Last week, the Santa Rosa Charter Review Committee rejected district elections for city council, and if that sounds dreadfully boring to you, you're not alone. Throw in words like "community advisory board" and "Utilities Field Operations Building," and most readers have already turned to the back of the Bohemian to check their horoscope instead.
But what if we talked economic inequality? What if we mentioned wealth and its influence on politics? What if we talked about the upper percentile controlling a city, stubbornly denying regular citizens the voice to more evenly distribute that power?
That sounds a little more important. And it's happening right here in Santa Rosa.
Since the turn of the century, there have been no Santa Rosa City Council members from the southwest portion of the city. That includes the area surrounding the city's largest concentration of Latino residents, Roseland, which has still not been annexed into the official city limits, receives inconsistent law-enforcement services and has a dire lack of park lands, crosswalks and sidewalks.
Instead, the majority of council members have come from the northeast, including neighborhoods like Fountaingrove and Montecito Heights, where things are demonstrably better—and wealthier. Somehow, former congressman Doug Bosco can look at these facts and say with a straight face, before the committee, that "there's a pretty good spread of people all around the city."
Having district elections would mean council members would come from seven different regions of the city, evenly spreading the power. But the committee recommended that this idea not even be put before voters. The message was clear: your opinion is unwanted.
I think otherwise. I say put the issue on the ballot in November. There will be eight months to try and convince us it's a crappy idea, but at least we'll have our say instead of being muzzled by those for whom the current system is working just fine.
The committee revisits the issue on Saturday, March 10, at the Utilities Field Operations Building. 35 Stony Point Road, Santa Rosa. 10am. The meeting is open to the public.
Gabe Meline is the editor of this paper.
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