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Measure S Asks El Cajon Voters To Change How They Elect Council Members

Main Street in El Cajon is seen, Sept. 29, 2016.
Associated Press
Main Street in El Cajon is seen, Sept. 29, 2016.

Measure S Asks El Cajon Voters To Change How They Elect Council Members
Measure S Asks El Cajon Voters To Change How They Elect Council Members GUEST: William "Bill" Wells, mayor, city of El Cajon

The city of El Cajon denies response to the claims filed in connection with the fatal police shooting of Alfred Olango. In speaking with the Mayor Bill wells about ballot measure As we asked how a change in the way city leaders are elected might impact race relations in El Cajon. Measure S would replace large voting with district elections were only voters managed district would pick their council members. Here is that interview. Joining me is Mayor Bill wells of the city of El Cajon. Welcome. Hello. You and all the city Council members support measure S. Why? This is not really an idea we had on our own. The state legislature had been pushing toward moving that direction. There was a loss that all cities had to do this. At the time of the senses when we are being counted we were below the threshold. We technically could have gotten away without doing this. We felt it was the desire of the legislature. We didn't see any reason to avoid that. Does that mean you do support it or just going along because you think you have to? I think there is a bit of both. We're not opposed to something better for people. We have not seen much of a problem in our city. I won't argue with the preponderance of the elected officials in California. This is what California wants to go. To think that switching to district elections will lead to a more diverse city Council? It might. I don't think El Cajon has been not to verse. Right now there are four white men and one woman originally from Iraq on the El Cajon city Council. That doesn't seem to be any organized opposition to Measure S. One of the benefits is that council members know they will be accountable to all voters not just those in their district.To think that possibly Measure S will make the members less interested in what is good for the city as a whole? That might be true a larger cities like San Diego or San Francisco. I don't think that's true in a city the size of El Cajon. We have a sense of duty to the entire city. If approved, how will district elections be introduced? There will be a process. Maps will be drawn up and approved. It will be geographically apportioned so that if there are two council members in one district, one will have to be off the city Council. The way the law is written, we are allowed to let people finish out their terms. When will the first district elections be held if approved? 2018. I am the mayor. I will continue to be elected at large for the entire city. Yes. Elk Grove City Council Police Department.You were still dealing with the public outrage sparked by the shooting of Alfred Olango. My question in regard to measure S is if district elections lead to a more diverse Council do you think it will ease tensions that exist? I really would disagree with the premise of the question. We have not had a lot of ethic racial problems in El Cajon. I think the fact that we had peaceful protests and no breaking of class more violence or fires demonstrates that. Is a status quo or is the city doing any outreach to ease some of -- I hesitate to call them tensions -- but to ease the tensions. I don't think anybody can go through what we went through and not reevaluate every aspect of how we do business. We are in touch with the police and city employees as to better ways we can interact with the public to make them feel more comfortable. To think a more diverse Council maybe would have voted for a civilian review board on police conduct that the same kind of review board recommended by the San Diego County grand jury? I can't speculate on that. I don't think that was the issue. I don't think the issue felt along racial grounds. Mayor wells, to see any challenges with district elections in a smaller city like El Cajon? I don't know if I will call it challenges as much as it will be different. The way elections happen now is people run for office and have as much water contact as they can. In a city this size, it is difficult to raise as much money to get deeply involved with voter contacts. And a small district, people get a lot of mail and knocks on their doors at election time. El Cajon City Attorney wrote that Measure S was put on the ballot to comply with state law. If El Cajon voters don't approve Measure S, can the city be forced to switch to district elections? I don't think it's even a question. I assume we will immediately be sued by the SL you -- SLU. We don't want to waste taxpayer money by spending 2 or $3 million by opposing something. Every city of California has opposed this has been forced by the courts to adopt it and has paid exorbitant fees in the process. Usually well over $1 million sometimes up to $5 million. Sounds like you are hoping for public approval of something that will happen anyway. Exactly right. I have been speaking with Mayor Bill Wells of the city of El Cajon.

El Cajon voters are being asked to change the way they elect city council members on the November ballot.

Measure S is asking voters if they want to change from at-large elections, where everyone votes on every council seat in the city, to district elections, where voters in a region of the city would vote on a council member to represent them.

It is a switch that has been made by a growing number of cities in recent years, including Escondido and Chula Vista. Cities are making the change because under the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 cities can be sued if at-large elections decrease the strength of minority voters.

"Every city in California that has opposed this has been forced by the courts to adopt this and has had to pay exorbitant fees in the process, usually well over a million dollars, sometimes up to five," said El Cajon Mayor William "Bill" Wells. 

We speak to Wells about Measure S on Midday Edition Thursday.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.