Ralph Lee White at an October presser.
I don’t oppose it. But I’m not on the same page as others, either.
Take this line from the most recent story about it: “California’s Voting Rights Act (says) Citywide voting disenfranchises low-income and minority communities by giving whiter and wealthier voters a say over who represents needier neighborhoods.”
People accept this as a given. In most places I’m sure it is. But in Stockton? Here, whites have been a minority in since 2008. If Latinos or anybody else vote at a lower rate, that’s not a structural problem with the voting system.
The more consequential factor may be class. But here, too, is the system really stacked against the disadvantaged? Three-quarters of Stockton voters are working class, or living below the poverty line. An overwhelming majority, in other words. If anything, this majority should be able to nullify the wishes of the “whiter and wealthier” voters, not the other way around.
Except for campaign contributions, of course.
I also don’t accept as gospel that Measure C, the hybrid voting measure, was concocted solely to oust Ralph Lee White.
But here’s District 2 Councilman Dan Wright: “Anytime you create a policy because of one person, it’s likely to be a bad policy. No matter what you think about Ralph Lee White, you don’t create a charter amendment because of him. You follow California election law and you create rules that are beneficial to all.”
This notion is such gospel that Measure C is referred to as “The Ralph Lee White rule.”
I don’t know if Wright has spoken with the measure’s author, Dean Andal. I have. I asked Andal explicitly about the intent of the measure and whether White was its target.
Andal said when he was young he intered in Pete Wilson’s office, when Wilson was mayor of San Diego. San Diego’s council was mired in parochial squabbling. So voters passed a reform, a hybrid voting system. The new system generated council members more apt to balance district interests with the interests of the city as a whole.
Seeing the same problem here, Andal said he proposed the same solution.
I remember his exact words. “Getting rid of Ralph Lee White was just a bonus.”
I don’t know if others are unaware of this or whether they disbelieve Andal. If the latter, I hope they’ll lend me some of their mind-reading skills.
The proponents of district voting also overlook its weakness: it’s cheaper to buy influence with a discrict council member. When council candidates run citywide, they must raise money from so many different interests that no single interest can own them.
Anyway, Stockton is reverting to district voting. White will likely run and may well be elected again. I don’t know if he will bring the same profanity and disrespect that hurt decorum in years gone by. Perhaps in political exile he reflected on the need for a more collaborative aproach.
If not, any decorum-conscious mayor should recognize that White — or any strong-willed, bumptious council member — must be managed at council meetings, not suppressed. Do that, and things should work out fine.