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District elections question goes public Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Sep 03 2011 12:00 PM

At the first of many public outreach meetings held by the city's Charter Review Commission Tuesday night, dozens of Chula Vista residents were asked whether they're in favor of changing the method used to elect city officials.

Resident Cheryl Perez said if districts were created, she'd be concerned about not being able to talk to every council member.

"Chula Vista is already so divided," she said. "I want to live in Chula Vista, not in an area."

Councilman Rudy Ramirez spoke in favor of creating districts saying it would make officials more connected to the neighborhoods they represent and allow potential council candidates with little money to compete against those with more.

"Most of the money you spend is on the mailings and they are very expensive," he said. "If you just have to raise money for a particular district, you won't have to raise as much."

Currently the city has approximately 240,000 residents who elect their representatives through an at-large election.

Jerry Thomas said that district elections would increase the access to city government for ordinary people who are living and working in their district.

"District elections are the model for local representative democracy values and action," he said.

In addition to the two options of creating districts or staying with at-large elections, a few hybrid options were given to residents, including having some candidates elected at-large while others are elected by districts.

Another resident Alan Brill said he's not convinced any kind of district is the right decision for the city.

"It seems like this thing could divide the city up in little ghettos, making government more cumbersome, and leave the community divisive," he said.

One resident said creating districts is something the city will have to do eventually. "Why wait? he said. "Chula Vista is only going to grow."

Ramirez also said from what he's seen and heard, creating districts would encourage more people to vote.

"In reality, people representing districts are more accountable to the entire district," he said.

One resident asked why an official would represent a small portion of the city rather than the entire city and maintained that it would only make it easier for politicians to get and stay elected.

Commissioner Bill Richter said the meeting provided valuable information and insight.

"We got a lot of information and it's what we're looking for as commissioners to get as much input from the community toward this issue.

"I got suggestions and ideas that I hadn't thought of and I appreciated that," he said.

City Attorney Glen Googins said districts would need to include the right mix of demographics as to not disenfranchise any minority groups.

The commission's next meeting will be Sept. 15 at 7:30 a.m. at La Bella's restaurant, 373 Third Ave. in Chula Vista.

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