Pro- And Con Arguments Against Single-Member Districts Initiative Filed

single-member districts unicorn 3

Just close your eyes and listen to the Magical Single-Member Council Districts Unicorn!

This November, Anaheim voters will decide on two initiatives: whether to replace the current at-large council election system with the single-member district (or “by-district”)system being pushed by a left-wing coalition; and whether to expand the city council from four to six members.

Ballot arguments for and against the by-district initiative were filed on Monday. The pro argument is signed by Mayor Tom Tait and Councilman Jordan Brandman. I’ll comment in greater depth soon, but a couple of things jump out.

For months and months, the advocacy of single-member district by proponents has been racially-based: a relentless focus on the ethnicity of current and  former councilmembers and claims that at-large elections “disenfranchise” Latino voters. Indeed, that was the entire basis of the Jose Moreno/ACLU lawsuit that put this initiative on the ballot.

However, except for a very oblique reference to “reflecting our neighborhoods,” the ethno-racial appeals are entirely absent from the pro-single-member districts argument – no doubt reflecting a cynical awareness by the pro-districts coalition that for voters who haven’t majored in Chicano studies, calls to gerrymander city council elections to produce a pre-determined ethnic composition holds little appeal. 

Instead, the pro-argument promises that all things bright and beautiful will happen to Anaheim voters if they adopt single-member districts: cleaner streets, filled potholes, trimmed trees, whiter teeth, happier marriages and an answer to the question of whether intelligent life exists on other planets. OK – not the last three things, but that’s probably because it would have put them over the 300-word limit.

In any case, here is the Argument in Favor, followed by the common sense truth of the argument against.


Anaheim is a great place to live, and a city we’re proud to represent.

To keep it that way, we need a City Council that’s accountable to the people and elected to fight for you and your neighborhood at City Hall.

That’s why we should vote YES on Measure ____.

Measure ____ requires that council members live in the district they represent and allows you to elect a council member from your neighborhood.

Measure ____ is supported by leaders of Anaheim’s neighborhood groups, small businesses, and civic organizations.

Why? Since 1857, Anaheim has grown from a small town of fewer than 1,000 people to a major metropolis of almost 350,000. It’s become a center of commerce, sports, and culture with needs and priorities as diverse as our neighborhoods. We must ensure you’re effectively represented and governed by council members reflecting all of our neighborhoods. In fact, Anaheim is the largest city in California that doesn’t elect council members by district.

Yes on Measure ___ means smaller, manageable council districts, and a council member elected to represent you more effectively. Under Measure ___, your council member’s job will be to make sure your neighborhood gets its fair share of city services, and its streets are clean, the potholes filled, the trees trimmed, and your voices heard at City Hall. This means better services for your community.

Voting YES on Measure ___:

  • Ensures neighborhoods get their fair share of city services. 
  • Brings council members closer to their community, improving accountability. 
  • Allows council members to respond quickly and efficiently to their community’s needs, 
  • such as public safety and traffic. 
  • Reduces special interests influence at City Hall. 

Voting YES on Measure ___ keeps Anaheim a wonderful, safe place to live, and gives us the necessary tools to achieve our full potential.

Tom Tait
Mayor of Anaheim

Jordan Brandman
City Council Member

And the Argument Against:


If you do only one thing in the election, VOTE NO on MEASURE ___!

Measure ___ divides Anaheim and reduces your council representation. As long-time civic and
community leaders, we urge you to vote No:


Our current at-large election system gives every Anaheim voter a voice on every city council candidate. But Measure ___ restricts you to voting for only one City Council member. It reduces the number of council members representing your interests from 4 to 1. Instead of voting for candidates you support, Measure ___ limits your choices to candidates from a certain part of Anaheim.


The City Council put Measure _ on the ballot to avoid spending more tax dollars on the ACLU lawsuit. The majority of your City Council members oppose Measure _ and support our at-large system.


Anaheim’s at-large elections make each council member accountable to all voters, requiring them to govern for the whole city’s benefit, not just the part they live in. Measure _ would replace this successful system with the by-district system used by dysfunctional big cities like Los Angeles and by Congress.


Measure _ carves Anaheim into districts and divides Anaheim by class and neighborhood. That’s wrong. We believe in ONE ANAHEIM, where all citizens have an equal vote and our city council is accountable to every voter.

Measure _ divides a great city. Vote against carving up Anaheim. Vote NO on Measure _.

Curt Pringle, former Mayor of Anaheim

Shirley McCracken, former Anaheim Councilmember

Todd Ament, President, Anaheim Chamber of Commerce

Mitch Caldwell, Chair, Anaheim Neighborhood Association

Gloria Ma’ae, Member Anaheim Citizens Advisory Commission



  1. These pro-district people don’t even have the courage of their convictions. They want to elect councilmembers according to the color of their skin or their last name. They should have the guts to say so.

    It’s a shame Tait has sold out to this crowd. Someone revoke his conservative card.

  2. A Non-Argument Argument

    Tait and Brandman failed to present any argument for instituting single-member council districts. For example, they imply (albeit falsely) that unless this measure is passed, Anaheim will no longer be a great place to live, and they will lose pride in representing Anaheim. No argument here, just implied assertions. Without passing this measure, this duo also implies that the City Council will no longer be accountable to the people. Again, no argument—which requires evidence—just another unsupported assertion.

    That future council members must live in the district they represent is not evidence that future council decisions would result in better government. That purported leaders of Anaheim’s neighborhood groups, small businesses, and civic organizations support this measure provides no evidence that a single-member district would result in better decisions. In fact, no evidence was presented that Anaheim neighborhoods have been ineffectively represented or ineffectively governed by current or past council members. Neither was any evidence presented that approving this measure ensures decreasing the influence of special interests at City Hall.

    Most annoying to this Anaheim resident is the blatantly false implication that city neighborhoods do not receive a fair share of city services. The city’s annual report prepared by Anaheim’s Finance Department, Budgeted Costs for Core Services by Neighborhood (July 2013) states: “The results [regarding how city funds are locally distributed] indicate that the proportion of each neighborhood’s costs closely follows the proportion of its population” (p. 3). I also reviewed the data presented in the 2012 report. My finding was the same: Dollars allocated closely followed the proportion of each area’s population. Thus, each neighborhood receives its fair share of city services. To imply that some neighborhoods have been shortchanged, as the Tait-Brandman “argument” suggests, is false.

    Finally, what does a yes vote on this measure have to do with keeping Anaheim a wonderful, safe place to live? Absolutely nothing. Thus, this non-argumentative ballot statement should be rejected simply because it is not an argument. A collection of opinions is not an argument. Moreover, the statement mentions nothing about the real reason for the measure appearing on the ballot, as pointed out in this blog.

    Ironically, the best argument to pass this measure is identified by Pringle, McCracken, Ament, Caldwell, and Ma’ae, who argue against its passage: to avoid spending thousands more tax dollars to defend against an ACLU lawsuit—which has nothing to with the merits of, or need for, single-member council districts.

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