By Robert Haugh
The City Council adopted a recommendation from the Charter Review Committee that Santa Clara moves from six council districts to three starting in 2022.
We have six districts now because Judge Thomas Kuhnle decided in 2018 that Santa Clara had “racially polarized” voting in the past. But his order only applies through 2020. (It’s also being appealed by the City.)
The Charter Review Committee vote wasn’t close. It was 5-2. The Council vote was close: 4-3.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor, Councilwomen Debi Davis, Teresa O’Neill and Kathy Watanabe voted in the majority.
Vice Mayor Patty Mahan opposed. She and her sister Jeanne Mahan worked closely with the plaintiffs’ attorneys who sued the City to force Santa Clara to adopt six districts. They even helped them draw a district map.
The other no votes were Councilman Raj Chahal and Councilwoman Karen Hardy. They both ran and won in 2018 in district elections created because of Kuhnle’s decision.
If voters change the charter in March 2020 by voting for three districts, Chahal and Hardy will have to run in districts twice as large as the ones they represent now.
Chahal was really passionate in his arguments on Tuesday night. He was against following the Charter Review Committee’s recommendation. Chahal wants to maintain six districts. He even wants the City Council to make the change by adopting an ordinance.
City Attorney Brian Doyle said that option wasn’t legal, but Chahal disagreed and presented his own research. Chahal is not an attorney.
City Clerk Hosam Haggag also had to correct Chahal. Haggag reminded Chahal that the City Charter is the document that governs city elections. And only the Santa Clara voters can change the Charter. No one else on the Council agreed with Chahal’s logic.
You can watch Chahal’s presentation here followed by Doyle and Haggag correcting him.
Santa Clarans will vote on March 3, 2020. We’ll decide if we want three council districts with two members each.
We’ll present arguments for and against in the coming months. We’ll try and present some objective info and facts, too.
When Santa Clarans voted on Measure A in 2018, we heard from a lot of people that it was confusing. Measure A also included ranked-choice voting. That didn’t help.
The City sent out official info to try and explain things. But the City’s communication was also confusing and not helpful. Measure A lost narrowly.
Let’s hope this time voters get better and clearer info before they vote.