UPDATED: After consulting an expert legal mind about the nuanced language of the staff report, the settlement agreement’;s restrictions on single-member district ballot arguments isn’t as draconian as I initially concluded. I’ve revised the post accordingly.
Apparently, the commitment of single-member council districts to “authentic representation” doesn’t extend to free and unfettered debate with opponents.
Item 18 on tomorrow night’s Anaheim City Council agenda deals with placing on the November ballot the proposed charter amendments to re-structure the city council. One of those is the single-member council districts charter amendment, being put on the November ballot pursuant to the settlement agreement with the ACLU and plaintiffs Jose Moreno et al. Interestingly, the ACLU and the plaintiffs included some very political demands designed to tilt the campaign playing field in their direction.
According to the staff report:
As one of the actions being taken tonight, the Council should identify two or more members of the City Council to write the arguments. Agreement provides that the selected members must be those that “support a change in the City’s electoral system to ‘by-district’ elections.” This resolution prohibits Council members from using their City titles for identification as an author in the signature block of any written argument or rebuttal argument except for those Council members authorized by this resolution to write the argument in favor of the single member district Charter amendment measure. [emphasis in the original]
And indeed, the settlement agreement stipulates just that (page 2, second paragraph):
Neither the City Council , nor any of its members, shall file a ballot Argument against the [by-district] Charter Amendment measure pursuant to Elections Code 9282(b).
In other words, only councilmembers allowed to sign ballot arguments on this issue – in an official capacity, using their titles — are Mayor Tom Tait and Councilman Jordan Brandman – sort of a ballot argument-version of gerrymandering.
For folks who tirelessly portray themselves as speaking for “the people,” it’s very revealing that proponents have so little confidence in the appeal of single-member council districts to Anaheim voters that they proactively sought to exclude Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray and Councilmembers Gail Eastman and Lucille Kring from signing ballot arguments against by-district elections.