A small but energized group of opponents of Measure A—the proposed two-district, Ranked Choice/Single Transferrable Vote system for electing the Santa Clara City Council—rallied Friday afternoon at City Hall, singling out Yes on A’s $85,000 in out-of-state money from Maryland-based FairVote and Texas billionaire John Arnold.
Among the organizers was Santa Clara’s grand dame of Silicon Valley Democratic Party politics and Old Quad activist Shirley O’Dou.
“We are protesting the dark money in this campaign,” said No on A Chair Paul Fong, a Sunnyvale resident who represented Santa Clara in the State Assembly from 2008 to 2012. “Money can buy a campaign. It can buy mailers and ads. They [Yes on A] have ten times the money we have.
“A few weeks ago at a [City Council] meeting they [Yes on A] said people were coming here from out of town,” said Rev. Jethroe Moore, President of the San José/Silicon Valley chapter of the NAACP.
This was misleading, said Moore. “We are your neighbors. They have money from out-of-state. They [Yes donors] are not your neighbors.”
Moore called the interest on the part of out-of-state organizations in Santa Clara’s election and the money that they have poured into this one “strange” and called the proposed segmentation of the City along El Camino Real a “gerrymander.”
Dividing the city into two districts—”making what I call two mini-me districts out of one”—will do nothing to achieve the goals of the California Voting Rights Act, said former Santa Clara City Council Member John McLemore. “We would be the only city in California with two districts. Others [this size] have five or seven.”
Taking a population of 130,000 and dividing into two districts of 60,000 “does nothing to help minorities get better representation,” he said.
Even if Measure A passes, McLemore says it’s likely the judge that found Santa Clara in violation of the CVRA won’t accept the two-district plan as a remedy. Historically, the only remedy courts have accepted for a CVRA violation is single-member districts.
Update on the Money Trail
On Thursday, Yes on A posted another $12,000 in donations bringing the total war chest to $104,000. Maryland-based FairVote donated another $7,000—bringing that organization’s funding of Yes on A up to $45,000—and the Massachusetts-based Proteus Fund donated $5,000.