La Cañada Flintridge City Council on Tuesday evening voted on a plan to consolidate future municipal elections with statewide elections, pushing back the next election to March 2020, a year longer beyond the currently slated election of March 2019.
The resolution is in response to a state mandate, Senate Bill 415, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015, which aims to increase voter turnout rates for city elections that tend to be lower when they are not held concurrently with statewide elections. The bill also is meant to cut down on municipal costs that a local election entails.
The decision effectively extends by 12 months the terms of Mayor Michael Davitt and Councilmembers Leonard Pieroni, Terry Walker and Gregory Brown.
Councilmembers considered several alternatives to adopt a resolution in compliance with the new law. One was to move elections back by four months, to November of even-numbered years during statewide elections. That alternative would have shortened some of the councilmembers’ terms by four months.
That option was rejected after councilmembers cited concern of “ballot-crowding,” fearing voters would be overwhelmed by measures on the ballot and either skip over local proposals or fail to pay proper attention.
Walker also pointed out that with LCF’s active voters, the city doesn’t need to depend on state issues to get voters to the polls.
“They come out for the issues that are important to them … the involved people don’t need a national election to get them to the polls,” she said.
Another issue of concern, Brown noted, was turning city ballot measures into partisan hot-button issues. He referred to LCF’s “historically nonpartisan” elections as a point of pride, noting that community members have voted on merits, instead of polarizing issues under political contingents. Separate elections will bring greater clarity, understanding and focus to local campaigns and issues, he said.
“I feel it will be better and give city issues more exposure,” he added.
As far as the fiscal impact, the council said it expects the new election date to cost “somewhat less” than what the city has paid in the past with standalone elections, but that also will depend on the number of agencies consolidating with the county, the number of candidates, the ballot measures and polling sites. Councilmembers also suggested it might be able to join a voting date with the La Cañada Unified School District, which will also have to comply with the new state law.
SOBER LIVING FACILITIES
The city authorized $900 for travel expenses for Davitt to attend a federal advocacy meeting on sober living homes in Washington, D.C. The trip has been organized by the Association of California Cities Orange County, in partnership with Senate Minority Leader Patricia Bates, and comes on the “heels of massive sober living home and facility proliferation felt throughout the state of California and many other regions across the nation,” the ACC-OC stated.
A bipartisan group of California leaders has gathered to address the need for reform on the issue, based on the geographical areas most heavily affected by sober living residences.
LCF is no stranger to the sober living facility debate. The recent discovery of a sober living facility in a residential neighborhood caused concern with neighbors.
According to the ACC-OC, the increase in sober living homes is due in part to the federal Fair Housing Act, Americans With Disabilities Act and the recent changes to the Affordable Care Act.
“Any true reforms related to helping states, local communities and patients must be derived at the federal level,” it stated.
The City Council tightened an ordinance forbidding all commercial sales, distribution and activities related to marijuana in all zones throughout LCF, whether they’re for medical or recreational purposes. The cultivation of as many as six marijuana plants for personal use indoors at a private residence will be legal, per state law, but subject to vigilance and approval by the city.