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Who Would Represent Altadena if PUSD Districting Plan Passes?

The task force working on a plan to move PUSD to electoral districts has to decide on a couple of issues that would greatly affect incumbent PUSD board members' ability to run for a future district seat.

At a Saturday meeting of the task force that is drawing up a plan to move Pasadena Unified School District to electoral sub-districts, the group dealt with a delicate issue: how to schedule future elections in a way that would allow current board members to have a chance to run for a seat in the future.

The plan that is being discussed by the PUSD Districting Task Force would change the current system where each PUSD board member represents all of the voters in the district, and split the area into seven sub-districts, each represented by its own board member.

If the plan were passed it would cause two kinds of problems for current board members: first, in some cases more than one board member would live in the same district, making it necessary for them to run against each other if both wanted to continue serving on the board.

The second problem, more complex, is about which districts would be on the ballot in 2013 and which would be on the ballot in 2015.

With the current 'consensus map' that was unveiled on Saturday (displayed on right), the current seven incumbents would be grouped into four districts, leaving three districts in which the candidates would have to run against each other if both of them wanted to continue to serve on the board.  

One board member, Scott Phelps, would be in a district with no other incumbents, and three districts do not have a current board member living in their boundaries.

 

Altadena's Seats 

In Altadena's two districts in the plan, board members Ramon Miramontes and Kim Kenne both live in the West Altadena district.  No incumbent board member lives in the East Altadena district.

On Saturday, the board discussed whether or not it would be acceptable to change the plan to put board members within the boundaries of some of the districts that currently don't have a board member in them.  That would reduce the need for them to run against each other.  

The task force did not make any decision on those issues on Saturday, but several task force members expressed discomfort with the idea that they would change the boundaries around to favor incumbent board members.

"We made a fundamental decision to not do that," said Ken Chawkins, the task force chair. "To do it in such a way that would turn upside or materially change the maps does not make sense to me."

The West Altadena District Situation

But even if the task force does not make any changes to the map like the ones described above, it still faces a question that could strongly impact who would be the next representative in the West Altadena district.

The two incumbents who live in that district, Miramontes and Kenne, have their terms expire in different years, Miramontes in 2013, and Kenne in 2015.

As part of the districting process, the task force must decide which seats will go on the ballot in 2013 and which will go on the ballot in 2015.

If the board were to choose to put that seat on the 2015 ballot, Miramontes would have no seat that he would be eligible to run for in 2013, and would have to take a two-year hiatus before possibly running for the seat in 2015.

If it was on the 2013 ballot, Kenne would have to choose between resigning her current seat and running in 2013, or serving out her term until 2015 and not having a seat to run in until 2017.  

Kenne, who attended Saturday's meeting, came up and addressed the task force.  She told them she would favor the seat going up on the 2013 ballot to at least give both her and Miramontes a chance to consider a run.

That particular seat is the only one where the task force would face such a dilemma: in the other cases where two board members live in the same district, their terms expire in the same year.   

Next Steps

The task force decided Saturday it would form a sub-committee to examine whether any changes to boundaries should be made to the plan on account of incumbent board members, and to resolve how to handle the West Altadena district issue.

The group's consultant, redistricting expert Doug Johnson, told them quote frankly on Saturday that most often task forces charged with districting will structure the plan in a way that meets the approval of incumbent board members, since they are the ones who vote on the plan.

Johnson did note that in one instance he knew of, a districting task force actually used a random lottery system to determine when seats would come up on the ballot as a way to not favor one incumbent over another.

The task force will meets again y.

As , the current map plan being discussed is likely to become the one recommended to the PUSD Board for passage, though task force members said that could change depending on what public input the map receives.

If the board were to pass the plan, it would be put on the June ballot for voters to approve.

Editor's note: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that an incumbent PUSD board member could have her current term shortened from four years to two years if the districting plan were to pass.  The information has been corrected in the story.

navigio March 06, 2012 at 07:15 PM
What if there were an election and no one ran? I'd much rather have board members who want to be there than someone who ends up there simply because they didnt want to be there the least.. its a tough job and one that really should be nearly full-time. Assuming there is no danger of that happening, I dont think its valid to modify the district boundaries to appease current board members. One of the points of this effort is a different kind of representation and that should be a recognized (and acceptable?) outcome. imho anyway..
Dan Abendschein (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Navigio, I agree. On principle, the map should not be changed to favor incumbents. I think the more difficult issue is resolving the West Altadena district - here the task force really must make a decision that favors one candidate or another, and there isn't a clear neutral position that is good for the community as a whole. My best solution to this issue would be to let people from outside a district run in another one. If voters in one district think the best candidate comes from a neighborhood that is a few blocks outside their district, why not let them decide whether or not to vote for that person? That way, any incumbent who would rather not face off against another has the choice of trying to appeal to voters in a district that does not have an incumbent in it. In Altadena's case, this would make some sense as well: Altadena voters in the East District, which includes substantial number of Pasadena residents, might prefer a candidate from Altadena, even one who lived outside the district, over a Pasadena resident from within the district.
Richard March 06, 2012 at 08:36 PM
"If it was on the 2013 ballot, Kenne's term as a board member would be shortened from four years to two." Correction: if no other changes are made and that district is put up in 2013, then Kim Kenne's term would *not* be shortened. She currently holds an at-large elected seat which term would not expire until 2015. She would not be required to run for the West Altadena seat in 2013, although she could conceivably choose to do so. If she won, then she would logically have to resign the at-large seat she currently holds, which, as I said, would not expire until 2015.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Ah yes, looking back at my notes that is how I understood it at the time, and I must have since become mixed up. Thanks Richard, I'll correct that above.
Richard March 06, 2012 at 08:43 PM
The requirement that candidates live within the boundaries of the geographic area they seek to represent is one that got a lot of discussion within the task force last summer and fall when the charter language was being drafted. It's also one of the ones that's pretty much set by Federal and State mandates and legal precedent. All of the tricks that are needed to allow it pretty much look exactly like that, tricks, and make the whole shebang vulnerable to viable legal challenges.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 08:45 PM
I thought that might be the case Richard... but it is too bad, because I think that would be an ideal solution.
Richard March 06, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Like a lot of things I've played with in my head and out-loud in this process, Dan, it's both an ideal solution to some problems, and a door-opening to a whole host of other problems. Very nice correction, btw. Well put.
pusddad March 06, 2012 at 09:51 PM
I agree Dan. The UK does it that way.
navigio March 06, 2012 at 10:20 PM
If the election were in 13 and Kenne decided not to run but maintain her current at-large seat, would that mean there would be 8 board members for 2 years? If thats acceptable, why not make the term for the 2013 elected position a 2-year one, then have the election for that district in 2015 again?
Dan Abendschein (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 10:26 PM
@navigio - No. You have four seats up for grabs in 2013 and three up for grabs in 2015 in the present system. To make the board stay at seven seats you have to put four of the new districts up in 2013 and three in 2015. The reason the task force can decide whether to put the West Altadena seat on the ballot in 2013 or 2015 is that they have other districts they can choose to move between 2013 and 2015. Specifically, for the ones that have no incumbent, it does not particularly matter whether they are on the ballot in 2013 or 2015. The period between 2013 and 2015 is messy no matter how you cut it, because either three or four seats will still be at-large, and either three or four geographic districts will be represented by their own board member. But either way the task force does it, they will keep seven seats on the board through the whole period.
navigio March 06, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Thanks Dan, makes sense. I think having a 2-year term in that district might still be useful. So how about this? 1. Have a 2013 election in Kenne/Miramontes district, dont allow Kenne to run, rather maintain her existing at large seat. Make that term 2-year. 'Assign' (I use that term loosely) Kenne to one of the currently 'empty' districts until 2015, at which point she would have to duke it out with Ramon. :-) 2. 'Assign' one of Cooper/Selinske to another of the 'empty' districts. 3. Have a 2013 election in the remaining 'empty' district. 4. Have elections in both of the 2013-expiring districts (Phelps in one, Honowitz/Pommeroy in the other--would reduce from 3 to 2). I assume this is required regardless? That would be 4 total elections in 2013. Then, in 2015: 1. normal-term election for the Kenne/Miramontes district. 2. election in the 'empty' district that Kenne was 'assigned' to 3. election in the 'empty' district that Cooper/Honowitz was 'assigned' to. 4. election in the Cooper/Honowitz district. Again, 4 total elections in 2015. An alternative, albeit slightly less fair to Miramontes (he'd be out for 2 years), would be to forgo the 2-year term election in 2013 in Kenne/Miramontes district and instead have that election in the 'empty' district Kenne would have been 'assigned' to. That would reduce the number of elections required in 2015 from 4 to 3. Sorry, too much coffee today..
Ericka March 07, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Is there a better/larger map? I can't really see the lines very well for the Altadena districts.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) March 07, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Ericka, I added a pdf version to this article which allows you to zoom in. That may help. You could also go to the PUSD website for a hosted version which seems to be a little easier to view at a larger scale: http://districting-task-force.pasadenausd.org/modules/locker/files/get_group_file.phtml?gid=2425931&fid=15823979&sessionid=e9b7d40221a979c8f012915ea758cdf5
Ericka March 07, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Oh, thank you so much for posting so quickly! I wanted to know in which district we would live. Looks like we're in A.
Richard March 07, 2012 at 04:55 PM
It's simpler and has more precedent to just have the at-large seats that are up in 2013 become sub-district seats, leaving the 2015 at-large seats as at-large. So there's two years where the board is a mix of at-large and sub-district seats, yes, but it avoids basically invalidating the "will of the voters" by invalidating or playing merry havoc with the seats that were elected in 2011.
navigio March 07, 2012 at 05:29 PM
yes, thats what I meant. All elections from here on out (and all those I mentioned above) would be for sub-district seats. The term 'assign' was used loosely to point out that those remaining at-large board members could be associated with some sub-districts in the interim, since there will be at least 3 districts without a sub-district election until 2015. This would be a way to not invalidate the at-large 2011 elections while getting the most sub-district representation as quickly as possible. So in the first group above, 1, 3 and 4 are all sub-district elections (4 of them). Obviously all the ones in the latter group as well.
Richard March 08, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Ahhh, I get ya now. The way you wound up with four elections in 2013 and four again in 2015 was throwing me.

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