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Council votes to move city’s March elections to even-numbered years

In response to a new state law designed to enhance voter participation, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council voted Tuesday to move its next election from March 2019 to March 2020.

The city has a history of conducting standalone city council elections in March of odd-numbered years, canvassing its own ballots and adopting the outcome of the elections.

On Sept. 1, 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 415 into law, requiring local governments to consolidate their municipal elections to a statewide election date. The mandate states the consolidation needs to take place by no later than 2022 if a city’s elections have drawn 25% less than the average turnout by local voters for the previous four statewide general elections.

According to City Clerk Tania Moreno, La Cañada Flintridge saw a 25.51% turnout in the March 2009 municipal election, a 31% turnout in March 2011, a 22.44% turnout in March 2013 and a 28.47% turnout in March 2017.

In the last four statewide elections, La Cañada Flintridge saw a 68.98% voter turnout in November 2010, a 79.96% turnout in November 2012, a 48.74% turnout in November 2014 and a 78.72% turnout in November 2016, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk office.

The City Council was asked to consider whether to move the municipal elections to November or keep them in March.

“Staff recommends March of even years,” City Manager Mark Alexander said.

He cautioned the council that if the city moved its municipal elections to November, there could be ballot-crowding issues.

“City Council elections could get lost in the campaigns happening simultaneously,” Alexander said.

The council’s 4-0 decision (Councilman Jon Curtis was absent) to follow staff’s recommendation will allow incumbents to serve an additional year in office in the current cycle.

Mayor Michael T. Davitt said he appreciates that the November general election could potentially bring a higher voter turnout, but he sided with the staff recommendation.

“For a local small municipality, the independence from state measures, governor’s race and presidential race are important so people don’t get lost in that,” he said. “The council is a non-partisan type of operation. I’m more comfortable with the March date.”

Mayor Pro Tem Terry Walker agreed, calling March “a better choice” for the municipal election.

“We have never been partisan on the council and I would hate to see that come into it,” she said.

Also approved during Tuesday’s meeting was a $900 spending request for Davitt to travel to Washington, D.C. Dec. 10 through Dec. 12 to attend federal advocacy meetings regarding sober-living homes. In May, Davitt was named president of the California Contract Cities Assn. The resolution states that as a city “impacted by the issue of sober living homes,” Davitt can attend the meeting and address the city’s concerns and municipalities’ concerns on a national level.

Matt Sanderson is a contributing writer to Times Community News.

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