By Robert Hemphill / 21 January 2019
Background: Earlier this month, the Encinitas City Council unanimously appointed Kellie Shay Hinze, 33, to fill the seat left vacant by Tasha Boerner Horvath. Hinze applied for the position along with seven other applicants, including Tony Brandenburg, a recent candidate for Council who received 3,774 votes.
Well, it happened again. On Tuesday, January 15, the San Marcos City Council decided that being dictators was more satisfying than being
There were twenty-four San Marcos residents who applied. And why not? If the Council likes you, all you have to do is send in a bio, fill out a financial form, and get interviewed for half an hour. No need to raise money from all your
It’s not just San Marcos that this authoritarian virus has infected. Oceanside had a similar vacancy in December. When they called for candidates, 29 people threw their hats in the ring. Included were a former Oceanside Mayor, a former Councilman, the former City Treasurer, a school board Trustee, a former Deputy City Manager, and four previously unsuccessful City Council candidates. At least some of these people had participated in the electoral process before. And who did they select—a former Oceanside police officer with no electoral experience.
The list goes on. Encinitas did the same thing when Tasha Boerner Horvath abandoned her Council seat after less than half of her four-year term, running for and winning a California Assembly seat. As has happened two times before in Encinitas, no elections were held, but the council appointed someone from a field of eight, including two with electoral experience. The decision to forgo an election was based on the alleged cost of $400,000 to run a special election. So democratic principles aren’t necessary when they cost too much?
In her newsletter just before the recent election, Mayor Blakespear wrote: “When I worked as a news reporter, the whole newsroom was abuzz on election night….Such diverse visions of the future. This excitement is why I still physically go to my local polling place to vote. I love the voting ritual!”
But she doesn’t love it enough to allow Encinitas to vote to fill a vacancy, when she can lead the Council in selecting someone the four of them want, not someone the 36,000 voters in Encinitas want. A person who has never run for any elected office, by the way.
The $400,000 cost estimate is spurious. If Encinitas holds a mail-in ballot election—no polling places—and if you assume 9000 voters per district, then the cost for a single district election should be well under $100,000. A dollar a ballot for printing, a dollar a ballot for postage, and it can’t cost more than $2 a ballot for mechanical counting and re-counting. Throw in a 20% contingency and you’re at $5 a voter, or less than $50,000. Surely we can afford that price for democracy.
This problem can be easily fixed. You could simply change the law and bar using appointments to fill elected offices. Either run a special
If the cost of the election is a real problem, then require any person elected to the Council to post a $50,000 bond. If he or she leaves before the term is up, other than due to death or disability, the bond is forfeited to the city and the money used for an election – NOT an appointment—to fill the vacancy. If the elected official serves out the full term, the bond is
The same kind of process can be applied to winnowing out the candidates for office. Each qualifying candidate could be required to post a $5000 bond, to be forfeited if the person is not in fact elected to the contested office. That way you will avoid the Oceanside dilemma of having to sort through 30 candidates, many of whom really aren’t serious. And would you really want to vote for a candidate who couldn’t come up with five grand?
Any or all of these reforms would dramatically advance the cause of representative democracy in North County. If we really believe in electing our leaders, then let’s have elections.