The Orange County Register editorial board is advocating a “No” vote on Measure L, which would carve up Anaheim into a by-district system for electing the city council:

Come 2016, Anaheim voters will select their City Council candidates on the basis of residency districts – candidates will need to reside in a geographic district, but they will face voters citywide. This council-approved compromise combines the local loyalty of a district-resident candidate with entire electorate’s expectation that council members to legislate on behalf of all Anaheim.

Measure L on the Nov. 4 ballot seeks to disrupt this arrangement, and, thus, the Register encourages a No vote.

Measure L would localize special interests in the city, freeing candidates from having to make their case to the whole of Anaheim. The measure would change council elections to a “by district” arrangement where candidates must not only live in their district, but be elected solely by the residents of their district.

With one candidate per district, Anaheim residents would be left with only the mayor as their sole at-large representative. This level of disunity seems undesirable for California’s 10th-largest city – the most populous in the county.

It is a worry of the Register that such a system leads to a Balkanizing of the city, where council members only look inward at the needs of their districts rather than the whole city. This can lead to a level of dysfunction that has been seen in a number of cities with district elections – including the bankrupt city of San Bernardino.

You can read the rest of the editorial here.

This is a welcome editorial and the OC Register is, of course, correct to recommend a “no” vote. At the same time, one can’t help but be curious why the editorial board waited until the day before the election to publish its position in Measure L, which has greater long-term consequences in terms of Orange County policy and politics than anything else on the ballot in OC. The editorial board found its voice on Measure N – which decided whether or not to continue a utility rate transfers into the general fund – two weeks ago.  Yet, the editorial board waited to publish its opposition to Measure L when its position when it would have the least influence on voters. 

On the bright side, the editorial does lead with a critical piece of information of which most Anaheim voters (in my opinion) are not aware: if Measure L loses, Anaheim will still have district elections, but not the by-district elections – which reduce voter representation on the city council – advocated by the out-of-town left-wing coalition behind Measure L. Instead, council candidate will have to live in and run from geographic districts, but they will be voted on by all Anaheim voters. This balances geographic representation without reducing citizen representation on the council and ensuring councilmembers remain accountable to all voters.

However, for that to happen, voters will have to reject Measure L.