Menlo Park officials will begin the process of moving from at-large to district-based elections at a meeting next week.
On Wednesday, the council could begin carving out district boundaries and forming an independent or advisory group to oversee the work. The council also could initiate steps to turn Menlo Park into a charter city.
The goal is to have everything done before the November 2018 election, when three council seats are up for grabs.
At Wednesday’s meeting, council members will gather residents’ input, including suggestions for drawing district boundary lines. According to a staff report, each district must contain a nearly equal number of cross-section residents.
The city last month started moving away from at-large elections, where candidates can be elected by everyone instead of by residents within particular districts, in response to the threat of a discrimination-tinged lawsuit.
City Attorney Bill McClure urged the council to change the voting system because a lawsuit could cost millions of dollars and no public agency has prevailed in cases involving alleged Voting Rights Act violations. The council on Oct. 4 authorized a contract with National Demographics Corp. to assist with the transition and appropriated $75,000 from budget reserves to cover the cost.
Currently, four of the five council members live between downtown and Sharon Heights and one lives in The Willows. Depending on how voting boundaries eventually are drawn, one or more incumbents could end up competing against each other for the same district in future elections.
On Aug. 21, the city received a letter from Kevin I. Shenkman, an attorney with Malibu-based law firm Shenkman & Hughes, stating that it is violating the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. Shenkman threatened to sue unless the current voting system is changed to one that better represents Latino and African-American residents, who predominantly live in the Belle Haven neighborhood. He …read more
Source:: The Mercury News