A majority of voters in Palm Desert were leaning toward the smaller-is-better approach in local government, with Measure B maintaining a lead as vote-counting continued Wednesday.
The measure — which would divide District 2 into four smaller districts — had a nearly 11-point margin of support, with 4,908 yes votes and 3,965 no votes.
Under the city’s current system, voters choose one council member from District 1, which covers the Civic Center area and includes roughly 20% of the city’s population. The other four council members are selected — two every two years — from what is known as District 2, which covers the rest of the city and about 80% of its population.
Measure B would expand the city’s two current districts into five by carving District 2 into four individual districts, from which members would then be chosen.
District 1 Councilwoman Karina Quintanilla wrote in favor of the measure, saying she believes it will help “districts elect leaders who represent the values of the community.”
District 2 Council Members Kathleen Kelly and Gina Nestande, along with Mayor Jan Harnik and Council Member Sabby Jonathan wrote in a rebuttal that elected officials should be “accountable to everyone, not just a small pocket of people.”
They argued that maintaining the current system means the four District 2 members focus on the city as a whole, not just an individual slice of it. They said the status quo has led to improvements in road maintenance, community programs and expansion of the Cal State San Bernardino-Palm Desert satellite campus.
Former Mayor Van Tanner, business owners Megan Baeman Jacinto and Carmen Rubio, Palm Desert Greens Democratic Club President Charles Ara and retired resident Shirley Ara wrote in support of the measure, saying different parts of Palm Desert are affected by different issues that would be better addressed if council members were micro-focused on individual districts.
They said the measure would lead to more equal representation of all residents on the City Council.