Vote coming on new districts for City Council elections - The Desert Trail: News

Vote coming on new districts for City Council elections

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Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2018 10:28 am | Updated: 10:45 am, Fri Jan 26, 2018.

TWENTYNINE PALMS — With the fifth and final public hearing on drawing new districts behind them, city leaders will vote on a map dividing the city for council elections next month.

The council held its final public hearing on the changes from at-large to district elections Tuesday, Jan. 23, when members whittled down four potential maps to two. The maps are identified by color; green, orange, purple and maroon. Each map divides the city and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center into five districts of around 5,000 people each. Each proposed district includes part of the base and part of the city.

“We need guidance on which maps make sense,” City Manager Frank Luckino told them. “You’ll be voting next time.”

“I did confirm with our city attorney that we can always unwind the districts,” Luckino added, noting current laws could change.

Council member John Cole and Mayor McArthur Wright favored the maroon map, while Council member Joel Klink said purple map was his top choice.

“It’s not broken up so much,” Klink said.

“It’s more put together. It’s simpler. I suspect that any one we pick is going to be confusing,” Cole said.

Council member Steven Bilderain said he wants to also keep it as simple as possible for voters. Once elected, he said, council members will represent everyone in Twentynine Palms.

“Once you are in the seat, you’re for the city,” he said.

Wright added he feels the City Council has been forced into its current position.

“I really think this is horrible, and I don’t want to do it, but we have to do it,” Wright said.

During public comments, Jim Krushat, a Twentynine Palms resident who also sits on the city’s planning commission, was the first to speak.

“It looks like we’re going to have to go to the districts,” Krushat said with a disappointed tone.

Jim Bagley, a third-generation resident who has opposed districting since it was first brought up to the council, returned to the microphone to repeat his urges to fight districting in court.

“I am deeply disappointed,” Bagley said. “This is social engineering. I am deeply offended by all of this. I want to vote for my council members. It is part of the American process!”

Bagley, who served three terms on the City Council, said he was offended by the letter attorney Kevin Shenkman sent in September, threatening to sue the city for violations of the California Voting Rights Act unless Twentynine Palms converted to a district election system.

“I know you are in a difficult position,” Bagley said. “I would encourage you to keep up the fight!”

According to a staff report, only the city of Palmdale has fought a Voting Rights Act lawsuit in court. The city lost the trial, held an election that plaintiffs argued was illegal and ultimately was ordered to pay $4.5 million in attorney fees.

Other governments have tried to fight the conversion to district elections and been ordered to pay between $3,000 to $3 million in attorney fees in court settlements.

© 2018 Hi-Desert Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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