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How We Represent 

It's time for district elections in Santa Rosa

click to enlarge LOVIN' IT A license plate says it all outside a public meeting on district elections in March of this year.
  • LOVIN' IT A license plate says it all outside a public meeting on district elections in March of this year.

I drove by Sheppard Elementary the other day, just to see if a crosswalk had gone in yet. It hadn't. For over three years, parents in the neighborhood have been asking for a crosswalk in front of their children's school on West Avenue in southwest Santa Rosa, and it still has not been painted on the road.

I thought about this the other day when I got a robocall from the "No on Q" campaign. In the recording, a man identifying himself as a resident of Santa Rosa warns about the danger of district elections, and assures that minorities are already well-represented in Santa Rosa.

If minorities are already well-represented in Santa Rosa, then why can't parents in the city's most predominantly Latino neighborhood get a simple crosswalk painted on the road in front of their children's school?

District elections are on the Santa Rosa ballot this year in the form of Measure Q, and here's what it would do. Santa Rosa would elect its city council from seven different districts of the city, ensuring an equal geographic spread of representation at city hall.

Why the need? Because in the last 30 years, only four of 30 councilmembers have come from the entire west side of Santa Rosa. None have come from the southwest quadrant, which includes Sheppard Elementary. None.

A rallying cry for the "No on Q" campaign is that district elections would only allow voters to choose one council candidate instead of voting for all seven available council positions. "Protect your vote," the many campaign signs prominent in northeast areas of town say. But if almost all council candidates come from Fountaingrove, Skyhawk, Montecito Heights or the McDonald area, what kind of vote is being protected? What kind of representation is that for someone who lives on Bellevue or Corby Avenue?

Let's face it: Santa Rosa is already divided. To ignore that fact is to be living in a midcentury idyll of Santa Rosa as a small town. We are split by the freeway and by the mall, and it's worth noting that efforts to mitigate those very tangible dividers have been shot down by the same council majority that opposes district elections. John Sawyer? He tried to block construction of a sorely needed bicycle and pedestrian overpass over Highway 101 near Coddingtown. Ernesto Olivares? He had the gall to actually demote a board member for suggesting to the owners of the Santa Rosa Plaza that they might want to explore some proposals for creating a full-time pedestrian walkway through the mall.

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