, who is with National Demographics Corporation. That's the company the city hired to study the issue of governance. The same company was also hired by Wildomar, and Johnson is working with them too on the very same issue. From what I've learned about Johnson, he's had experience with cities trying to overturn districts in favor of at-large.

It'll be interesting to hear what he has to say.

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  1. I don't always agree with the way Anne handles situations, but at least this will let us know what kind of attorney we have.

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  2. I think that a lot of money is being spent over an issue that the voters already decided on.
    Equal representation is all the voters want.
    Didn't we have a tea party over this!

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  3. The people have voted!!!!!! If this goes forward maybe we can elect a new city council at the same time.

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  4. If the issue gets on the ballot (which I assume is a foregone conclusion), at-large will likely win even if more people want a district structure.

    I say that because the city council will likely ensure that the ballot contains three choices: “at large”, “by district” and “from district”. Those who want districts will probably be divided between the two choices, meaning the “at large” vote can less than half, but still prevail.

    Splitting the vote of those who oppose “by district” is nothing more than clever politicking.

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  5. Ann Pica and her group is threatening to take my right to vote on four council members in a council election. "By District" will only allow me to vote for one council member. Isn't this disenfranchisement?

    Let's have a rational discussion on the pros and cons on the best system of voting for all council members in the City of Menifee.

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  6. I'm more interested in what the districts might look like, and certainly before we take this to the ballot again.

    I don't think we need an election to determine BY or FROM, that designation seems implied in the legislation that a determination can be made on BY or FROM by the council after public hearings, just like they can draw district boundaries based on population, geography and common interests.

    I don't believe the council wants anything less than what makes sense for Menifee. I don't understand how someone can be so adamantly PRO districts when they haven't seen the district boundaries yet. We definitely have diverse communities in our city, but many of those communities, like seniors and family tracts have large HOA's that govern their smaller community. Are we really so diverse in the kind of city services we expect? I think everyone respects the senior golf cart trails, I hope to see the same for equestrian, bike and adventure trails. You don't need to live on an acre to respect the needs and concerns of our rural community do you? You don't need to live in the senior area to respect lower speed limits.

    To me the biggest issue is that I'd like to vote on 5 council members, not just 1. If from district will do that, then I'm ok with it.

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  7. Darcy Kuenzi, Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Menifee is quoted in the Californian that she wants to review the report from the Blue Ribbon Commission and the findings from the Demographer hired by the Memifee City Manager. After reviewing these two sources, she will then take a stance. Shouldn't we all also review the above two sources before making a decision? Shouldn't Ann Pica and her group also review the above two sources before responding in predictable kneee jerk reactions?

    Additionally, I believe that "Seniors" aren't a protect group? If this group is protected in regards to voting, please provide the sources in the Voting Act that defines them as a protected class.

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  8. I find it laughable that Darcy Kuenzi said she needs to review the 9 member blue ribbon Panel and National Dermographics report before she can make a decison. She already decided to reject the 773 of her constituents who petitioned the city council to except the vote of the people and not spend $65,000 to $70,000 of our taxpayer dollars. She will now make a decision based on 9 people's opinion over 773 poeple who oppose a special election. To me that is dereliction of duty and she should be removed from office.

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  9. To Anonymous, June 14, 2009, 8:52am
    Anne Pica is not taking away your right to vote on anything. If anything she is trying to protect the vote of the majority of the people of the city of Menifee and that was 52% voted for by districts. Because you do not understand the process of by districts you believe that some how you are being disenfranchise because you can not vote for other councilmanc's outside of your district. By districts you are represented by one councilmember who lives and is answerable to the people of that district. You are represented by one council person so there is no way you could or would be disenfranchised.

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  10. Ann Pica and her group are trying to take my right to vote away as well the right to vote from other residents of the City of Menifee.

    Let's read the report from the Blue Ribbon Committee and obtain information from the demographer. Remember,in a democracy, the voters have a right to continuously make decisions on voter enfranchisement based on obtaining additional or new information.

    I want my rights preserved to vote on "At Large," "From District" and
    "By District." I and other members of the electorate has a right to become informed of the additional information and make informed decision which voting system is the best.

    If "By District" is so great, then the proponents in a campaign shouldn't have any trouble getting support and win in the next election. My suspicion is that the supporters of "By Districts" are afraid of losing in light of new information.

    Incidentally, we should make our decisions by secret ballots and not on the streets by a faction of voters pushing residents to sign a petition that have not been vetted for accuracy, fairness and statements from the opposition. The approximate 770 residents signing a questionable petition are only a very small faction of the more than 30,000 registgered voters.

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  11. How many of those 770 signatures are from seniors who reside in Sun City Civic Association?

    These are the same people who voted in a management company that is extracting every last dime out of them and will soon lead them to BK, only they can't seem to understand that right now.

    Visit the new Sun City Civic Association website at www.suncitycoremembers.com and learn what this is all about.

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  12. Here is the big issue... Most, if not all, of the current city council live in the same area of Menifee (East of the 215 near Scott Rd). That means that if districts are created it is very likely that all of our current city council would be fighting for one or two seats. This would be very difficult (and expensive!) for the current city councilmen and they want to avoid this at all costs.

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  13. In response to Anon @3:16:

    Three of the five current council members live in the same general area you described. The other two definitely live in areas other than described (and live in different areas from each other as well).

    But ultimately I think you hit the nail on the head - districts would mean that two of them would be out of office eventually.

    Hmmmm...and with "at large" voting, there is a possibility in the future of having ALL FIVE council members come from the same area of the city, if not from the very same neighborhood.

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  14. The By District System creates the lost of ability to vote for four council members. It is a big issue. I want a say on voting for all council members and want the entire council

    Please read the Blue Ribbon Report that explores the pros and cons of By District, From District and At Large. This report can be found as an Agenda Item for the City of Menifee's meeting on 6/16/09. Go to the Official City of Menifee web site.

    As for distribution of where council members live, there are three council members living in the southern portion of the City of Menifee. One council member lives in the center part of the city while another lives close to the Senior Core located in Sun City. None of the council members are neighbors. Additionally, there was a map posted on this site during the June 3rd campaign. This map shows where the 19 candidates on the ballot lived. The residential locations of the candidates were very well distributed throughout the city. The three write in candidates provided additional geographic balance.

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  15. The poster at 8:18 sort of beat me to the punch on this as I was typing this up, but I'm going to go ahead and post it anyway:

    To all those interested, whether you are a supporter of the original vote or a supporter of putting the district vs. at-large issue back on the ballot, I encourage you to either attend the City Council meeting on June 16th and listen to the presentation by the BRC to the City Council or at least read the report to the City Council. The report can be found HERE. Whether you choose attend the meeting or read the report on your own, all I ask is that you attempt to do so with an open mind and do so objectively.

    I know there are those that are adamantly against the recommendations of the BRC and there are those that support the recommendations 100%. I can also tell you that the average attendance of the BRC meetings was about 4 people (not including those sitting on or involved with the committee).

    With the understanding beforehand that I am NOT speaking for the other committee members, I can tell you that I'm fine with whether you choose to agree or disagree with the report and I will personally be open to discussion about it, whether in a public forum such as this or in private, after the June 16th meeting.

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  16. District voting gets my vote. At Large is pointless for the benefit of the entire city.

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  17. To Askmieke, June 14, 2009 to answer your question How can anyone be so adamantly for by districts when they are not drawn up yet. 1. I voted for districts. 2. I have lived in a by district system and it served us well. 3. I have also lived in an at large system and found more coruption in this type of Goverance and did not serve the people well. The people wo are holding office now in the city of Menifee do not serve the whole community well. They are concentrated on one section of the city and that is Menifee. They are not encouraging well-planned growth but doing the biding of developers who supported their campaign. They are unaware of the many problems in Romoland, or Quail Valley or even understand the concerns of the Seniors in Sun City. They do not take any imput from the community in making decisons that will effect these areas. So at large or it could be the City Council members who are seated presently are more incline to have an alliance with special intreast groups. By districts you have your own council person who is answerable to the people of that district and he must live in the district so what ever happens in that district will also effect the councilperson. That does not happen with at large.

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  18. Well said to the previous post. I have lived in both by district and at large communities as well. Ultimately, I agree the by district serves more while the at-large tend to serve a few. As the City of Menifee grows this will become more apparent.

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  19. I have voted in every election / ballot issue for which I have been eligible since I began voting in this area in 1988. I already voted on this issue and am disheartened that my voted did not count. I will not be voting on any issues regarding this city again and will, instead, simply stay mute on issues and decisions until I leave. If this was all designed to disenfranchise the interested and involved - consider it a success.

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  20. note voting is silly! You are basically just giving in! If life presents a problem are you going to go and hide? Come on and be real, voting always counts even if we have a shady city council bent on keeping there seats. I think that the next election most of the council mbrs will be removed because of this

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  21. The city wants "At Large" and they have a city worker Patti Dorati who is promoting it. She does payroll for the city. She created a website Menifeeatlarge.com right after the elections. She has the Menifee Post that she promotes Menifee At Large in every issue that is distributed through the city limits. Does anyone see the connection here?

    The people voted for "By Districts" and won. However, the city council and Mrs. Dorati could care less. Mrs. Dorati is also trying to work her way up the ranks to eventually become a city council member.

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  22. I visited the Menifeeatlarge web site but didn’t sense any promotion of “at large” elections. What I did notice, though, is the following line at the bottom of each page:

    "Welcome to Menifee at Large, Menifee's Official Web Site ..."

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  23. To above post. I noticed the same thing. There are several Menifee websites. The computer animated girl on the page is annoying.

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  24. Yes, the talking lady is very annoying all the other crap on the site. The only official City of Menifee site is http://cityofmenifee.us/.

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  25. The Menifee Post promotes "At Large" all the time which is the same person who runs Menifeeatlarge. I'm not sure if this site is the official city site. It would be good to ask City Hall.

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  26. If this is the official city website as it states on the site. Would this prove that the city is promoting the push for "At Large".

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  27. To the Poster @ June 19, 2009 8:48 AM
    Would this prove that the city is promoting the push for "At Large"?

    This seems suspicious to me that a city employee creates a site "At Large". I think the city is waiting to overturn districts so they had someone create the website early. I could be wrong but it just seems that way.

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  28. There’s no question about it. The official site is cityofmenifee.us.

    I’m surprised that the menifeeatlarge site hasn’t removed the claim and I’m checking it from time to time to see when the text is removed. I agree that the site is far to “busy”. When I’m logon on to it, my processor activity climbs to 100% due to all the activity on the screen.

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  29. It takes a long time to load anything on the site.

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  30. even thought the site sucks, I am sure it "was" well inteded at one point.
    Now that I am speculating~ One could say a city employee is pushing a personal agenda hoping that statements on a web page could be precieved by casual users as an offical city page thus sending secret messages to the un-wise to vote for "at-large"

    whew talk about a theory:)

    Good thing for free speech! Remember those who fight to protect your rights as Americans. Contribute to the Menifee Veterns Park. Thanks.

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  31. I support "At Large" as the most fair voting system at this time for the City of Menifee. The "At District" is a very unfair voting system for this city. It may not make sense to consider "At District" until the city reaches a population of 200,000 and greater.

    The Blue Ribbon Committee Report discuss the problems with "At District." Please read the report.

    If there is a revote, the campaign will point out the problems with "At District." The "From District" also has problems that will also be pointed out in a campaign.

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  32. I agree that proposed district areas should be established and made available to residents. There are definitely pros and cons to both at large and districts. However if the districts are not established in such a manner to give effective representation for the core area, Quail Valley and other areas with their own distinct demographics and concerns; then districts may not have the benefit proponents would be looking for.

    Establishing the district boundaries prior to pressing for a new election should be a priority.

    The other issue discussed was a city employee representing her personal views as an official position of the city on her website. I have run companies with many employees and there definitely is a line between freedom of speech and freedom to represent personal views as that of the employer. However, I think it is also important to put things in perspective. We are still a small city and this employee most likely used a template to make her website that included "official site of Menifee". I'll bet that if this is brought to the attention of this employee a simple fix will rectify the issue.

    Menifee has different hats to wear and it is important to change hats for various occasions. When issues arise with staff, the 'employer' hat is worn. When logistical issues arise within city structure, traffic issues etc. then the 'executive/administrative' hat must be worn and when issues are related to resident voters the 'board of directors' hat must be worn. Board members in a large corporation have the interest of shareholders in mind. It would be wrong to wear the administrative hat or employer hat when interacting with the city shareholders (residents/voters).

    I'm looking forward to our city focusing more on the greater issues at hand and putting these current issues behind us.

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  33. If you want an unstsble government, constant redistricting, moving your residency from one district to another and many other concerns, then vote for "At District" or "From District." The City of Menifee face explosive growth in the 2010's and the 2020's. Stability of the city government is crucial to handle this growth during the next twenty years.

    Throughout California, the most common form of government is "AT Large" for cities under 200,000. There must be a reason for this tendency to have "At Large" system.

    The voters of the City of Menifee should have a chance to revote. Additionally, the Ballot should be simple. The choices should be "At Large," "At District" and "From District." From the above choices, the one that gets the most votes wins!

    If a revote is scheduled, let's have a debate! In the June 3, 2008 election, how to select city council members was not thoroughly thrashed out. Additionally, information was not available that was unearthed by the Blue Ribbon Committee. When an issue of losing enfranchisement is at stake, a democracy encourages a re-examination of the method to select a respresentive. The revote will allow for that re-examination.

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  34. Patty Dorati is not an employee of the city. She is the publisher of the Menifee Post and the Menifee At Large website.

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  35. I disagree with the 9:26 AM poster’s idea of three ballot choices. That arrangement is designed to split the “District” vote and ensure “At Large” prevails.

    If, when we voted to become a city, the choices had been “No Cityhood”, “Cityhood with Districts” and “Cityhood At Large”, we probably wouldn’t be a city now. Cityhood votes would have been divided the same way this proposal would divide the District votes.

    Two primary choices should exist – “District” and “At Large”. An additional choice of “By District” and “From District” would then apply only if District wins – similar to the way cityhood voting was designed.

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  36. Of the 441 California Cities:

    * 404 are governed At-Large
    * 24 are governed By District
    * 8 are governed From District
    * 3 are governed with a mix of these.

    Menifee got it wrong and needs to re-vote. California Law requires that the "governance question" be on the ballot at incorporation. This law is flawed because it only offers TWO options: At-Large or By District. It certainly does not create a ballot that is clear and concise! Bad legislation without a doubt!

    Some want a Mayor elected At-Large with either an At-Large council or By District Council. Some want 7 council members with 5 voted by district and 2 voted at-large. Personally, I don't want a Mayor At-Large...just look at Perris for crying out loud! We get some Schmoe in there for 8-10 years and all of a sudden we have the "same old, same old" just like the County Board of Supervisors!

    I certainly do not want districts either and I do not want a special election. However, I do want the ability to vote for ALL my city representatives.

    So, what on earth is wrong with putting these issues back on the ballot in November 2010? Nothing when you really think about it! Nothing!

    People seem to be wrapped around the axle for the wrong reasons.

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  37. If you want constant instability, constant turmoil, constant districting in the following election years: 2010, 2012, 2016 and 2022. vote for "At District," or "From District."

    No wonder the proponents of the "No Cityhood" measure in the June 3, 2008 Election are so vocal in promoting "At District." because of the potential to keep the City of Menifee in a state of constant conflict.

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  38. To the poster: Anonymous, at June 20, 2009 7:24 PM

    I agree with you, except that if you wait until a 2010 election, then the 2 councilmembers up for election that year would have to be in districts. Only the voters in that district would be able to vote. 3/5's of the voters would not be able to vote for councilmembers.

    If the election were in 2009, then the question of whether the voters REAFFIRM we are By District or the voters realize we should be At Large, then that would establish a clear governance structure in time for the next election in 2010.

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  39. Folks, in my opinion we need to focus on why the city council refuses to honor the result of the election. We voted and the city council didn't like the outcome and lack the courage to inform the people of the real reason they are unhappy with the result. The truth would be much better than calling the people stupid. Only those who support the revote agree with the city council's position focusing on the people are stupid line.

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  40. what did we vote for? I am confused!

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  41. To: June 21, 2009 12:26PM the only people who are continuing to keep the city of Menifee in costant turmoil and are causing discord among its citizens are the city council. The people voted for by districts and only the city council and a few residence who cannot except the defeat of (at large elections) are contributing to the discontent with in the city of Menifee. Because the minority lost to district vote they now continue to cry wolf and want to discredit the vote of people that was 52%in favor of by districts. Get over it you bunch of cry babies districts won and there is no court in the land that is going to over turn it. The law is the law and now you have to live with it.

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  42. To the blogger posting on 6/22/09 at 6:44, it is too bad that you consider yourself stupid. Raise your self esteem and read the Blue Ribbon Report, read the conclusions of the Demographer when his report is released and educate yourself by developing a deeper background and understanding. After getting more information on the electorial process, you might change your position and also insist on a revote.

    To the poster at 6/22/09, It is important to support a revote for the following reasons:

    a. when there is potentiality of losing 4/5's voting enfranchisement
    b. when there is potentiality to having "At Large" or "From District" as the system for the City of Menifee,
    c. when there is the need to strongly protect the right to vote for all council members and not one.
    d. When "At District" or "From District" could be distabilizing factors for at thirty years into the future due to explosive growth within the city and throughout the region.

    It is very interesting that many of the supports for "At District" were strong supporters of "No Cityhood" measure. It appears that these residents do not have the interest of the City of Menifee at heart. I am sure that the voters in the City of Menifee will vote against their positions again as they did for Cityhood.

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  43. Can monkeys vote? I was hoping I could use a squirrel as a transportation device and enter the delta sector via the turpentine highway thus revolting against the tyranny of the gnat colonies infesting the inner sanctum of the gastrointestinal menifeeitis bug. Whit out a doubt this is our biggest issue, one that can be solved by a swift jury and a slow boat to the neverland that is your soul. With this adjustment we can truly become one. Godspeed to you all and to all a goodnight!

    - orna-mental catfish cloth

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