Elk Grove Mayor, Council Member Take Opposing Stances on Switching to 'By' District Elections

December 11, 2015 |

Davis broaches City Council taboo, addresses campaign financing reform

At Wednesday night's Elk Grove City Council meeting, Mayor Gary Davis and Council Member Steve Detrick staked out opposing positions on the question if city council members be elected on a "by district basis.

The matter was placed on the agenda at the request of Council Member Pat Hume following two controversial appointments to fill vacancies on the Elk Grove City Council. The city council decided in 2013 and last year to appoint former council member Bob Trigg and current member Darren Suen respectively to two-year terms rather than conduct a special election.

In both cases, the council decided to appoint citing the estimated cost of up to $500,000 to hold a citywide election. Since council members from each district are elected by the entire city, referred to as a "from" district basis, the thought was that holding a citywide election for one position was too expensive.

In the aftermath of those controversies, Hume asked to examine switching council elections to a "by" district basis as a means of lowering costs if special elections are held in the future. In a by district basis, council members are elected by voters in a particular district, and not on a citywide basis.
Detrick defends Elk Grove from district elections
Elk Grove City Council Member defend status quo of 
from district election in Elk Grove. 

During his Wednesday night presentation, Elk Grove City Clerk Jason Lindgren said if the council wanted to place the matter on the ballot, it could be done in either the June 2016 primary or the November 2016 general election. Lindgren also noted pending legislation in the State Assembly that could pass and compel Elk Grove to switch to a by district basis, thus eliminating the need to place the matter before Elk Grove voters.

During public testimony Elk Grove resident and past Mayoral candidate Lynn Wheat urged the council to switch to a by district basis. As a 2012 candidate, Wheat earned over 6,000 votes with switching to a by district basis as one of her campaign issues. 

"This is an opportunity for you to be pro-active, " Wheat said. "This is an opportunity for all you men to do the right thing."

Responding to Wheat was Detrick who told her that she was wrong about popular support for switching to a by district basis. 

"You know Lynn, I am going to have to disagree with you on that," Detrick said. "There's no facts that majority of people want it that way."

While Detrick went on to defend the status quo, he offered no facts or studies citing that from district elections are supported by the majority of voters. 

Council Member Pat Hume said he was torn on what the best how the council member should be elected, but noted that face-to-face contact was still the most important means of campaigning. 

"The gold standard for campaigning is shoe leather," Hume said. 

Civil rights groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), which is sponsoring the legislation in the California Assembly referenced by Lindgren, have sued California governmental entities arguing to adopt by district representation.  MALDEF, which argues that from district elections effectively harms historically under-represented groups, recently filed suit against the Fallbrook Public Utility District seeking to drop from district representation.   

In his comments, Davis took aim at Detrick saying by-district elections would open opportunities for candidates with fewer financial resources to run grass-roots campaigns. Noting there are over 80,000 residences in Elk Grove, Davis said reaching all those voters on a face-to-face basis in a by district basis makes the task more attainable. 

"You can't talk to everybody, however if you divide it by four, then all of a sudden you only have to reach a quarter of the city," he said. "It's much more possible."

Davis went on to say that "he thinks it encourages more grassroots campaigning" and that it would lead to "more equitable tactics for winning elections."

In the end, the council deferred any decision while the matter works its way through the state legislative process.  

Additionally, Davis broached a topic council members have been loath to discuss - campaign financing reforms. Davis went on to say that at some point in time, he would like the city council to consider placing campaign finance limits.

"We should talk about contribution limits," Davis said. "My hope is we can get there." 



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Ice rink said...

Let's press the 'reset' button and put in term limits!

Warren Buffett said...

It's easy for Davis to take the position of supporting By-District elections now, because the Mayor is subject to city-wide at-large elections anyway. If the shoe was on the other foot and he was just a council member, he'd be singing a different tune. It's also easy for Davis to support campaign spending limits now, because his coffee business can generate pass-thru funds that can be loaned to his campaign. Prior to his coffee bonanza, he never supported spending limits.

It was unprofessional the way Detrick ripped into a member of the public on this subject at the last meeting. I felt like I was watching a Mr. Magoo cartoon. Just because you disagree with someone doesn't mean the other person's opinion is wrong and you are right. Opinions are like ***holes, everybody has one.

The Feeble Thinker Among Us said...

I got the sense three of the councilman, and the Mayor, would represent the entire city even if we went to a by district system. The only odd one out was Detrick. His argument that the representation of a by district system would mirror what we had with the county of Sacramento doesn’t hold water. It is the feeble argument people like Detrick use because they can’t come up with any other.

Anonymous said...

To The Feeble Thinker Among Us. . . there sure is. I agree with your comment. However, I must correct you. Steve “The Mentor” Detrick did come up with one other argument. Did anyone catch Detrick’s other reason for being against a by district voting system. . . .vote swapping also known as vote trading. What Detrick inferred the Council might then engage in is against the law.

Apparently Detrick missed that question on the required ethics course all elected officials are required to take, including a test. Did he flunk it?

According to “Western City,” a publication of The League of CA Cities, “vote Trading is a felony.”


Yep, “Team Detrick” is sure backing the ethical one and it appears one who has predicted, on the record, the future actions of the Elk Grove City Council if Elk Grove voters pass by districts.

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