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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