It’s the System, Stupid …

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So we have three council seats open for 2012 and in each of the three districts we have one candidate.

In other words, no contest. All three win by acclamation.

Two of them, Ed Selich and Keith Curry, are incumbents. The third is an open seat (Councilmember Steve Rosansky is termed out) and a newcomer, Tony Petros, is also unchallenged.

By the way, congratulations to all three.

Some will say that the incumbents are doing a good job. Which, by many people’s perspective, they are.

I think that it is more of an “access” issue.

I can’t believe that everyone in this city agrees with the current council. No one differs enough to challenge? Really?

I think that this lack of a challenge is more of a comment on the system than the candidates.

Let’s look at what it takes to run in Newport. We will use the open seat from 2010.

Rush Hill and Ed Reno went after each other with a vengeance. Both were well financed. Both raised and spent more than $100,000 dollars. Not exactly chicken feed, even by the CdM 6 standards. So Reno spent that and lost. At least Hill spent that and won. I would hate to go home without the prize after spending so much.

Newport (62,000 registered voters) isn’t that big of a city compared to Anaheim (146,000), Irvine (113,000) or Santa Ana (109,000), yet the average council candidate spends approximately $100K.  The cost keeps out minority political opinions, and the average man or woman.

You have read about how Anaheim is being hammered by residents because they feel as though they are disenfranchised. It seems as though all five councilmember’s there come from the east side of town, and the allegedly disenfranchised are from the west side.

In Anaheim, the disenfranchised are also addressing it as a racial issue. Activists are accusing the Anaheim council of designing the elections to prevent minority representation on the council.

The council wisely decided to study the different options for council elections, rather than ditch 100-plus years of successful electoral history to respond to a few activists. Any changes can be in place for the 2014 elections, should the citizens vote to amend their City Charter.

What other options are there out there? One of those options is the system that Newport Beach has. Newport Beach, along with Santa Ana, have council districts. In both cities, you must be from the district in order to run for that district’s seat, but you must win a plurality of votes from the entire city in order to be elected.

This “Newport” system has its merits. You will get representatives from that district, who live in the neighborhood, representing you on the city council. But, since they must get elected from the entire city, they aren’t as “parochial.”  In other words you don’t have the various councilmen fighting for money for “their” district at the other’s expense.  The council tends to act for the betterment of the city at large, rather than only their individual districts.

The bad part about the “Newport” system is that you can lose your district, but win citywide, as happened to Steve Rosansky in 2008. Rosansky received 48.6% of the vote from his district, but 55.4% of the citywide vote and won easily.

The other bad part is that running citywide runs up the cost of the campaigns. If you were to be elected from your district only in Newport, you would only have 7,800 to 9,500 registered voters in your district. You could knock on every voter’s door with that size district. It could negate the money advantage of some candidates. You could run a real “Xerox and Reeboks” campaign.

Minority political candidates, such as those against the rehab homes or the dock fee increases, would also have a chance, because they could marshal their support into a smaller area. You could actually campaign on ideas instead of sound bites or slogans.

Another advantage to election by distict would be that you could have a “primary system” similar to the county’s – you would run in June, and if no one got 50%+1 of the votes, then you would have a runoff in November.  That way, someone who might not be the majority’s choice – because two people of a similar persuasion split the vote and the third, minority choice won a plurality – would have to face a run off.

Going to this system would give all viewpoints equal access to the system, make campaigns more affordable to the little guy, and allow campaigning on ideas.  But you also will tend to get infighting or competition for tax dollars between districts.

Now this would be a charter amendment worth debating.

Any comments please feel free to contact me at [email protected].

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  1. Putting one’s ‘two cents’ in appears to have escalated to at least 100 grand. Now THAT’S what I call inflation. I believe the old adage still stands that one gets as good a government as one can afford. In other words, our politicians are about the best money can buy. How many ways can it be stated?

    It should cost approximately NOTHING to run. People should invest in the political process, not the politician. And one’s fortune and whatever resources one is willing to invest should not and indeed CANNOT be the almost single criteria for election. Advertising should be equally distributed. But wait a minute…isn’t that communism or socialism?

    If only things weren’t so complicated and might be why communism sounds a little attractive, but then what do we do for motivation? Power, robbing and stealing kick in again at this point. Take Putin for example. Please.

  2. Lets face it the average working man who knows how hard it is to make a buck doesnt have a chance, how can he compete. I’d love to run for a seat on the Anaheim council BUT I don’t have the big $$$$ thats needed to compete. I have lived in Anaheim for over 25 years and have seen this happens time and time again $$$ wins and the west side get screwed. When was the last time our city board has even drove around the city. Lets make thier paychecks direclty based on what they save not what they spend. Hey city council it’s our money get your hands out of our pockets and dig into your own for a change… It used to be an honor to serve now its a business for you all. We need to fix what we have first then think about tomorrows projects. Clean up our own backyard first the city of Anaheim cannot afford to keep loosing business and job. We cannot keep trying to food the residences of Anaheim that things are great there not get out and walk a neighbor hood on the east side or downtown. We are slowly becoming an outdated and un-loved city. Our city is becoming an eyesore no one has pride any more and why shoud they every improvment you do you taxed us. The city “faters” need to take care of business at home FIRST….