The Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD) board of directors on Nov. 6 decided which board seats will be up for election and where board races will be held in November 2020.
The board governs the Cosumnes Fire Department, which serves Galt and Elk Grove, as well as Elk Grove’s parks and recreation system.
2020 marks the debut of its “by-district” election system, where voters will only choose among candidates running in their local voting district. All voters previously elected directors across the CSD’s 157-square-mile service area, which stretches from Elk Grove to Galt.
For the first time, each board member will represent a voting district instead of the CSD’s entire service area. The districts vary in physical size – Voting District 1 runs from Elk Grove’s Sheldon area to Galt, while Voting District 2 covers western Elk Grove from Franklin Boulevard to Interstate 5.
The five-member board also voted to put three seats up for election next year, those of CSD Directors Gil Albiani, Orlando Fuentes and Jim Luttrell. The three will have their current four-year terms expire in November next year.
“(The new election system) makes it very crystal clear that the people who are running are from the communities they represent, and the people they represent will either vote them up or vote them down,” said Director Rod Brewer, an outspoken proponent of by-district elections.
Director Jaclyn Moreno requested that the board reconsider by-district elections on the night she was sworn into office last December. The board later adopted that system this February.
Advocates of by-district elections argue that system can reduce campaign costs, hold directors more accountable to their local constituents, and encourage more candidates of diverse backgrounds to run for the board.
During her campaign run last year, Moreno told the board that by-district elections would make campaigning easier for her since she would have a smaller area to focus on.
“I would be able to personally knock on every door (and have) a better understanding of the needs and desires in my neighborhood and community,” she said in March 2018.
During board discussions this year, Fuentes shared his concerns over lawsuits being filed against California city governments for allegedly violating the California Voting Rights Act.
Kevin Shenkman, a Malibu-based attorney, filed many of those civil complaints and claimed that cities that did not have by-district elections were disenfranchising non-white voters and candidates.
Shenkman issued warnings against the Elk Grove City Council for not having by-district elections – he argued that the council’s “from-district” elections created a council that lacks Latino members, despite Elk Grove’s large Latino population.
The council last month adopted by-district elections for its races.
After approving its by-district election system, the CSD board spent this summer and fall reviewing proposed election maps. The district hired Redistricting Partners, a Sacramento consulting firm, to draw and present map options, with the challenge of drawing voting districts that had roughly equal populations of voters and kept communities together.
Since most of the board members pushed to have by-district elections in 2020, the new voting districts were drawn based on the 2010 Census. The board will have to later redraw its election map for the 2022 election after the 2020 Census data is released.
During the board’s Nov. 6 meeting, several attendees encouraged the board to choose Election Map D and have three seats up for election next year.
Andres Ramos, a 2018 Elk Grove City Council candidate, was heavily involved in the push for the board to have by-district elections. He told the board to accept Election Map D.
“Unfortunately, not every community can always be kept 100 percent together, but I think (the map) does the best job of keeping the core communities together,” Ramos said.
The CSD board voted 4-0 to approve Election Map D. Luttrell abstained from voting and told his fellow directors that the map appeared to be drawn around current directors’ home addresses. Based on the new election map, none of the sitting directors will compete against each other for a seat in next year’s election.
“For everybody to have their own district is kind of strange, but I will live with it,” Luttrell said.
He mentioned that he learned it was legal for incumbents to have election maps drawn around their home addresses.
“Everything here is legal, but if it’s ethical or not, I don’t know,” Luttrell said.
Albiani raised similar questions about the new election map, but he joined the board majority in approving that map.
“The fact that each of the sitting directors has no competition from another director – I find that strange,” Albiani said. “Maybe it’s not illegal, but it’s questionably ethical – but it ends that way.”
Brewer stressed that every director on the CSD board will still serve everyone in the district’s large service area, regardless of the new voting districts.
“It’s been my duty and charge to serve the entire communities of Elk Grove and Galt with no preference to my neighborhood or any adjoining neighborhoods,” he said.
Where the CSD board elections will be held in 2020
Next year’s CSD board election will be the first to have the “by-district” system. Voters will only choose among candidates running in their local voting districts. The following districts will have elections in November 2020.
• District 1 (Gil Albiani, current director): The city of Galt, and Elk Grove (Sheldon, Triangle area, and Pleasant Grove High School’s local neighborhood at Bond Road).
• District 3 (Jim Luttrell, current director): The town of Franklin, and Elk Grove (East Franklin, Madeira, Laguna Ridge and central Laguna).
• District 4 (Orlando Fuentes, current director): North Laguna, eastern Laguna, and north Elk Grove (Highway 99 to the west, Calvine Road to the north, Waterman Road to the east, and Sheldon Road to the south).