In the “Our View” editorial from The Signal editorial board (April 16), several points were made concerning the City Council’s decision to settle the most recent lawsuit over district elections. From being “stuck” to having “no choice, pragmatically,” the editorial board has seemingly omitted several pertinent facts and did not provide a detailed historical context to the current lawsuit and settlement.
The fist lawsuit was in 2013 and the city ended up settling by moving the April special election to the general election in November after the attempt of cumulative voting was not recognized by the California secretary of state. That election was in 2016. One can debate the merits or intentions of the California Voting Rights Act, but it has been California law since 2001. This second lawsuit was no surprise to anyone and was easily avoided.
The Signal should ask the council why they didn’t act sooner. And I would ask The Signal, why The Signal did not address this fact in their editorial. The city had plenty of time since 2016 to address this and yet the city failed to act until they were forced to by a lawsuit, that by The Signal and council’s own admission the city had no chance of winning and would put Santa Clarita at great financial exposure had they fought it. In this case, after failing to act for almost six years, I guess we can feel lucky we got off cheap – only $370,000 instead of millions and the same result, district elections.
Assuming there will be debates in this next election cycle and assuming The Signal will host one or more, can we get our hometown paper of record to address the candidates to see who is, on the record, for or against districts; why this wasn’t handled for almost six years and only settled because of a lawsuit that everyone saw coming and no one did anything proactive. (As previously stated, most of the council have been there for a long time, and as prior outlined several council members live in very close proximity to each other and would likely be in a district against each other.)
Another point from The Signal is the likelihood that Councilman Cameron Smyth would win against the other two incumbents should they end up in the same district. Fair enough, but you omit the possibility that he may not run or that there could be new candidate(s) who would challenge the incumbent(s). While this may be farfetched, since I believe virtually every incumbent, with just a few exceptions, has won reelection, The Signal should not make this assumption. When it comes time to draw the districts, I sincerely hope the council will err on the side of more inclusion, more transparency, and public hearings and that The Signal will hold the council to public scrutiny should the city fall short.
It was good to see that the editorial board brought up elected mayor and term limits. This must also be a part of the discussion. Also, based on the last City Council meeting discussion of pay, most all the current council discussed how many hours they contribute beyond just the meeting. If it truly is a full-time job as many of them stated, then perhaps the discussion should also include a debate of having a full-time salaried elected council.