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.
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.
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.