UPDATE: Santa Barbara moves forward with plan to place district elections on 2015 ballot

Oct 27, 2014

Santa Barbara City Hall
Credit Flickr member Scazon

UPDATE: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 6:40 p.m.

The Santa Barbara City Council is moving forward with plans to put the issue of district elections before the voters in November 2015.

Members agreed during Tuesday night's meeting to direct staff to work on the issue. The city is currently facing a lawsuit demanding district elections be implemented.

Mayor Pro Tempore Cathy Murillo voted for the resolution to move forward and had a lot to say to those who brought the lawsuit prior to registering her vote. 

"How did I get elected, I'm a Mexican-American and I got elected in an at-large system?" said Murrillo. "So, maybe that punches a little hole in what you're saying." She asked the group to "bring it down a notch" with their rhetoric.

Murillo says she sees the pros and cons of both district and at-large elections, but believes that is only part of the equation. She admitted she wants to see more women and more people of color on the council.

She said the voters should be able to choose whether district elections are best for the city.

Those who filed the lawsuit say voting rights should not be decided in that manner and say the city will be forced into accepting district elections should the issue fail at the ballot box.

Original Story

The Santa Barbara City Council will consider Tuesday a possible method for instituting district elections.

City Attorney Ariel Calonne is recommending the council members adopt the resolution, which would put the issue before voters in November 2015.

This past summer the city was sued by a group of people, three of whom ran for city council in the past and lost and believe the current at-large voting method is to blame.

Attorney Barry Cappello represents the plaintiffs. He says the resolution before the council Tuesday is flawed on several levels. 

"What the City Council is doing does not follow the law, in fact skirts the law," said Cappello. "Racial polarized voting is going on and has been going on in the city for a decade, and it needs to be corrected, and corrected now."

Cappello says he plans to attend the meeting and will argue that the issue is one of civil rights, so it should not be put up for a vote.

City Attorney Calonne however says Santa Barbara's charter and the State of California's constitution require that any effort to change the charter by instituting district elections must be approved by the city's voters.

A hybrid form of district elections was originally considered by the council, but Tuesday's resolution calls for creating six separate districts, with only the mayor elected at-large.