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Testimony I plan to give Wednesday

From: domainremoved <Steve>
Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2017 22:59:52 -0700

Dear Mayor Keith and Council Members Ohtaki, Mueller, Carlton, and Cline:

I plan to give the following testimony at your special meeting on
Wednesday, but I wanted each of you to have it in advance so you each
have time to think about it before your discussion on Wednesday. This
also gives each of you time to ask me any questions that may come up as
you consider my proposal. (I am familiar with the Brown Act and
understand that, should any of you email me any questions, I should
respond just to that person and not copy the others so as to avoid even
the appearance of a Brown Act violation.)

Mayor Keith and City Council Members:

My name is Steve Chessin. I'm President of Californians for Electoral
Reform and a nationally-recognized expert on electoral systems. I helped
educate the City of Santa Clara Charter Review Committee on their
options in the face of their City's CVRA lawsuit. They have converged on
a proportional system using multi-member districts. I will be speaking
at a forum on such alternatives this Saturday at 2pm at the Onetta
Harris Community Center.

I note that Kevin Shenkman's letter, the letter that prompted this
special City Council meeting, does not demand that Menlo Park go to
district elections. Mr. Shenkman asks for a discussion. Given that he
proposed a cumulative voting remedy to the lawsuit he brought against
the City of Santa Clarita, he seems open to options other than
single-member districts and other than plurality voting.

Of course, Menlo Park wants to avoid an expensive lawsuit, and passing
the resolution of intent Wednesday night does put you on a 90-day path
to adopt district elections using plurality voting that avoids a lawsuit
and limits your liability to $30,000. While I do note that plurality
elections can suffer from vote-splitting, where the person elected in a
district is the one least preferred by a majority of the voters in that
district, I am not asking you to not pass that resolution.

What I am asking you to do is that, in addition to passing the
resolution, and in parallel to the process of preparing an ordinance for
district elections, that you open a dialogue with Mr. Shenkman. See if
he is open to negotiating an agreement that (a) limits your liability to
$30,000, (b) gives you more time to explore your options, (c) allows you
to prepare a two-article charter for the June 2018 ballot that contains
a mutually-agreed-upon solution, should you find one that is better than
single-member districts using plurality voting, and (d) should the
charter proposal fail at the June 2018 election, still gives you time to
then adopt an ordinance for district elections. (Charters that further
voting rights can be voted on in June elections.)

There is no need to rush this. You won't be electing councilmembers
until November 2018 anyway. That's more than a year away. Reach out to
Mr. Shenkman to see if he's willing to give you more time to develop the
best solution for the City of Menlo Park, one that doesn't suffer from

Both my organization and Fairvote are happy to be resources for you, at
no cost to the City.

Thank you for considering my proposal.

--Steve Chessin
President, Californians for Electoral Reform
1426 Lloyd Way, Mountain View, CA 94040
(408)-276-3222(w), (650)-962-8412(h)
Received on Mon Oct 02 2017 - 23:05:10 PDT

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