City Council Undecided on Special Election

This evening, the city council was to adopt official council districts, and decide on holding a special election to overturn the results of ...

This evening, the city council was to adopt official council districts, and decide on holding a special election to overturn the results of Measure G.

Measure G was the ballot measure voters decided on a year ago, choosing "by district" over "at large".

In the end, the council adopted district boundaries, but a motion to hold a special election went down in defeat, with Mann, Edgerton, and Twyman voting no.

The audience cheered. However, the cheering was quickly quieted when Mann asked if he could offer an alternative motion. He said he still supported holding a special election this November, to overturn the results of Measure G, but wanted more details in the special election.

That is, the reason why he voted "no" on the special election is because he felt the details of that special election was not definitive enough. John Denver made the original motion as simply, "should we adopt at large council elections, yes or no".

Mann wanted more detail, including other options such as "from districts", and how the mayor would be elected. Mann thereby motioned that the city council hold a special council session, sometime between now and August 4, to iron out the details of what that special election would be about.

Considering that both Denver and Kuenzi at this point had been defeated in their quest to create a special election, they had no choice but to hear Mann out if they still wanted to seek that goal.

Mann said that he would not support a special election if it was simply going to be a yes/no vote on at large. That had the effect of giving Mann some power to dictate the terms of the special election. It also made Mann the swing vote, with Edgerton and Twyman voting no, and Kuenzi and Denver voting yes.

Kuenzi however, stated that there certain alternatives to governance that she would not support. But nonetheless, seconded Mann's motion to have a special council session to iron out details on this special election.

In the end, all five council members voted to hold a special council session.

However, the council could not immediately agree on the date of the special session. Edgerton stated there were certain days he could not be present. Denver stated that he too had days he could not be present. Douglas Johnson, the consultant they hired to look at all this, also has a limited schedule. It's still not known at this time when that special session will be.

Council Member Positions

When the council voted on the original motion, for a straight up yes/no vote on adopting at-large elections, the council members explained their positions...

Fred Twyman said he would be open to having an election to overturn Measure G, however he would not support having such an election this November. Having it this November would make it a "special election" because it would be held at a time when there were no other elections. That would therefore cost the city about $38,000. However, he'd support that election if held in 2010, on a date when there were other elections, which would then spare the city that expense.

Darcy Kuenzi said her support for switching to an at-large city council election has nothing to do with protecting her political career, but that she genuinely feels that is the best choice for Menifee, and pointed that she's been resident here for many years, and plans to be a resident for many more, even after retiring from elected office.

John Denver said that he learned a lot from the work Douglas Johnson performed. Johnson is the consultant from National Demographics Corporation, the company the city hired to iron out all the details of city governance structures, and came up with recommended district maps. Denver pointed out that cities the size of Menifee are typically ran at-large.

Wallace Edgerton said that while he had expressed his preference for at-large elections, he noted that the voters had already spoken through Measure G, choosing districts. He said that even though the vote was close, it was still a majority vote, and decisions should not be overturned just because they're close. He also expressed his unwillingness to spend money on a special election on something the people already decided on.

Scott Mann did not originally explain his opinions, but instead rebutted the notion that this special election was costing us unecessarily. He said that when the city created its 2009/2010 budget, they set aside money to cover this special election.

Edgerton responded back that it's still money we don't have to spend, especially at a time when the City of Menifee was just barely able to stay within budget this fiscal year.

District Boundaries Adopted

Before the council decided on the special election, they had actually adopted district boundaries.

They adopted a map called "NDC 4", which you can download and view here...

This map was originally drafted by Fred Twyman. But was modified by Douglas Johnson of NDC. Johnson made modifications to make it more "clean". That is, Twyman's original map had some neighborhoods carved out of others for the sake of making each district contain as equal number of residents as possible. Johnson smoothed out the district boundaries such that they tend to follow major roads, and keep some communities unified.

This map puts each council member alone in their own districts.

All but John Denver was happy with this map. Denver's district (District E in yellow), is perhaps the most convoluted. Johnson admitted that whenever district boundaries are drawn, there's always a district that becomes the runt of the litter, and Denver's district was it. Denver will represent the most diverse district, including a chunk of the Sun City Core, the family areas along the north-east I-215 corridor, and the rural areas along Ethanac.

This map also puts the Oasis retirement community into the same district with all the family communities (District C in blue).

Finally, this map also slices Sun City Core in half with Murrieta Rd as the dividing line. Mann would represent the western half, and Edgerton the eastern half. Denver will actually represent a small chunk of the Core too.

Public Comments

There are were some public comments made with respect to the district boundaries...

Anne Pica, argued the council should not have this discussion listed under "Continuing Items" since in fact several of the items to be discussed were never actually agendized previously. Even though they had been talked about in council meetings, all previous discussion was never under an agenda item. The council did not respond, but then again, the council was under time constraints, needing to have all these details dicussed and voted no later than August 7. Pica also noted that Kuenzi should not be allowed to include Romoland in her district since she's employed by Supervisor Marion Ashley, who represents Romoland, and argues it presents a conflict of interest.

Bill Zeidlik, spoke in support of Anne Pica's assertion that this discussion should be listed as "New Business" and not "Continued Items", since technically these topics were never agendized before. The strategy for arguing this is that it makes it more difficult for the council to have details ironed by the August 7 deadline.

Louis Mazei, asked the council to adopt such boundaries that would place his home and his neighbors into a district that does not include Sun City Core. He said he lives in Sun City, but not in the core area, and does not want to be represented by the core.

Bob Duistermars, spoke on behalf of the Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce, urging the council to approve a special election to overturn Measure G. He said the board of directors at the Chamber all want an at-large elected council, along with a mayor elected every year. Interesting, Mayor Edgerton asked Duistermars where he lives. He humbly said, "Hemet", which drew a collective groan from the audience.

Richard ?, I couldn't make out his last name. He stated he originally voted for districts, and then decided to research the matter more closely, and still supports districts. He said he wants to be represented by a council member who lives in his area. He said he doesn't want Menifee to grow to 250,000 residents, and that he doesn't want to live in an "economic engine".

Douglas Johnson Presentation

Before the city council voted on anything, Douglas Johnson had given a lengthy presentation of his findings and recommendations.

Johnson works for National Demographics Corporation, the company the city hired to research all the details and come up with recommendations on district boundaries.

He said the ideal district should have about 12,932 residents. He also pointed out the Voting Rights Act, which requires each district to have equal number of hispanic voters. His recommendation is that each district have between 19.5% to 26.5% hispanic voters.

There were about 30 maps submitted in all, including 11 from Joe Daugherty, 17 from actual Menifee residents, 2 from city council members, and 4 created by Douglas Johnson.

Johnson then ran each map into a set of requirements, and was able to eliminate several maps. There were several requirements, but those that seemed to be the most discussed was each district had to have less than 10% population deviation, the districts should be reasonably contiguous (