With an ever expanding population, is it time to enlarge the Elk Grove City Council?

As 2021 winds down, the big political story in California following the failed gubernatorial recall is the decennial redistricting process f...

As 2021 winds down, the big political story in California following the failed gubernatorial recall is the decennial redistricting process for our U.S. Congressional delegation, the Board of Equalization, the State Senate, and the Assembly. Additionally, counties and municipalities are either starting or will start their processes early next year.

For Elk Grove, the process will start next year. Even though there was a recent effort to "Darrenmander" the four city council districts when the city converted to by-district for 2020 elections (see video below), the most drastic change during the 2012 process was eliminating one of five districts to accommodate for a directly elected mayor. 

Although there was a period of slow growth following the housing market collapse and the Great Recession, Elk Grove's history has been one of expanding boundaries and population. Currently, Elk Grove has a population of about 180,000, up from 153,000 from the last census.

Given there is vast undeveloped land primarily in District 4 and the city is likely to expand boundaries over the next 10 years, there is a question worth pondering during the redistricting process - should Elk Grove expand from four city council members and a mayor to six city council members?

Although estimates vary, one source estimates Elk Grove will have 200,000 residents by 2029. Given the demand for housing and the exodus from the Bay Area, the city ought to easily reach this number, if not more, by the end of the decade.

An informal survey of similar-sized California communities shows different sized city councils. In Southern California, Oxnard, which has just over 200,000 people, has a seven-member council, while Glendale, population 196,000 a fully built out community, has a five-member body with a rotating mayor.

Closer to home, Modesto's population of 218,000 has a seven-member council that includes a directly elected mayor.  Santa Rosa, with 178,000 residents, has a seven-member city council that has a rotating mayor. 

Even though politicians are loath to make changes to governance that might diminish their power or chances of reelection, as we saw during Elk Grove's by-district conversion process, an expanded city council will be beneficial, especially to constituents. 

With Elk Grove's population expanding to 200,000, enlarging the city council to six members and the mayor would give each representative about 33,000 constituents versus 50,000. It is always better for constituents, and even council members, as representatives have no excuse not to be responsive with a smaller group. 

While it is unlikely Elk Grove City Council members will support this - some might support a more expensive full-time city council and mayor, now is the time to start discussing lowering the representative to constituents ratios by enlarging the city council.     

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Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

Beyond expanding the number of districts, you cannot help but wonder about Ms. Singh-Allen's intentions with the mayoral position given her use of social media promoting herself. If a bet could be placed at Sky River, my wager would be if she wins reelection, she'll seek to justify the mayor's seat on the city council as a full-time position.

We saw former mayors Davis and Ly take a stab at it, but they lacked a subservient council. Ms. Singh-Allen seemingly has control over Mr. Spease and Mr. Suen in particular, which gives her three votes. If she can help someone get elected to the District 2 seat being vacated by Mr. Hume, that will be the extra cushion if one of them flips.

Mr. Rod Brewer, running for District 2 next year, should be looking over my back because history has demonstrated that Ms. Singh-Allen's loyalties are fleeting. If she can find someone more likely to win and who will be an ally, even long enough to vote for a full-time mayor, she'll drop Mr. Brewer like a bad habit. .

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