The Santa Ana City Council Monday night approved the redrawing of council ward boundaries to reflect 2010 census data.
Council members say the new lines provide balance in ward representation and hopefully will result in more candidates running for office. Council members David Benavides and Michele Martinez ran unopposed in 2010, making for an unhealthy democracy, Martinez and Councilman Sal Tinajero said.
"There should always be someone challenging an incumbent," Martinez said.
The city is carved into six wards. Council members are required to live in their wards but are elected in a citywide vote, in practice making them representatives of the whole city. The mayor, a seventh member of the council, is the only one without an assigned ward.
The new lines cut through several neighborhoods, which prompted complaints from a handful of residents, who said neighborhoods should each have one council member to represent their interests.
"Believe me, the residents are confused enough figuring out which ward they're in," said resident Connie Hamilton. "Splitting the neighborhoods is just very confusing."
The residents also complained that neighborhood leaders weren't notified of the public hearing to set the new boundaries. Local attorney Alfredo Amezcua, who lost to Mayor Miguel Pulido in last year's mayoral election, asked council members to postpone the hearing and hold community forums in the meantime.
"We do not know all the answers. We need to talk to the community," Amezcua said. "I feel we have failed," he said, referring to community outreach.
Pulido pointed out that council members are elected at large, a fact that makes concerns about neighborhood representation moot.
"Fortunately we're not like other cities where wards really matter. They tie budgets to wards; they tie dollars to wards," Pulido said. "We don't."
Tinajero said that having two council members representing a neighborhood gave them stronger representation.
"I don't see that as a weakness, I see that as a strength," Tinajero said.
In response to residents' complaints about notification of the hearing, City Clerk Maria Huizar said that 360 notices were sent to neighborhood association leaders and that the local press was notified.
Council members directed Huizar to meet with small groups of residents and show them the process that led to the new boundaries before a second council vote in January. Should a resident propose a good idea, the council could reject the approved map and start over, Pulido said.
— ADAM ELMAHREK