Editorial: Discussion On Voter Representation Must Include The Voters

The City of Irvine should agendize a public discussion to consider district elections for future city council seats as soon as possible. The residents deserve a public hearing on this critical issue.

The District Election demand initiated by (voting rights attorney) Kevin Shenkman has thrust the issue of voter representation to the forefront here in Irvine. While our city may be sufficiently integrated in a way that does not violate the California Voting Rights Act — the argument behind the lawsuit — this situation nevertheless provides Irvine with a pivotal opportunity to examine the pros and cons on improving representation by creating districts, or districts in combination with others means (ie: expanding the council, adding at-large seats, ranked choice voting).

In the six months this current City Council has been in office, the following district-specific matters have arisen and have been denied a public hearing:

  1. North Irvine: Public health concerns due to emissions from All American Asphalt.
  2. Great Park Neighborhoods: The formation of a Great Park Residents Advisory Committee so their “special” taxation comes with representation.
  3. Great Park Neighborhoods: The long-debated veterans cemetery location.

If Irvine were to have district representation, each City Councilmember would have the responsibility to advocate for the interests of their district and residents would better be able to assess how well their concerns are being represented.

Adopting measures to improve voter representation would help resolve Shenkman’s demand amicably. The alternative is to spend millions of city funds in a fight to keep our outdated election structure with no guarantee of victory or recouping of legal fees — money that could be used to serve our community on any number of needs (ie: childcare services, senior services, affordable housing for residents and the homeless, public works projects in non-HOA villages).

District representation is a complex topic. Residents may have a variety of viewpoints, all of which deserve to be heard. It would be undemocratic not to include voters in a discussion on voter representation.