Morro Bay Districting Debate - Please Participate
Vote your position on Measure "F" March 2, 2004

[NOTE: Measure F did not pass in the March 2004 election. 
The following material has been moved into an archive section for posterity. 
Some participants elected to have some of their past comments excised.]

These pages present visitor comments, letters to editors, and other information submitted to regarding the pros or cons, facts, myths, or otherwise of the debate (Oct. 2003 - March 2004) over Districting in Morro BayThe purpose of these pages is to help inform the public, so decisions can be made based on the most complete information possible.
Please submit your input to mike@[remove] (<= note, you have to edit out the "[remove]" - this is done for Spam control ) and also indicate how you would like attribution to be made (i.e., your name, e-mail, phone, affiliation, etc.)

The material below is presented in reverse-chronological order (except for the final ballot statements, which appear at the top), and is unedited for content, except for minor spelling corrections. does not attempt to verify or validate any factual information imputed below.
Because of the large number of submissions, a  two-column format is used to better separate "pro" versus "con" submissions. takes no position pro or con on political topics.
All submissions will be published that adhere to reasonable standards of decency.
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Skip the formal ballot arguments here and take me directly to individual comments posted further below

Formal Ballot Arguments
"Pro" Districting Submissions
Note: does not attempt to verify or validate any information presented as fact below.
"Con" Districting Submissions
Note: does not attempt to verify or validate any information presented as fact below.

Dec. 19, 2003 (The following series will be published as part of the March 2004 ballot.  The series worked as follows: Both sides submitted their Arguments, and then having exchanged them, both side submitted their Rebuttals.)
Argument In Favor of Measure F-2004

This measure is about fair play and a fresh start. People will count more than money, and your voice will be heard.

Bring the American form of representation to Morro Bay. This measure ensures that each part of Morro Bay will be represented by one of its own. In recent elections, the winning candidates generally had the most money spent on them. Under this measure, the winning candidates will spend the most time in personal contact with their constituents. Which form of "spending" do you want to be the most important?

Residents will continue to be able to approach all five council members on any matter. But under this measure you can be sure your concerns will be addressed by at least one council member familiar with your area of the community. Residents will have a neighbor whom they can visit or call.

This measure will ensure a balanced perspective on the Council and appointed boards and commissions. By rotation, this measure ensures that every section of town will have a representative who is mayor.

True alternatives is what true democracy offers at its best. True alternatives is what this measure offers. Our town will benefit from leadership that reflects all its citizens. Now is the time to ensure true alternatives. Selected fairly and representing each part of town, council members will solve problems together, leading our city to a future that reflects all of our interests.

This measure is about fair representation, lower cost of campaigns and a more balanced government for our City.

Barry S. Dorfman, MD MPH, Sr. Psychiatrist, Calif. Men's Colony, Retired
Raymond F. McKelligott, President, Mobile Home Owners Association
Betty A. Winholtz, City Council Member, Morro Bay
Beverley J. Abbey, R.N., Local Business Owner, Undercover Fine Books & Gifts, Morro Bay
Brenda E. Agee-Smiley, Morro Bay High School Graduate, 1980; Homemaker



Dec. 19, 2003 (The following series will be published as part of the March 2004 ballot.  The series worked as follows: Both sides submitted their Arguments, and then having exchanged them, both side submitted their Rebuttals.)
Rebuttal To Argument Against Measure F-2004

What are they afraid of?
Voting many times for people from the same crowd is not an example of expanded voting power. Voting for a diverse number of citizens from all parts of town is a true expansion of voting power.

What are they afraid of?
What will the opponents stand to lose if this passes? They lose their grip on city government. They lose their power to weaken laws that protect the scale and scope of projects. They lose their power to buy a government of them, for them, and by them.

What are they afraid of?
They say that there are few qualified people to be Mayor. We say that in this town, the Mayor is just one of five, a council member with a title and just one vote. Why shouldn't the position be shared?

What are they afraid of?
The American philosophy of representative government recognizes that only in diversity do we achieve greatness. Only with representative districts can Morro Bay move to the future using the full diversity of its citizens.

What are they afraid of?
They say others have tried districts and failed. The Cayucos Advisory Council and County, State and National governments all vote by district. Our city’s failure is that ordinary folks have not been able to afford to run for office.

What are they afraid of?

That YOU will vote for Fairness and a Fresh Start. That YOU will vote Yes on F.

Norman Risch, Computer Expert, Renter
Grant Crowl, Entrepreneur and Concerned Citizen
Margaret “Peggy” Quigley, Concerned Citizen
Hershel Parker, Emeritus Professor of English
Arthur G. Stansbury, Probation Officer, Retired; USMC, Retired


Dec. 19, 2003 (The following series will be published as part of the March 2004 ballot.  The series worked as follows: Both sides submitted their Arguments, and then having exchanged them, both side submitted their Rebuttals.)
Argument Against Measure F-2004

Measure “F” would drastically limit your voting power, eliminate the office of elected Mayor and render good candidates ineligible. It is designed to divide and destroy our community spirit.

Under Measure “F”:

You will forever lose your right to vote for four out of five seats on the council.
Councilmembers will take turns as “rotating” Mayor, regardless of their ability to meet the additional job requirements.
In four out of five years the rotating Mayor will be from a district where you have no vote.
You will be restricted to only ONE vote for one Councilmember every FOUR years, instead of THREE votes every TWO years you have now.
You will be prohibited from voting for candidates you favor who don’t live in your district.
A good candidate can only run every four years and may never serve if there is a strong incumbent in their district.
We will be divided along artificial lines creating special interest groups.
Districts will carve our community into little pieces, encouraging political favors and backroom deals.

Other communities have tried districts and they have failed. Let’s not repeat their mistake.

We all love our town, our coast, our environment, and our friends, wherever they live. We want representatives who answer to the entire town and who make decisions based on the common good rather than narrow district interests.

If proponents of this plan don’t like the current Council they should put their own candidates on the ballot and let us ALL have the opportunity to vote for them. It’s called democracy.

Abraham Lincoln warned, “”A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Don’t let special interests destroy our community. Retain control of your city government and keep our community whole.

Vote No on Measure “F”.

Janice Peters, Morro Bay City Council
William “Bill” Pierce, Morro Bay City Council
John Barta, Citizen
William Yates, Mayor
Dave Elliott, Morro Bay City Council

Dec. 19, 2003 (The following series will be published as part of the March 2004 ballot.  The series worked as follows: Both sides submitted their Arguments, and then having exchanged them, both side submitted their Rebuttals.)
Rebuttal To Argument In Favor Of Measure “F”

True American democracy is people working together and having their vote count. Measure “F” is a slap in the face to everyone who loves our community.

Why give up your three votes per election in exchange for only one vote every four years? You won’t be allowed to vote for four out of five council members.

Why give up the right to choose your Mayor? The Mayor has substantial additional responsibilities and should answer to all voters, not just those in one district.

How will you feel when your one councilmember doesn’t represent your views? If they want to be reelected, their district will come first.

If each councilmember supports their district, who supports the common good? Citywide problems require citywide solutions. These districts aren’t about neighborhoods. They’re created to tear our community apart along arbitrarily drawn political lines.

There is a natural balance of representation in Morro Bay without districts. Since 1982 twelve councilmembers (mayors included) live in the north part of town and eleven in the south.

In Morro Bay, successful campaigns aren’t based on money. In 2002, Winholtz and Peters spent the least and won. In 2000, Churney spent the most and lost.

Morro Bay is a community of concerned and caring people. We now have the power to vote for all our representatives, not just one.

Don’t limit your choices.
Don’t divide our town.
Vote NO on Measure “F”.

More information:

Stan House, Citizen
Grace Poletti, Citizen
Barbara J. Playan, Citizen
Bill Olson, Citizen
Gary Ryan, Citizen


"Pro" Districting Submissions
Note: does not attempt to verify or validate any information presented as fact below.
 more "pro-districting" information can be found at the opponents web site

Feb. 27, 2004  
Frequently Asked Questions about
(Morro Bay Districting) Measure F-2004
are published at the proponent's website

Barry S. Dorfman, MD MPH
Sr. Psychiatrist, Calif. Men's Colony, Retired

Raymond F. McKelligott
President, Mobile Home Owners Association

Betty A. Winholtz
City Council Member, Morro Bay

Beverley J. Abbey, R.N.
Local Business Owner, Undercover Fine Books & Gifts, Morro Bay

Brenda E. Agee-Smiley
Morro Bay High School Graduate, 1980; Homemaker

Feb. 19, 2004
Statement from Betty Winholtz

Response to “Statement from Janice Peters, City Council Member, in Opposition to Measure F (Districting Initiative)” by Betty Winholtz, City Council Member.

Statistical correction: I spent $4400 on my last campaign, not $2400 as stated by Ms. Peters.

I respectfully disagree with Ms. Peters’ statement, “Don’t give up your right to vote for a Mayor who has the time and dedication to do the job well.” It is a heck of a lot of work running for office. Anyone who runs is declaring they have the time and dedication to do the job well. The current, elected officials have more than demonstrated their time commitment and dedication. If we were rotating the mayor position now, they would do no less in that position than they do now as council members. Even now, our rules provide for others to assume the duties if the Mayor cannot do them. When city officials represent the city at a function, we share that responsibility. There is no reason to believe that would change, or that any change would have any effect.

Measure F finally guarantees consistent, equal representation for North Morro Bay residents, in fact, all residents. Measure F does not guarantee a certain political philosophy.

Measure F does not stop a person from one district contributing to or working for a candidate in another district. It does make running for office more reasonable in terms of time and money (ask anyone who has run).

Measure F does not require that deals be made to accomplish projects anymore than they are now. It does require all areas of town literally sit down at the table together to consider the big picture of any issue.

Vote YES on F.

Betty Winholtz, City Council Member,  Morro Bay
405 Acacia, Morro Bay, CA 93442

Feb. 8, 2004
Statement from Norman Risch

I responded to Ms. Peters’ arguments about Districting and her candidacy for Mayor (should the Districting measure fail) as laughable and sad. Her response was to characterize my remarks as a “diatribe.” She went on to suggest that I ignored facts or misstated them. I sent Ms. Peters an email “heads up” about my posting. She didn’t seem to think that was a courtesy necessary to return. Let’s check. Judge for yourself:

1. Ms. Peters did listen to me one-to-one, just as I listened to her. Strange that she left that out.

2. She finds it interesting that “he considers himself expert on the historical philosophies and goals of our city.”
Though I have never claimed to be an expert on this city, I am a student of history of the American form of government. After a bit more than ten years of a failed government, the Founders chose another form, one that established a census every ten years to determine the proper boundaries of voting districts. Morro Bay is just catching up.

3. She adds, “after living here for such a short time.”
An “old-timer” friend told me that Ms. Peters applied for, and was accepted to a position on the Planning Commission not long after moving here. I got involved in local affairs when the city sent me a notice about the planned Roundabout at Route 41 that I felt endangered students at the high school. With a Down’s Syndrome son who also suffers from Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), I was planning to continue my involvement in services for the handicapped, something even more necessary with the current Draconian budget cuts. I was most certainly NOT interested in local politics.

4. She wrote, "The 41 roundabout was dropped from consideration because the citizens objected to it".  Well . . . not quite.
At every hearing about the 41 Roundabout, a majority of the public objected. Despite facts, petitions, authoritative opinion, and pleas from the elderly and students, local officials kept pushing for it. The Chairman of the Planning Commission showed his "deep" understanding of human psyche by suggesting that the fear was real, even if it was factually unfounded. …And still the roundabout moved forward. It didn't matter that the citizens told them there wasn't any money for it. “They” wanted it, and the hell with the public. And the Council did nothing.
Then I filed an Appeal, and provided a legal basis for the opposition. Suddenly, the Planning Department decided there wasn't adequate funding, and THEY PULLED THEIR PERMIT APPLICATION, making the Appeal moot. Do I criticize Ms. Peters and the Council because of their action? Of course not, I criticize them for their inaction! Let me explain that:
Even after the application was pulled, the Council had the authority to forbid a Roundabout at that intersection. They didn't. Rather than kill the plan, they let it lay low. Why?
If you, Ms. Peters, or other would read the various versions of the Planning Commission's Draft General Plan, you'd see that Roundabouts were hidden in the section dealing with landscaping or beautification, and not with traffic circulation. When citizens criticized the proposed plan, Chairman Barta agreed to the removal of the word "Roundabout" because (as he put it) its "definition" would remain. He was fully supported by the next Chairman Vesterfelt and the others on the Commission. What was their subtext? Implement the remaining definition, and you have a Roundabout.

5. “There was not and never was a 6-story convention center being considered. There is a drawing in a consultant’s report illustrating the size of a conference center required for a 500-seat meeting room.”
The Council majority voted for the huge Harbor View project, despite definitive law and regulation to the contrary. The planner who declared the issue equivocal publicly called the legal opposition of one of the projects’ chief critics “sabotage,” and to this day, has not apologized. Is there any wonder citizens were so distressed by the council obtaining the consultant's report on an even more immense Embarcadero convention center?

6. “None of us ‘snored through’ the discussion of the Visitor’s Center and Chamber funding. It is my understanding that those funds are kept and accounted for separately, and we have asked for a confirmation of that.”
More concerned about my rhetorical characterization, she seems to think that sending more than $150,000.00 to a private group without an audit trail or other positive city oversight is just dandy. Even now, in her response, Ms. Peters seems to feel that if the Chamber confirms a second set of books, the Council has met its obligation to the citizens.

7. “The campaign cost figures I used are from the Sun Bulletin, compiled from public records”.
From a researcher on the local campaign expenditures, “She doesn’t even know what her own disclosure statements say, which she signed - they are more authoritative than the Sun Bulletin”.

8. “Measure F would not limit campaign spending, so one candidate in a district could still greatly outspend another.”
That’s true. What’s also true is what Ms. Peters omits: With neighborhood districts, candidates can meet their constituents personally, effectively lowering the cost of campaigning to that of a comfortable pair of shoes and throat lozenges.

9. “Simply by the title, the Mayor holds a more prominent position, both locally and in the eyes of State and Federal legislators.”
I moved here from the Washington, D.C. area. I think I can say with some confidence that Federal and State legislators and officials are more attentive to actual power than titles. A councilmember with a single vote and half a term of office doesn’t really qualify, irrespective of the brief, state-mandated title.

10. “As for the accusation of elitism, all I can say is ‘phooey’!”
One dynamic of elitism is to be blind to it. Again and again in our society, those in power and those holding the purse believe that they are just doing the "right" thing.
Somehow, protests from groups like African Americans, Native Americans, women, gays and lesbians, not to forget people opposed to the unfairness of the Morro Bay government, all are characterized as disrespectful, disruptive, slanderous, or simply outrageous. To that, I too, say “Phooey”!

11. “I have always encouraged people to apply for our boards and commissions and to run for office.”
Well, let’s judge her original words, “In addition, there is a much greater time commitment required of the Mayor. Someone with a family and/or a fulltime job may be able to handle the Council time commitment, but not the additional hours the office of Mayor requires”. [Emphasis added.]
Gentle reader, don’t you really feel encouraged by those words? Kind'a makes you want to run right out and register your candidacy, doesn’t it?

I quite agree with Ms. Peters about respecting each other’s differing views. That's what we're doing here on this website provided by Mr. Baird.

The question is how individuals, particularly those in "power" choose to implement that respect. Are citizens respected by a mayor who feels it is his prerogative to interrupt speakers at Council meetings who are engaging in their right of free speech? Oh sure, he says, you can go on. But the subtext is: "I, the Imperial Mayor, can overrule a Federal Judge (in Baca v. Moreno Valley School District) and the California Constitution. And I can get my City Attorney to back me up."
And when that happens, where are Ms. Peters and the rest of the Council? Sitting quietly, ignoring the injustice. How can such passivity be confused with authentic respect?

Ms. Peters should be honored for her service to the City. However, it is time she honor the city with a commitment to fairness, rather than just a call for a more pleasant dialog. From many citizens' perspective, their voices have fallen on deaf ears.

And that's just one of the reasons for Measure F for Fairness.

Norman Risch

Feb. 8, 2004
Statement from Betty Winholtz

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you why I enthusiastically support the Districting Initiative, Measure F-2004.

Two years ago, before I was on the City Council, a resident of north Morro Bay persuaded me to “get active” about a proposed roundabout at Highway 41 and Main. I did not use this intersection on a daily basis, so I was minimally aware of it. He, on the other hand, drove through it many times a day, just as you do. Having lived near roundabouts back East, he foresaw multiple problems. Adjacent businesses, residents, and the high school did also.

So, why city support? We realized those with voting power over the roundabout did not “have” to use this intersection; they lived either far north or south. There was no representation from this part of town on the council, commissions, or boards.

As other projects came before the city, other residents, particularly from north Morro Bay, had the same realization. They had no spokesperson for their area. The 2000 U.S. Census showed half the town’s population lives in north Morro Bay. The majority used to live in the south end. Most of the council, commissioners, and board members still come from the south.

STATISTICS: of 10,350 residents live north of Highway 41 and live south. BUT: 16 out of 17 council members, planning commissioners, and Public Works Advisory Board members live south of Highway 41. Where then, is the focus of the city?


1. Guaranteed representation for your area.
2. Accountability that is literally in your neighborhood.
3. Real unification as all areas come together to make decisions for the whole town.
4. A mayorship that rotates, keeping all areas on an equal footing.
5. Cheaper campaigns because there is less area for a candidate to cover.

A Bonus may be more candidates running for office because (1) it takes less money, and (2) there is less area to cover.

True, you will no longer vote for all five council members. Weigh that against everyone having representation. What’s more fair? I find Lois Capps, who represents our district in Congress, more accessible and responsive than our U.S. Senators, who represent the whole state.

In summary, a whole-town perspective can be maintained because we are still small, while all areas gain a guaranteed, local, and responsive voice.

Vote yes on Measure F (for Fairness).

Betty Winholtz,
City Council Member
405 Acacia, Morro Bay, CA 93442

Feb. 8, 2004
Statement from Norman Risch

I like Jim Wood.

A big bear of a guy and member of local government as Chairman of the Harbor Advisory Board, he stands out at city Council and Planning Commission meetings for his down-to-earth statements, more than a few of which I agree. I even enjoy him telling the ones with which I don’t agree.

However, his argument against Measure F contained at least one paragraph that suggests that he is either really full of BS, or just had a bad day. What really gets my goat are his comments about wondering where we “sky is falling people” are “when it’s time to volunteer for something.”

His comment smacks of the same elitism evident in other government officials’ statements. If he doesn’t see me volunteering for something, I must be doing nothing. If it isn’t one of his pet projects, it can’t be worthwhile. If it isn’t in this city, it’s a waste.

As the parent of a disabled adult child I wonder where Mr. Wood was and will be when disabled people become homeless, ill, or more disabled due Federal and State budget and service cuts. Remember that to a large extent, this is a group without its own voice. Often if they have family, those parents or siblings are already burned out from providing care. I didn’t see Mr. Wood writing letters to keep funding and services, so he couldn’t have been “helping.”

Mr. Wood refers to dirty air, and the fact that it has gotten progressively better of the past 30 years. Mr. Wood is old enough to know that for the past 40 years or more, other “whiners” and “pawns” have steadily complained and fought to clean the environment he now apparently takes for granted.

The theme has come up again and again in the arguments made by those opposed to Measure F. “Those who favor it are just not good enough. We, those in charge, are. After all you can see us feeding the homeless at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’ve earned the right to have ‘good things’. Don’t let ‘them’ take away our government. We’ve earned it.”

Enough already. It IS time for a CHANGE. It IS time for FAIRNESS. It is time for Measure F-2004.

Norman Risch

Feb. 6, 2004
Statement by Hershel Parker

Subject: Pacific Legal Foundation, hired by Mayor Yates and some Council members to sue to take the plovers off the Endangered Species list.

If you do a web search for "Pacific Legal Foundation" or look at the PLF’s own “media kits” online you get a pretty clear sense of the crew the Mayor of Morro Bay and his Embarcadero Bloc have hired to de-list the snowy plovers (which can then be exterminated).

The California Chamber of Commerce founded the Pacific Legal Foundation in 1973 as a means of bringing lawsuits for the business community under the guise of "public interest" actions. This terminology turned out to be purely Orwellian. “Public interest” as sponsored by big business means “Private interest of the wealthy.”

The PLF organization is ultra-conservative and right-wing, funded by big businesses such as Coors—but nevertheless claiming tax-exempt and non-profit status. Over the years PLF lawyers have launched well-funded assaults on wetlands, assaults on equal employment, assaults on protections of consumer health and safety, assaults on rent control, assaults on labor unions, assaults on First Amendment protection of free speech, assaults on public right to beach access (claiming that its championing of private property rights is a defense of “civil rights”) and assaults on the Endangered Species Act, not just on some listings of species.

The Council majority who hired the PLF seems to want only to have full access, with loose dogs, to the Morro Strand State Park stretch of beach and dunes (as well as the city beaches). Ironically, the real agenda of the PLF is to protect the "rights" of private property owners to keep people off "their" stretch of oceanfront.

The proverb says that he who would sup with the Devil should use a long spoon. The Mayor and his allies are supping with the Devil and are not using a very long spoon.

As a resident in Morro Bay and a taxpayer I am humiliated and outraged that my tax dollars are being used to pay for the nasty, reckless supper the Mayor and his Embarcadero Bloc are sharing with the Pacific Legal Foundation.

If Measure F-2004 passes, we can disentangle ourselves from the PLF and focus on celebrating what is best about Morro Bay for ourselves and for the kind of tourists we want to welcome here. Think of the four or five best things about Morro Bay and you have to think of the snowy plovers skittering on the sand.

Hershel Parker

Feb. 5, 2004
Statement from Norman Risch

Janice Peters' statement on her candidacy and opposition to Measure F-2004 for Fairness is would be worth a laugh if it weren't so sad.

Despite the diversity she acknowledges, Ms. Peters’ bottom line is to replace the current strong-arm tactics of Mayor Yates with her own "Can't we all just get along" philosophy.

The founders of this country knew that the strength of the people who come together arises from their ability to fully express themselves. That belief produced a Congress with district representation and a First Amendment guaranteeing free speech. Ms. Peters just thinks that if we all say things nicer, everything will be fine.

She just doesn’t get it: There are long-standing fundamental differences in philosophy and goals in this city. However, local government participation has been largely limited to a financial, social, and political power network from one end of town. True, they occasionally give lip service to other areas, but their fundamental common attribute is the promotion and protection of their narrow vision for the town. This vision spawned the unremitting push for a Roundabout at Route 41 and Main Street, for the 4-Story Harbor View project, for a 6-story convention center and hotel on the Embarcadero, for sweetheart deals on failed businesses (the skating rink), for fee refunds, and more.

With severely dropping city revenues, this legislative group practically snores through an alarming report from a respected community member reporting on the total lack of city oversight on more than $150,000.00 of city money given to the local Chamber of Commerce, the same group whose board “ took a position vehemently opposed to Districting without ever consulting with its membership.

Ms. Peters says that the days of high cost campaigns are over. I don't know where she gets that. Mr. Yates raised over $10,000.00 for his third run for the 2-year council position of mayor. Even her own numbers don't jibe with public records.

Speaking of the mayoral position, Peters’ and Yates’ statements confirm the perception that there is no real difference between most of those in power. By law, the mayor's job consists of the following:

This is from page 22 of Council Policies and Procedures (with emphasis added):


3.1.1 The Mayor shall preside at all meetings of the City Council and perform such other duties consistent with the office as may be imposed by the Council or by vote of the people. The Mayor shall be entitled to, and must vote when present, but shall possess no veto power.

3.1.2 The Mayor shall be recognized as the official head of the City for all ceremonial purposes.

3.1.3 he Mayor may order flags flown on City property to be lowered to half-staff in mourning for any member of the community designated to have made significant contributions to the City of Morro Bay, in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with State and Federal law.

3.1.4 The Mayor shall exercise such other powers and perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law or ordinance or by resolution of the Council, except as limited by law.

Read it again. There are no other executive duties other than presiding at meetings and authorizing the flags lowered! And yet, so many opponents to Measure F buy into the fiction that the mayor is something really special!

Peters' blindness to her own elitism is evident when she says that "the Mayor must be able to travel to Washington, D.C., Sacramento, and anywhere else where Morro Bay needs representation to achieve funding or other support. It makes a big difference in the eyes of our State and Federal legislators to have the Mayor speak for us instead of a paid lobbyist".

Let's be candid, Ms. Peters. Every time someone from the city had to go to some meeting, the five sit around their table, and the conversation goes something like this: "I can't go. Can you? You can? Great?" "No, I've got business commitments". "Oh, I can go, too".

Second, how dare she exclude "Someone with a family and/or a full-time job" from being considered for ANY elected position?

Simply amazing. First she invents an exalted position, and then denies it to a sizable population of the City.

As for her scenarios about people who want things for their districts, or for others who support candidates of other districts, what's new? The American form of government involves all sorts of cross-support, from the local to the national level. If a representative of another legislative district is on a committee that is looking into an item of my concern, I contact that person. I may even support him or her. Why can't I?

Council member Peters thinks that the worst characteristic of the current Mayor is his strong-arm tactics. She's wrong. Sweet as she is, Ms. Peters shares his worst trait: The elitist belief that people below their station are not qualified to govern themselves.

She's wrong. And it's time for us to tell her, and the rest of them: We've grown up. We can do it ourselves. Our neighbors are going to represent us, and the neighbor we elect is also fit to be the mayor. We're for Measure F for Fairness.

Norman Risch

Nov. 8, 2003 (submitted Nov. 10, 2003)
The Districting proposal has been submitted in possibly record time. Its timing was planned to enable its inclusion in the March Primary Election, giving lie to one of the distortions presented by some opponents about its cost.

This admittedly lengthy comment is an effort to encourage the opponents to come up with new and more creative reasons for encouraging people to vote against this proposal.

In one of his comments in this website, Stan House blames the behavior of Nelson Sullivan for the removal of Girl Scouts and other groups from the Post Office. Mr. Sullivan is an elderly, well-known citizen of Morro Bay, and like Mr. House himself, is a frequent, peaceful speaker at government meetings. What has been left out of this discussion is the name of the person or persons who complained to the Postmaster about Mr. Sullivan. It is fascinating for Mr. House to blame the proponents of Districting for a probable crank call from one of the opponents.

As for comparative behavior, I would point out that the Mayor asked that the discussion be omitted from the Public Comments segments of government meetings. Spokespeople supporting Districting honored his request, only speaking when opponents, such as Mr. House, took it upon themselves to speak, and often, distort facts.

Most, if not all, of those distortions have been discredited already. They have included the amazing comparison to the Balkans, a long troubled section of Europe, made famous in recent years for wars of "ethnic cleansing." In the last 50 years, the only period of relative peace was during the monolithic Communist regime. The metaphor was intended to imply that Districting would divide the city, Balkanize" it, and is as repulsive and inaccurate a comparison possible. The plan will elect representatives from across the city who will come together in the Council.

Another of the distortions has referred to greater or lesser democracy implicit in the current or proposed forms of local government elections. The argument holds that more elections means more democracy. Unfortunately, this assertion is true neither theoretically or practically. As one letter writer to The Tribune pointed out, absolute democracy is complete participation by all. That letter writer pointed out that as society grows, direct democracy is impossible. He then leapt over the obvious conclusion that voting for one's neighbor is the next best thing.

The opponents of Districting are evidently unaware of the fact that even totalitarian regimes have frequent elections. However, their problem is the complete absence of diversity and true representation.

The bottom line is: The numbers of elections, or percentages of "participation" are not a reliable indicator of democracy.

One other lesson can be drawn from history. In every civil conflict in the world, in all ages, when one group said that they were not properly represented, those who were happy were either in power or directly supported by it.

Another myth in this discussion deals with the suggestion that since the Mayoral role has been held in some years by a resident of the northern section of town, equality of representation was preserved. Sadly, this argument fails to note that Morro Bay's form of government lacks an elected Executive position. The Chief Executive of the city is the City Manager, Mr. Hendrix. City employees report to him, and he reports to the entire city council.

State law requires that incorporated cities have a mayoral position, but does not assign it any significant powers. The mayor presides over city council meetings and helps set the agenda. The mayor signs legal documents, but only those authorized by the majority vote of the city council in which he or she votes. Any member of the government can and does represent the city with other agencies and governments when so authorized.

The mayor's limited additional duties are balanced by the fact that the office term is half that of other members of the city council. The mayor still has just one vote in five, without veto power.

Arguably, northern Morro Bay has between 60% to 67% of the city's population. Those who assert the importance of the mayor (or of the one current member of the council) implausibly suggest the fairness of having at least 60% of the city's population represented 20% of the representatives. Logically, this argument suggests the fairness of having 33% to 40% of the city represented by 80% of the votes on the council.

There are three other arguments with fallacies: One of them is that if Districting goes through, representatives will NEVER vote for things good for the city as a whole if people in their district opposes them. Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes elected representatives must lead, and sometimes they must follow. The good ones know the difference. The bad ones do what their financial supporters want.

Another fallacy is that people in one district won't be able to talk with representatives in other districts. Why on earth would this be true? Even today, at all levels of government, people lobby all of those whose votes count. That won't stop.

Finally, opponents argue that if people from other parts of town want to run for office, they can do so now. Sure. The reality is that most candidates had previously been appointed to positions in the "lower" commissions and boards by the City Council. Thus, they have had years to build the constituency and financial support to run. Occasionally, there have been candidates without that backing who have repeatedly tried and occasionally won office. However, even they were "safe" since they were in the minority of the council. However, as has been true elsewhere, those in power tend to perpetuate their own continued control.

The bottom line is that the opposition seems to be made up of four distinct groups: Those with a vested interest in the current control, those who are afraid of change,  those who believe that because there is now a clear council majority, their is really no dissent, and those who believe that there is little or no "division" now, and that districting will guarantee that "awful" outcome.

My final comment addresses the last of those groups. Many before me have stated that as a government, democracy is terrible, except for all of the others. James Carville defined politics as coming from two base words, "poly" meaning "many,"  and tics, annoying, bloodsucking creatures. The goal of Districting is to increase  representative democracy, allowing for its possible confusion, and reduce moneyed politics, whatever meaning the reader may ascribe to it.

Norman Risch

Nov. 7, 2003 (submitted Nov. 9, 2003)

This morning the proponents of the initiative to elect city council members by district, delivered the signed petitions to Bridgett Bauer, the City Clerk of Morro Bay. More than 15% of the of registered voters of Morro Bay agreed to allow their fellow citizens to decide whether or not to reform this city's government. The proponents of this measure are gratified by the outpouring of support and cooperation from all parts of the city.

We planned this process to limit the cost to the city by collecting and submitting these petitions in time for the March Primary election, a far less costly process than a separate Special Election would be. With its passage, the first district elections under the new plan would take place in November, 2004 for three seats and the two mid-term council members who reside in the other two districts would continue in office to complete their terms.

This initiative will enable those running for office to seek support eye to eye, person to person, in a friendly and inexpensive manner. That has been the way we have conducted this petition campaign. No newspaper ads, no mailings. Rather than initiating political speeches in the various televised city meetings, we simply responded to the more outrageous assertions of the plan's opponents.

Assuming there are enough valid signatures, Ms. Bauer informs us that she plans to certify the sufficiency of the petition to the City Council at the November 24, 2004 meeting. At that meeting the Council would then set the election date to coincide with the March primary.

We look forward to the upcoming campaign and hope for a respectful, informative community dialogue culminating in the March election when the people will themselves decide what is best for them.

Brenda Agee-Smiley
Barry Dorfman
Beverley Abbey

Proponents of the Districting Initiative

Nov. 6, 2003
The following was removed at the request of the poster... [snip]

Nov. 4, 2003
For more information, contact Brenda Agee-Smiley, 772-5885.
November 4, 2003
Morro Bay, California

Brenda Agee-Smiley expressed the outrage of the ad hoc group seeking a new districting plan for Morro Bay over the October 30 arrest and mistreatment of elderly supporter Nelson Sullivan at the Post Office.

Nelson Sullivan has been an early supporter of the plan to implement districting in Morro Bay.  Mr. Sullivan is a well-known, long-time commercial fisherman noted for his community involvement and non-violent expression of his views at the City Council and Planning Commission.

Prior to this incident, members of the initiative group contacted a postal representative concerning the appropriate location of petition collectors in a good faith effort to comply with applicable regulations.  Agee-Smiley said, "Based on the information provided by the Post Office, Mr. Sullivan collected signatures in the traditional place used by other groups in the past for activities ranging from voting registration to the Kiwanis Club to petition drives.  At no time was Mr. Sullivan's demeanor inappropriate."

After complaints from citizens believed opposed to the Districting plan, the Postmaster presented Mr. Sullivan with regulations that were found to be different than those legally posted in the postal facility.  Following Mr. Sullivan's research of the issue at the San Luis Obispo Law Library, he confirmed that his activities were legal.

Following an apparent request of the Postmaster, the 80-year old Sullivan was arrested, man handled, and injured by a squad of uniformed and plain-clothed officers of the Morro Bay Police Department.  Mr. Sullivan was not read his Miranda rights. Despite his repeated request, he was refused timely access to restroom facilities.

According to Agee-Smiley, "The supporters of the Districting Initiative deplore the lack of respect of individual rights by some members of our community for citizens who exercise their civil right to participate in a petition gathering process.  The supporters of this measure feel that an independent investigation is mandatory to determine how and why one elderly citizen was arrested for doing what others of all ages have done in Morro Bay for years in that same location."  Agee-Smiley went on, "The public needs to know who authorized an overly aggressive reaction to a well-known, local, 80-year old man collecting signatures for a government reform measure he supports."

Nov. 4, 2003
For more information, contact Brenda Agee-Smiley, 772-5885
November 4, 2003
Morro Bay, California

The proponents of the Initiative to establish voting districts in Morro Bay anticipate providing the petition signatures required to qualify the initiative for the March Primary Election.  The supporters of this initiative have planned the timing of the process to have the least fiscal impact on the city.

Dr. Barry Dorfman, one of the proponents of the measure said, "We are gratified by the overwhelmingly positive response by citizens throughout the city.  Supporters have included current and former members of government, business owners, private citizens from all economic strata, and from locations throughout Morro Bay."

Many signers expressed a deep sense commitment to seek equal representation of each part of the city.  Others expressed the desire to enable greater participation of a wider spectrum of candidates.

Nov. 1, 2003
The following was removed at the request of the poster... [snip]

Oct. 31, 2003
The following was removed at the request of the poster... [snip]

Oct. 28, 2003
The following was removed at the request of the poster... [snip]

Oct. 24, 2003
In the Bay News 10-24-2003, Stan house wrote it was shortsighted for Morro Bay to "break voters up into separate districts."  Residents are lacking representatives they know personally, who are their neighbors, who can treat them with greater respect and consideration than local government has given them.  Mr. House stated neither he nor his neighbors felt disenfranchised by current city government.  At a Planning Commission meeting in April, House told the commissioners that it was they, not the people, who didn't understand how badly the roundabout would work.  If House feels that between April and now, city government has gotten in touch with its citizens, maybe he can explain why the Planning Commission's Draft General Plan calls for roundabouts at each of the city's gateways.  House suggests "the people pushing this idea volunteer and get involved in the present system."   They are.  They're people active in the community.  They are the same people who city officials say engage in "sabotage" or come up with "harebrained ideas," when they dare oppose the current regime.  What are House and his cohorts so afraid of?
Roger Smiley, North Morro Bay

Oct. 22, 2003
The following was removed at the request of the poster... [snip]

Oct. 22, 2003
Dear Friends and Supporters:
Districting is the talk of the town.  

What it is —

  • 5 districts each elect a council member who lives in that district.
  • As with the County Board of Supervisors, the position of mayor is rotated amongst the members.
  • District lines are adjusted each census cycle.

Why I support it —

  • Council districts will make it easier and cheaper to run for office.
  • Because it is easier and cheaper, hopefully, more people will see it as do-able and run.
  • Rotating mayor keeps all on an equal footing so no one area or person dominates.
  • Rotating mayor prevents infighting for the position as has occurs in other places.
  • Readjusting the lines is done in the public.

Currently (check the map [snip]), and traditionally, north Morro Bay is underrepresented. Districting guarantees north Morro Bay (3/5 of the City’s population) representation.

I encourage you to sign the petition to get it on the ballot for the March primary. You have until November 2.

If you are not yet persuaded, signing the petition gives the town 3 months to discuss it, at which time you can vote your position.

Find petitioners at Spencer's during mealtimes or call 772-5885. Volunteers welcome.

Betty Winholtz, 405 Acacia, Morro Bay, CA 93442

Q & A    (Oct. 20, 2003)
What do you think about electing City Council members district-wide, but the Mayor City-wide? Was that alternative considered?

Thought was given to the Mayor's city-wide election, but that would more closely approximate the "big city" politics some incorrectly associate with this plan. In Morro Bay, the Mayor's position is not an executive position except in two very narrowly defined roles. The person in that position (which is required of "cities" by state law) signs official documents, and presides over council meetings (along with setting its agenda). The mayoral position here does not directly control any agencies or budgets, nor would it, as it would in executive/legislative form of city government. The entire City Council presides over the City Manager who directly controls the agencies and spends the budgets.

Thought was given to 4 districts and a city-wide mayor, and to 5 districts with a separate, figure-head mayor. Based on prior history of a voting council of 5, of the limited official duties of the mayor, and of the aversion to a big city executive position, the plan suggested seemed the best. It shifts the position, for whatever it is worth, to each of the districts in a fair, rotating basis. It most closely approximates more of the features of the current government, while revising its shortcomings.

This plan was and is not intended as the destruction of local government. It was intended to bring truly representative democracy to this small city, something to which most Americans aspire.
Norman Risch

Q & A    (Oct. 19, 2003)
What is the problem? Are there no "good guy" candidates? Are all the "good guys" so under funded that they can't afford a city-wide campaign? Why don't the "good guys" win?


This is not about "bad guys" who support "bad" positions. This is about representative balance and money. The cost of city wide election campaigns has increased dramatically while voter participation has dropped.

Those successfully able to participate in the campaign process have largely been from one section of town. The plan ensures that each section has its own representative, and that those running from each district will have a more balanced opportunity to communicate with his or her electorate. They will be able to "walk their districts."

This plan is the quintessential American form of government.  In most examples of American government, only executive positions are universally elected. Representatives are districted in the United States Senate and House and in all state legislatures. Why are some in Morro Bay afraid of the American system of government?
Norman Risch

Oct. 19, 2003
Art. 1 Sec. 2 of our constitution reads in part "Representatives...shall be apportioned...according to their respective Numbers...." Our president, members of congress, our state legislature and county supervisors are elected by the voters in their respective districts. In this way there is a direct responsibility to the voter. We can address a specific situation to a our rep. who is responsible. Using the word responsible to the wishes of voters and elected politician in the same sentence is NOT what our city council and the commissioners they appoint wants to be accused of (state park, roundabout, Harbor View, sabotage, 19-19, seven hundred signatures etc.). Let's spread the cluster of power and tax allocation to the districts and the voters' who rightfully own and deserve them. An effective way to do this is district elections. As council member Bill Pierce says " LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE"
Bill Davies
475 so. bay blvd. - #6
Morro Bay
(805) 772-5714.

Oct. 19, 2003
The following was removed at the request of the poster... [snip]

Oct. 18, 2003

It was interesting to read the comments of those who had come from a big city with districting. So did I. That is the reason I favor it.

In big cities, governments are for the most part, arranged with big executive departments, and separate city councils. Ostensibly, they are separate branches of government. However, the existence of the big executive branch, with its big budget and many powers, brings on the influence of money and power, often controlled by individuals or small groups.

Cities like Morro Bay use one of two forms of city government. One employs a City Manager, who has actual direct control over most parts of the government, and the other is the City Administrator, who simply oversees the workers, but cannot hire and fire. Though there are differences between them, both are beholden to the city council.

In Morro Bay, the power of government has moved to moneyed interests, and that doesn't represent the bulk of the population. They are, and have long been from one end of town. One might say that it is a sufficient reason to leave things alone. A majority of voters elects the government. However, when the cost of running exceeds the grasp of ordinary people, the nexus of power is forever shifted. Thus, the number of people interested in participating drops. We hear it again and again in town: "Why bother? They're going to do what they want anyway"!

Districting shifts the power back to the people in the neighborhoods. Candidates won't have to spend 5-figure sums to run. They will be able to meet their constituents one-on-one, something that has not been true for a long time.

Will it be true that future council members will 'fight' for their districts? Probably, if that's the term for it. What won't be true is that narrow controlling interests from only two sections of town will apply their power to their own pet projects to the detriment of the other districts.

With this plan, the interests of all of the parts of town will to be balanced against the others - precisely what the founders of this country had in mind when they set it up with branches of congress that represent DISTRICTS. As a wise person once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all of the others". It is time to enable it again in Morro Bay.
Norman Risch

Oct. 17, 2003
The following was removed at the request of the poster... [snip]

Q & A
I'm open to understanding why districting would be better in the long run. What happens in the future when the best Council candidates and Mayoral candidate all live in say the same district? What if a potential great council member would not make a great leader? (mayor). Is districting really the best or only solution?

A wise person once said that democracy is the worst system of government - except for all of the others. May there possibly come a time when the "perfect" council members are in a single district? The question is similar to the guy or gal waiting forever for Mr. or Ms. Right.

Even if in your mythical world, all the "best" candidates were in one district, they still wouldn't have the connection to, or relation with, the people in the other districts. It's just a physical impossibility.

One last thing: The fact is that in a town this size there are MANY qualified people, in all districts. However, if money is a qualification, and it wasn't according to the current law, then Districting offers the best of several alternatives.
Norman Risch

Frequently Asked Questions about Morro Bay Districting

“This is about a Fresh Start, where people will count more than money, and your voice will be heard.”

1.  Does a small city the size of Morro Bay need districting?

Yes. Districting is a way to balance representation. For years, almost all members of the City Council, Planning Commission, and Public Works Advisory Board have lived in proposed Districts 2 or 4, leaving the other three with little or no representation.

2.  Will I be voting for all city council members or just the representative from my district?

Just like national and state elections, you will vote for your own district representative. For that reason, your vote will be even more important to your council member.

3.  Will the mayor have the same powers and responsibilities? How will the mayor be selected?

Yes, the mayor will have exactly the same powers and responsibilities. The position will rotate every year to each District in turn, in a fair and balanced manner. Each district’s council representative will be mayor once every five years.

4.  This seems radical for Morro Bay.

Districting assures balanced representation and balanced opportunity for citizens throughout the city desiring to run for a council seat.

5.  Under this districting, how will city council members be elected?

In the next election (November, 2004), 3 seats will be open: Districts 1, 3, and 5. State law requires that currently serving council members (Peters:2 and Winholtz: 4) remain in office until their terms expire in 2006. Like now, every two years an election will be held for either the two or three available seats whose terms expire.

6.  How will this balance representation?

This proposal will give 5 equally populated sections of the city a representative to the council, and with smaller areas, will reduce money as a factor in running a campaign.

7.  Won’t this divide our town?

Since each part of the town will have representatives coming together as a council, it will finally begin to unify us.

8.  I live in South Morro Bay. Why should I support this idea?

For the same reason so many others all over Morro Bay support this proposal. Beyond balancing representation and making campaigns more affordable, this proposal will provide you with more personal contact with your candidates and elected representatives who value your views.

9.  Is it true that only a few hundred people will vote for each council member?

Each member of the council will be elected by his or her registered voting neighbors, but the entire council will probably be elected by as many, if not more voters than under the current system. More people will run because they can afford it. More people will vote because they have a responsive local government.

For more information, call Brenda Agee-Smiley at 772-5885, or email: MorroBayDistrict@[remove]

<= Image of FAQs, click to enlarge
(Submitted by the committee "pro" Districting)


"Con" Districting Submissions
Note: does not attempt to verify or validate any information presented as fact below.
more "con-districting" information can be found at the opponents web site (by
John Barta)

Feb. 27, 2004
Statement from Janice Peters

I was talking with the City Attorney today and an interesting point came up about Measure F that its supporters may not have considered. A conflict of interest occurrs if a Councilmember will benefit financially from a decision more than other residents of the community or district. Therefore if someone from the Cloisters is elected to the Council, they would have to step down on any discussion of the Cloisters assessment district because of a direct financial benefit. Someone elected from a neighborhood where they want to underground utilities might have to step down because of increased property values. Election by district could potentially be detrimental to the very issues each district is most concerned about, because their elected representative might be unable to vote on those issues.
Janice Peters

Feb. 20, 2004
Statement from Janice Peters

In response to comments about the campaign cost figures I used, they are from the Sun Bulletin, October 9, 2002.  This was the last reporting before the election, and I used that as my point of comparison.  At that time the tally was as follows:
Yates $8,772 cash; $982 in kind; total $9,754
Boatman  $3,590 cash
Wood  $3,891 cash; $841 in kind; total $4,732
Woodson  $2,671 cash; $550 in kind; total $3,221
Peters  $2,387 cash
Winholtz  $2,074 cash; $99 in kind; total $2,173
Thank you for the opportunity to clarify this.
Janice Peters

Feb. 11, 2004
Statement from Janice House

In response to Betty Winholtz comments about districting in Watsonville. She mis-spoke. I was born and raised in Watsonville (my parents were also born and raised there) so I knew that when she said that the population was 16,000 that she was wrong. The current population is 47,707 (according to their web site). When I moved away from Watsonville 20+ years ago, the population was about 40,000. In addition, the reason Watsonville has districts is that it was forced upon them by the Supreme Court in 1989 for the specific purpose of encouraging more minority representation. Watsonville has a large minority population. It was not by choice.

Janice House

Feb. 5, 2004
Statement from Jim Wood

Vote NO on Measure F

Districting is probably one of the worst ideas ever presented to the voters of Morro Bay. The proponents claim that winning candidates in past elections generally had the most money. The fact is the newest council member (who is also one of the sponsors of this poorly thought out measure) ran her campaign with the least amount of money and won. Congratulations, now lets move on with something constructive rather than divisive.

Money isn’t the question here, the majority point of view is. Consider this, the last three elections, all are historically close, were decided by 12, 12, and 22 votes respectively. Under the present system we have the opportunity to elect a mayor and two councilpersons representing 60% of the council every two years. What’s the problem? Well… let me tell ya.

You may recall we had an influx of out of towners a few years back. One made an immediate bid for the council as new champion of what we’ll call the “sky is falling” group. Even though she had the largest war chest funded with out of town money, she lost. The war cry at that time was, “not enough women on advisory boards or council seats.”  Town history told us it was bull crap, but then the “sky is falling” bunch is constantly shoveling bull crap. She was appointed to an advisory board, rarely showed up and eventually resigned after losing her bid for council, then moved back to where she came from. That’s what I call real commitment.

Now we have a new batch of pawns from the “sky is falling” camp promoting districting. Who are these people???? Where are they when it’s time to volunteer for something? Have you ever seen them applying for an advisory board, or helping with the Vets day celebration, the Dixon Spaghetti dinner, Fourth of July, Harbor festival, Thanksgiving feast, benefit Bar-B-Qs or boosters club? Heaven forbid they should do something constructive in the community. They constantly have some “buzz word” issue to whine about. Dirty air? It’s gotten progressively better over the past 30 years. Affordable housing? These are the same people that oppose granny units and are constantly finding ways to restrict growth, stop progress and drive the cost of housing up. Meanwhile we are faced with another un-funded State mandate to provide affordable housing.

It seems if you want to be a big fish in a little pond you move to a small town. If you can’t become the big fish, simply divide the town into five smaller ponds. Dividing a small town of 10,000 people into five little fiefdoms so we can throw more spitballs at each other is not an answer. Constructive participation is an answer, yet they prefer to promote dissention and use diversity as a battle cry. Diversity derives from the word divide. They claim the town will benefit from leadership that reflects all citizens. We have that now. They claim it will enhance true democracy. We have democracy now. Under our present system all you have to do is show up at a meeting and be heard. Under their system you heckle, make snide remarks, spread half-truths and cast innuendo. Heckling and disruption is their modus operandi. They don’t understand the word leadership. Again who are these people? What is their motivation?

One point everyone seems to miss. If districting passes, it will take a mere 334 signatures (25%) in any district to initiate a recall. (Based on the present 6,681 registered voters divided amongst 5 districts). Recalls, just like this special election, will cost the city approximately $30,000 each time the hammer drops. You can bet these same dissenters will be clamoring for a recall in their district the minute their representative fails to win, or votes against something they want.

I urge you to vote NO on Measure F.

Jim Wood,
Po Box 968
Morro Bay, 93443
(805) 772-0110

Feb. 5, 2004
"Rebuttal" statement from Janice Peters

In response to Mr. Risch’s diatribe, yes, I do believe we can all get along if we listen to and respect each other’s differing views. I have listened to Mr. Risch one-on-one and find it interesting that he considers himself expert on the historical philosophies and goals of our city after living here for such a short time. Be that as it may, here are some facts that he ignored or misstated:

The people on the Council were elected to serve by a majority of the voters. The 41 roundabout was dropped from consideration because the citizens objected to it. I still don’t understand why the Council is criticized for that action!  There is not and never was a 6-story convention center being considered. There is a drawing in a consultant’s report illustrating the size of conference facility required for a 500-seat meeting room. While I believe our City would benefit from a meeting room of that size, there is no way I (nor, I venture to say any of the council) would approve a hotel project of that size. None of us “snored through” the discussion of the Visitor’s Center and Chamber funding. It is my understanding that those funds are kept and accounted for separately, and we have asked for confirmation of that. The campaign cost figures I used are from the Sun Bulletin, compiled from public records. Measure F would not limit campaign spending, so one candidate in a district could still greatly outspend another.

Simply by the title, the Mayor holds a more prominent position, both locally and in the eyes of State and Federal legislators. I did not exclude anyone from eligibility for the office of Mayor, but stated that someone with major time commitments to their business and/or family might find the additional time commitment of the Mayor’s job difficult to fulfill. As for the accusation of elitism, all I can say is “Phooey!”  I have always encouraged people to apply for our boards and commissions and to run for office. Anyone with the time, dedication, and ability to not take offense at personal attacks is fully qualified to run. Whether they are elected or not is up to the voters…all of them.

Janice Peters, City Councilmember

Feb. 3, 2004
Statement from Stan House

Measure F's proponent's state that they are going to "bring the American form of representation to Morro Bay." This is an insult to all the good people who worked so hard to bring this city into existence. People working together is what the present system is all about.

What the backers of this initiative don't seem to understand is that, at the present time, all councilmembers are responsible to all voters. With their system only one councilperson would represent them. This would do nothing

to help solve future citywide problems that require a citywide solution.

The opponents have not been able to come up with one example of a city with a population of 10,000 that has this system in California. In fact, Seattle, Washington, a city with over a half a million people, turned in down in November of 2003 because the voters determined that their city wasn't large enough to require districts.

We are a small town with one elementary school, one high school and the ability to contact any councilperson that we want. Their councilmembers aren't strangers. They are people that we elected and see at events all over town. They ARE our neighbors.

The idea that you achieve campaign reform by changing your electoral process is faulty thinking at best. There is nothing in this initiative to put a cap on spending. The only thing this initiative would accomplish is to make it possible for only people in your district to spend whatever they want to get elected. Therefore, you are only eliminating your choices, not the money spent on campaigns.

Finally, forty-seven percent of our citizens are renters. Under Measure F, a renter who is elected to council will have to give up his or her seat if forced to move because of higher rents or the sale of their residence. Somehow, disenfranchising almost half of the population doesn't seem more "democratic" or good for the city.

Morro Bay is a city of good people. At election time, we all choose the people we want to represent the community as a whole. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. VOTE NO ON MEASURE F.

Stan House, Morro Bay

Jan. 23, 2004
Statement from Janice Peters, City Councilmember, in OPPOSITION to Measure F (Districting Initiative):

Morro Bay is home to 10,000 diverse, intelligent and involved people.  It’s challenging to keep all our differing viewpoints, experiences and perspectives working together for the City we all care about.  The Mayor and City Council, elected by the entire voting populace, should recognize and work for the common good, and be accountable to all citizens.

Recently there have been some controversial decisions that have made people upset and frustrated by the Council's actions.  That situation needs to be resolved, but to use one of my grandmother’s favorite quotes, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” 

Don’t give up your right to vote for three candidates every two years, and instead limit yourself to only one vote every four years. 

Don’t give up your right to vote for a Mayor who has the time and dedication to do the job well. 

Instead, use ALL your votes to support candidates who represent your views.

Measure F supporters say money wins elections.  Not anymore.

It used to be that you needed to spend a lot to make yourself known to the voters.  However, with televised forums, that is no longer necessary. 

Betty Winholtz and I both spent under $2400 on our successful campaigns, less than either of our unsuccessful opponents.  And it’s not all money out of your own pocket.  Your supporters contribute to your campaign costs.

Measure F supporters say North Morro Bay is not represented.  This is not true. 

Historically, there has been a natural balance on our Council.  Seven of the last nine mayors, and eleven of the last 23 Councilmembers lived in North Morro Bay. 

While four current Councilmembers live in the south, our viewpoints and voting record vary widely, proving that location has nothing to do with political philosophy.  During my tenure on the Council, I have been asked to address more issues for residents in the north part of town than in my own neighborhood. 

Measure F supporters say any Councilmember can act as Mayor.  I disagree. 

To do the job properly, the Mayor must be able to travel to Washington D.C., Sacramento, and anywhere else where Morro Bay needs representation to achieve funding and other support.  It makes a big difference in the eyes of our State and Federal legislators to have the Mayor speak for us instead of a paid lobbyist. 

In addition, there is a much greater time commitment required of the Mayor.  Someone with a family and/or a fulltime job may be able to handle the Council time commitment, but not the additional hours the office of Mayor requires. 

To minimize the importance of the Mayor’s job is a disservice to our City.   Personally, I have given careful consideration to whether I could make that commitment for several years now.  At this point I feel I can, and I intend to run for Mayor this year.

Measure F supporters say districts will insure fair representation and a more balanced government.  I think they will have the opposite effect. 

What if you don’t like the candidates running in your district and you do like someone running in another district?  Your vote becomes useless. 

What if no one in your district wants to run, and someone gets “talked into it” who really doesn’t want to be there for four years?  Again, your vote is useless.

Imagine this scenario with districts in effect:  Each Councilmember made campaign promises to their constituents.  Joe Blow lives in the south, and his constituents want underground utilities; Bob Brown has the Embarcadero in his district, and his supporters want another parking lot; Susie Smith lives in the north, where her constituents want their streets paved; Andy Able’s district includes the Cloisters and they want their assessment removed; Jill Jones’ district wants their water pressure increased, requiring new pipes. 

If each Councilmember supports what’s best for their district, who supports the common good?

Take the scenario to a more personal level:  Jane Doe lives in a district served by Bob Brown, a strong incumbent, whose views Jane does not share.  Jane has a problem with an issue on her property that Bob doesn’t feel is important, so he does nothing about it.  Jane goes to Susie Smith, whose views are more compatible with Jane’s, and asks her for help.  Susie has issues important to her own district constituents and needs Bob’s support, so she can’t risk offending Bob over Jane’s problem.  Jane gets a similar response from the other three Councilmembers.  Bob has the support of her district majority and Jane can’t vote for any of the other Councilmembers, so she is basically out of luck.  Situations like this could become common with districts in effect.

With our current system, the Council must listen to and prioritize all the needs of the entire City, not only those items that will help them be reelected. 

My only “platform” in my two bids for election has been one of uniting our community, channeling all our diverse interests, talents and energies into positive goals and achievements for our city.  In my view, districting would do the opposite…it would divide us and weaken the fiber of our community.

Democracy is about having choices and using them, having the right to elect Councilmembers and a Mayor answerable to all of us, and working towards the common good. 

Democracy is not well served by a divided community, which is why I am absolutely opposed to Measure F. 

Janice Peters, City Councilmember

Nov. 6, 2003
Great. It appears that, because of the behavior of district proponents at the post office, the Salvation Army, PTA, Rotary, Girl Scouts, etc. will not be allowed to stand at the post office anymore and collect donations or sell cookies and candy.  By not following the law, they have spoiled it for citizens trying to do constructive things to help people in need.  Congratulations!  One group spoils it for everyone.  No to districting and yes to keeping this City together..
Stan House, North Morro Bay

Nov. 5, 2003
After looking closely at the districting idea, I am adamantly opposed to it. I live in the North part of town and from my perspective this appears to be a plan being driven by special interest groups wanting to push their pet projects. I am a strong believer in equal representation so it is important to me that I maintain my ability to have a voice in selecting our Mayor and City Council members – not just one Council member. If you feel that Morro Bay needs a change, meet with our Mayor and Council members - get involved in the decision making process – they do listen! I’m fed up with special interest groups, so I’m against creating voting districts.
Marc Kurth, Morro Bay, marc@[remove]

Oct. 31, 2003
Apparently the people pushing this petition for districts in Morro Bay feel they have the right to intimidate and harass people who pick up their mail, buy stamps or go grocery shopping. The police have been called on several occasions. If this is their idea of "eye-to-eye" campaigning then this town doesn't need it. Making personal comments about our council and board members adds nothing to the positive discourse that should be taking place.

It's not more "democratic" when the citizens of our town go from being allowed to elect four councilmembers to being allowed to elect one. It's not more "democratic" to go from being allowed to elect the city mayor city-wide to having him appointed. This is about taking away everyone in the city's ability to vote for the people they want to represent the city as a whole.

This is not a statewide election and it's not a federal election. This is about a city with 10,000 people. The previous mayor was from North Morro Bay. There have been four mayors from North Morro Bay. There is presently a city councilmember from North Morro Bay. This election will cost the city $30,000. If, as the proponents say, they have 60% of the population in their area, they should pick a candidate who can win in the next election and stop meddling in the election process.

If you have signed the petition and have second thoughts about it you can contact Bridgett Bauer at City Hall and have your name removed. Let's keep this city together.
Stan House, North Morro Bay

Oct. 30, 2003
The proposed special election to divide Morro Bay into five separate council districts is being touted as the "democratic" way.

Under our current system every Morro Bay citizen can vote for TWO council members and a MAYOR every TWO years. Under the proposed district system each voter will only be able to vote for ONE council member every FOUR year years.

This is their version of "democracy"?????

Remember, these people are the ones who brought us Rock Solid Recycling a few years ago. They are specialists in bringing us expensive fiascoes.

The smaller cities that have tried districting, like Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Palos Verdes, Rancho Mirage and others have either gone back to our system, or are in the process. They now know districting is an expensive mistake. Better we take the lead from those who have experienced this disaster, rather than follow the misguided advice of those who have no experience with it.

If you have signed the petition, and want to rescind your signature, you may do so by contacting our city clerk, Bridgett Bauer.
Bill Olson

Oct. 21, 2003
I have heard that some people have the impression that I support the districting idea, so I wanted to use this forum to go on record as being ABSOLUTELY OPPOSED TO DISTRICTS.  I feel it is wrong on many levels, which I will articulate at a later time.

My number one concern, however, is that our community for the past few years has finally been dissolving some of the longstanding divisiveness that has hampered our working together for the overall good of the City.  I recognize that there have been some very controversial issues lately and a great deal of frustration because of the Council's actions, but to further divide the City into 5 special interest groups can only make things worse, not better.

As a Councilmember, I speak with people from every area of the City about issues important to them.  My number is out there for anyone to call, and I welcome the contact. As I've often stated, it's much easier for the Council to make decisions if we know how people feel, but it is a 2-way have to let us know.  (The local grapevine is always active, but not always accurate!)  One final comment for now...Dave Elliott and I live a block apart, but we are regularly on opposite sides of issues.  Geography has nothing to do with it.
Janice Peters, Councilmember

Oct. 21, 2003 (submitted to 10-21-03, and to The Tribune independently)
No to Special Districts.
Morro Bay is a wonderful community and a great place to live.  However, that sense of community is being threatened by a petition calling for the division of Morro Bay into five separate voting districts.  This effort to divide Morro Bay this way is the antithesis of what is meant by the term community.  Any dictionary will tell you that a community is
a group of people who have shared characteristics and interests and that is exactly how I would define Morro Bay.  The creation of special voting districts will be costly, divisive and would make adversaries of the good people of Morro Bay.  Please join me in opposing such a plan.
Jim Phillips, Morro Bay

Oct. 19, 2003
Editorial Opinion of The Tribune - published Oct. 19, 2003
"Balkanization by the bay" 
"Carving Morro Bay into five City Council districts is a bad idea ... balancing a sense of frozen-in-time charm while burnishing... commercial appeal...."
(click to enlarge thumbnail below)

Oct. 18, 2003 (from Council member Bill Peirce, sent to moderator)
I don't know how much interest you have in the District Issue, but I have serious concerns about the idea.

First, I understand the process of putting the issue before the voters will cost residents of Morro Bay about $30,000.

Second, I believe districts will divide our community with disastrous results. I have attached a document which outlines these and other concerns. Use it as you will, with my permission.  Regards,
Bill Peirce Morro Bay City Council Member

Political Districts in Morro Bay.

Districts will splinter the city into five sections.  The sense of community and unity will be lost. Districts (as evidenced by many Boards of Supervisors) create power brokering and “back-room deals.”  For a supervisor to get support for an issue in their district, they must frequently agree to support some project in another supervisor’s district.

Districts create a lack of support for citizens.  Under the district concept, a citizen has only one elected official to whom they can turn to help solve problems.  Ideally they should be able to contact all five elected officials, but in reality, they will only receive the ear of the official in whose district they live.  If his or her elected official is not concerned or unwilling to help, then in reality, no one will care. It will require only about 250 votes to get elected to the council.  So few votes are hardly the voice of the community.

There may not be any qualified candidates in a given district who are willing or interested in serving on the council.  In effect, unqualified people, or those who are not serious about their community may be the only choice a voter may have to represent them.

The initiative calls for the office of Mayor to be eliminated.  The title of Mayor would be honorary and would pass from one councilperson to another. The city was originally incorporated with the five councilmembers choosing among themselves who would be the Mayor.  In 1974, after bickering on the council, the voters approved an initiative for direct election, allowing all the voters to select their Mayor.  It’s not a political plum, or a subject of back room deals.

There may be one or two small cities in California that have districts, otherwise it appears that the concept is limited to communities like Los Angeles and San Francisco.  In those cities, it is difficult for a single council member to represent the entire community.  It is too diverse.  However, in Morro Bay, we can walk across the entire city in an afternoon.  We are all concerned members of the community as a whole.

We, in Morro Bay, are frequently “victims” of being fair.  Many times we see those people armed with petitions standing outside the supermarket or the post office.  They walk up to residents and ask them to sign their petition.  Frequently, the resident will express confusion, or ignorance of the issue in question.  The response by the petitioner is usually the same.  “It’s OK to not be informed, you can sign anyway.  By signing, you LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE.”  Letting the people decide in this case may cost us all thousands of dollars we don’t need to spend on the special election. 
Bill Peirce Morro Bay City Council Member

Oct. 18, 2003
I for one as a native son of this area and will NOT support such a idea!
Gene Schellenger

Oct. 18, 2003
Districting is a terrible idea! We recently bought a home in Morro Bay (about three years ago) and come from a large city which is divided into districts. At first, the city council members worked together to solve the problems and progress of the city. As years passed, however, the districts became more like fiefdoms with each member seemingly paying less and less attention to, or at least devoting less and less time to, matters of the overall city. The members fight hard for improving things in their district, much to their credit and considering the variety of interests imposed on each member. Money makes the wheels turn--money for streets, parks, bridges, all sorts of public works programs and each member fights for the most money for their district (as it inevitably will do under districting) and ultimately to stalemate, if compromise can't be reached. The compromise, if it comes, may, because of perceived necessity, be reached out of sight of the public. The benefit to the city may or may not be realized.
Wouldn't be better to leave things as they are and vote in every election to make as certain as possible that we elect people to represent us in the very best way, a way which would benefit the entire city, not individual districts. We can also attend council meetings and speak out on agenda items which are important to us. Districting can divide a city, particularly one the size of Morro Bay. Our active involvement in the activities of the City Council can help move the city to bigger and better solutions.
John & Ana Burns

Oct. 18, 2003
Letter to Tribune Editor, Districting shortsighted, by Stan House
dated Oct. 11, 2003, submitted to Oct. 18, 2003

To the editor,
The idea of electing city councilmembers by district in Morro Bay has got to be someone's idea of a bad joke.  This city has 10,000 people.  I would estimate it has between 6-7000 voters at most , maybe less.  To believe that it's good for the city to break voters up into separate districts, so they can  fight over projects for their individual neighborhoods is a very shortsighted idea.

I live in North Morro Bay and don't feel disenfranchised. My neighbors don't feel disenfranchised.   I would suggest that the people pushing this idea volunteer and get involved in the present system.  If, as they say, they have half the votes, then they should be able to get anyone elected they want.

Larger cities, such as Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo, and Paso Robles don't elect their councilmembers by district. They seem to be doing just fine. This isn't L.A. or San Francisco.    We don't need ward bosses in Morro Bay. All meetings are broadcast on public  television and the phone numbers of all councilmembers and the mayor are listed.  There is no problem with access to  public officials in this town.

Let's not build walls where they're not necessary.  Morro Bay is a small town.  We don't need big city politics. I hope for the good of the community, the citizens of Morro Bay will not support this idea and will not sign the petition to put this on the ballot.
Stan House  Morro Bay

Oct. 18, 2003
Back in the 80's, the City of Oakland, where we resided, did exactly what Morro Bay is considering.  At the time, we thought it was a good idea and voted for it because we felt each district's needs would be better represented. 
In fact, it was a really bad decision and has led to the "Balkanization" of the city.  It makes it very difficult for disparate groups to come together for common solutions since each district fights solely for its own perceived "needs".  No one is fighting for the needs of the City as a whole, so the decisions that would require all of us to work together never get made.  
Based on our experience, we cannot understand why a city the size of Morro Bay would even consider district elections.  If you believe your views are not being represented, why not just get active politically, and get people elected who will fight for your ideas?
Carole & Steve Rathfon

Letter to the Tribune editor.  Redistricting is a dirty word.  Creating five Morro Bay council districts is a bad idea.  Council member and mayoral candidates were thoroughly vetted during the last election - with excellent results.  With the proposed districting, some of the best candidates would be out of play.  In our tiny town this makes no sense.  We elect our council members to represent us, and our interests exist far beyond the proposed residential district lines.  Rotating the mayoral position among council members must be a scary idea to even some potential council members, who might want to get a little more experience before undertaking that job.    MB, Morro Bay (Published Oct. 2003)


(Submitted by the committee "pro" Districting)
Note: home locations are shown for the current members of the City Council, Planning Commission, and Public Works Advisory Board
Note from organizer: "...only one person on the three governing bodies resides in an area other than the two southern districts. From what I have been told, this representative imbalance had been in place to a greater or slightly lesser extent for many, many years."


Source: Neil Farrell
The Sun Bulletin

If Morro Bay were divided into five districts for electing City Council members, how would that work?  The city would be split into five districts that are based on U.S. Census Bureau divisions. They'd be of roughly equal population, just over 2,000 apiece.  Each district would elect one council member, and candidates would have to live in the district that they were running to represent.  Instead of the mayor being elected directly, the office would rotate among council members. ...
Published on October 1, 2003, Page 5, Tribune, The (San Luis Obispo, CA)


Source: Neil Farrell
The Tribune

Concerned that Morro Bay's political balance tilts too much toward waterfront and business interests, some local residents want to change the way their City Council and mayor are elected. They say that splitting the city into districts would bring council members closer to the people they represent and trim the cost of political campaigns.  Much of Morro Bay's political establishment says it'll divide the city.  Under a proposed ballot initiative turned in to the city...
Published on September 26, 2003, Page A1, Tribune, The (San Luis Obispo, CA)

...more follows... excerpted from the Tribune site  [emphasis added]

Posted on Fri, Sep. 26, 2003
Group calls for council districts
Advocates want to abolish current at-large voting

The Tribune

Concerned that Morro Bay's political balance tilts too much toward waterfront and business interests, some local residents want to change the way their City Council and mayor are elected.  They say that splitting the city into districts would bring council members closer to the people they represent and trim the cost of political campaigns.  Much of Morro Bay's political establishment says it'll divide the city.  Under a proposed ballot initiative turned in to the city clerk on Wednesday, Morro Bay would be split into five council districts based on U.S. census tracts. Each district would elect one council member.  The independently elected office of mayor would also be eliminated under the proposal. Instead, council members would take turns serving as mayor for one year.  If the plan is approved by a majority of voters in the city, Morro Bay would become the only city in San Luis Obispo County divided into council districts. Officials there would be elected in a similar manner as county supervisors.  Proponents of the initiative say the north end of town, home to more than half of the city's population, is currently not being represented.  Brenda Agee-Smiley, one of the organizers of the initiative, said that its backers are also concerned about growth.  "We're concerned at the direction it's going," she said, adding that working-class people are being priced out of housing in town.  "I think the low man on the totem pole -- whoever that is -- is not being represented on this council," Agee-Smiley said.  She added that representation for the south end of the city, including downtown and Embarcadero business, "has been a little heavy in the past.  "We want to balance the representation throughout town," Agee-Smiley said.  With districts, council candidates "would only be competing with people in their area that have the same concerns as they do," Agee-Smiley said. "We're just trying to level the playing field."  When told of the proposal, some members of Morro Bay's political establishment said it's a bad idea.  "In my mind, in a city the size of Morro Bay, this is one of the most disturbing and destructive things that can happen," Councilman Dave Elliot said. Morro Bay has a population of 10,350, according to U.S. census data.  "They'd be pitting neighbor against neighbor," Elliot said. "It's a terrible thing for the city."  Councilwoman Janice Peters is worried that electing the council by district could pull people apart.  "My concern is that my whole political career I've been trying to take down the barriers people put up between each other," Peters said. "I'm afraid this will divide everybody again.  "This is too small a town," she added. "I think we have fair representation."  Councilwoman Betty Winholtz was more sympathetic to the plan. "If there's a down side, we'll find out," she said. "On the surface it's a good intent."  She added that the initiative offers a fairer way to pick a mayor.  "It's a lot less fussy. You just rotate it," Winholtz said. "There's no debate, no argument." Mayor Bill Yates disagreed, noting that under the current, at-large electoral system, each council member and the mayor is responsible to the entire community.  "I've always felt Morro Bay citizens are supportive of the way their government is organized here, with the mayor being their leader," Yates said.  Councilman Bill Peirce is concerned about the proposed voting districts' small size, just over 2,000 apiece.  "You'd get maybe 500 voters overall in a district," he said, assuming that more than half of its population probably doesn't vote.  "So 250 votes is basically all it's going to take to become a City Council" member, Peirce added.  Agee-Smiley plotted on a city map where the council members, city planning commissioners and Public Works Advisory Board members live. Of the 17 people who make up those boards, only Peirce lives north of Highway 41.  Morro Bay's city attorney has 15 days from Wednesday's filing to write an impartial analysis.  Organizers must then gather 1,026 signatures -- 15 percent of the city's registered voters -- to qualify for the March ballot.  If approved by a majority of voters, the change would take effect starting with the November 2004 municipal election.