Los Banos council moves forward with by-district voting measure and new irrigation schedule

aibarra@mercedsunstar.comAugust 7, 2014 

The Los Banos City Council on Wednesday unanimously agreed to submit a measure for the Nov. 4 ballot that would switch city council elections from at-large to by-district voting.

If voters approve by-district elections, each council member will represent a specific area of the city, while the mayoral seat would remain under the at-large system. By-district voting would not occur until the 2016 election.

Currently, the city holds elections through an at-large method, which means voters can vote for each of the five council slots. The push for by-district voting was triggered by a lawsuit threat from the Community Advocacy Coalition, a local civil rights group that states the city is in violation of the 2001 California Voting Rights Act.

The group has questioned the representation of the Latino community on the council. The council has no Latino members, while 68 percent of Los Banos’ population is Latino.

During a July 18 meeting, the council chose a map that divides Los Banos into four districts. The city has been working on meeting the deadline of today for submitting the measure. The map was chosen out of four options.

“We did this at rocket speed, but I do think we have a good map,” Los Banos City Manager Steve Carrigan said. “We’ll see what happens on Nov. 4.”

Councilwoman Elizabeth Stonegrove said she was happy to see the council move forward with the measure, despite not agreeing with the map chosen.

“At the July 18 meeting, I voiced my opposition with respect to the draft that was chosen by the council,” Stonegrove said. “I still don’t agree that was the best map choice for the city … mainly because you have three districts that come south of Highway 152 in the map.”

“But I respect the decision of the council,” she added. “Any plans to move forward with the district elections rather than the at-large elections is better than what we have today.”

Irrigation schedules

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the council approved an ordinance that changes the landscape irrigation schedule from three times a week to twice a week. The new restriction comes as an attempt to meet the state’s 20 percent water conservation goal, city Public Works Director Mark Fachin explained.

Properties with even-numbered addresses will be limited to outdoor irrigation on Sundays and Wednesdays; properties with odd-numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Watering is already prohibited from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. any day of the week. Irrigation will not be allowed on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Fachin said the new schedule is effective immediately, and people violating the schedule will be warned and then fined, if the the violation continues.

The previous measures, which include using water-saving nozzles, using a broom to clean concrete surfaces, fixing leaks and drips promptly and restricting indoor water use, still need to be practiced by everyone, Fachin said.

Conservation measures are listed on the city’s website. Anyone needing assistance in setting their sprinkler timers or needing an audit of their service can contact the Los Banos Public Works Department at (209) 827-7056.

Sun-Star staff writer Ana B. Ibarra can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or aibarra@mercedsunstar.com.

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