For Eureka residents. I’ve always supported district elections wherever I’ve lived. It was a major fight in San Francisco for years as the Feinstein/Willie Brown machine tried to maintain a lock on what we progressives referred to as “downtown interest control.” San Francisco had passed district elections in the 1970s resulting in the election of progressives like Harvey Milk, Carol Ruth Silver, and not-so-progressive Dan White (the last Republican to be elected to office in San Francisco). When the latter killed the former and Mayor Moscone, so many people fell for the argument which read basically, “See what happens when you have district elections?” So SF did without district elections throughout the 80s. Then the ill-advised term limits were passed statewide and Willie Brown found himself out of the Assembly and running for Mayor. He thought he had a lock with a majority.
And then something remarkable happened. Supervisor Mabel Teng, who had been a Maoist a couple of decades before, had been selling out and schilling for “downtown interests” for years, all of the sudden had a bout of conscience. She flipped her vote (As cameras flashed, Brown acolyte Carol Migden walked across the chambers after the vote and lit into Teng who held her ground nicely) and SF now has district elections and a fairly progressive Board of Supervisors despite the Google takeover.
District elections were originally proposed by the Progressive Movement of the early 20th century as part of a list of reforms to break up municipal power monopolies like Tamany Hall. There has been enormous resistance from conservative forces to the point where Catholic figures speaking along the lines of McCarthyite Bishop Fulton Sheen argued that the push for district elections was communist inspired and nuns were deployed to encourage public prayer against them in the 1950s.
What district, or in this case ward, elections do is to bring the power of politics to the neighborhood. Eureka has a hybrid system right now. You represent one ward, but the rest of the city gets to select your neighborhood representative for you. Among other issues, this means that the west side is misrepresented by a council member who lives there (that is the sole requirement), but does not represent the ward’s aggregate interests or values. Ironically, the same may be true if Austin Allison wins in the 4th ward this fall as it is probably the most conservative of the wards.
It means a candidate doesn’t have to spend a lot of money on media. It means s/he must walk the neighborhoods, hold ward meetings, and actually be in touch with the wants and needs of the neighborhood. It means large donors have less influence. And it all but guarantees ideological diversity on the City Council.