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By Joe Naiman
Village News Correspondent 

NCFPD approves election zones


Last updated 5/6/2019 at 10:10am

The North County Fire Protection District board approved election zones for future board elections which will now be by zone rather than for at-large seats.

Three NCFPD board votes, April 16, finalized the process. A public hearing was followed by a 5-0 vote not to modify any of the proposed boundary maps. Three options had been developed, and a 4-1 vote with Ruth Harris opposed adopted one of those maps. The election voting sequence for the zone seats was approved on a 4-1 vote with John Van Doorn opposed.

“It’s a good change. I think that more civic involvement is a good thing,” fire chief Steve Abbott said.

Elections by zone require candidates to live in that zone, and the election for that seat is by voters within that zone. If a recall petition is circulated against an incumbent, only voters within that zone would be able to sign the petition and vote in the recall election.

The fire district’s Jan. 22 meeting approved a resolution to transition to electing directors by zone and also authorized Abbott to confer with NCFPD’s legal counsel and to hire independent consultants who can produce draft maps. A public hearing was held March 26, so the April 16 public hearing was the second at which members of the public were able to provide input to the board on the maps.

“I like the fact that we’ve had public participation along the way,” Abbott said.

FPUD staff developed the three maps.

“I’m happy we were able to accomplish that ourselves,” Abbott said. “Not only did we save the consulting fees but also potential litigation costs. We felt like it was a win-win.”

In 2002 the state Legislature and former Gov. Gray Davis amended the California Elections Code to prohibit the use of at-large elections for public agencies with elected board members if the at-large elections impair the ability of a politically protected class to elect candidates of its choice or to influence the outcome of an election. School districts have changed their election procedure due to the threat of lawsuits, but fire protection districts have not been subject to such legal challenges. The one area in which race can be a factor for a special district is in employment, and the North County Fire Protection District has previously taken measures to recruit within the community and recruit more diversity.

Hispanics and African Americans have not complained about discrimination in fire and emergency medical service. Unlike school districts, fire districts do not include any Indian reservations and Pala has its own fire department. The NCFPD standards of coverage are based on population density and response time. Each zone has one of the district's fire stations.

“That’s what we tried to accomplish,” Abbott said.

A traditional district principle identified by the Supreme Court is keeping communities of interest intact. Communities of interest are defined as a geographic area of residents who share similar interests including but not limited to social, cultural, ethnic, geographic or economic interests as well as formal or informal government agency relationships. Political parties are not a community of interest nor are incumbents or candidates to be considered when boundaries are set.

Election areas must have substantially equal population based on the most recent census data. The maximum allowable variance between the highest populated and lowest populated election area is 10 percent. The NCFPD election zones have a deviance of 4.0% with no area deviating from an equal share of the total population by more than 2.3%. Although the requirement for areas to have substantially equal population is based on actual population rather than registered voters, the ethnic composition of the NCFPD zones are based on the population 18 or older.

The entire district has a population of 49,355 and 37,707 of those are over 18. Whites account for 24,178, or 64.1%, of the district’s adults while there are also 11,202 Hispanics at 29.7%, 1,121 Asians including Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders at 2.9%, 478 blacks at 1.3%, 139 American Indians at 0.4% and 55 adults of other races at 0.1%.

Zone 1 covers the Downtown Fallbrook area, including Station 1 on Ivy Street and has a total population of 9,980 including 6,807 people over 18. The zone has 3,833 Hispanics over 18 at 56.3% of the total, 2,467 whites at 36.2%, 224 blacks at 3.3%, 158 Asians including Polynesians at 2.3%, 30 American Indians at 0.4% and 10 of other races at 0.1%.

The fire district will need a new board member for that seat when it is up for election in 2020.

“We don't currently have anybody that resides there,” Abbott said.

Abbott encourages citizens of that zone to attend meetings to determine if they would be interested in serving on the NCFPD board.

“We would like to help folks who are civically minded,” he said.

Zone 2 covers the eastern end of the town area while also covering Reche Road and Stage Coach Lane. It includes Station 2, which is in the Winterwarm area of Fallbrook. The total population of 9,890 includes 7,509 who are over 18. The 4,705 whites over 18 constitute 62.7% of the voting age total while the zone also has 2,463 Hispanics at 32.8%, 161 Asians and Polynesians at 2.1%, 45 blacks at 0.6%, 19 American Indians at 0.3% and 13 adults of other races at 0.2%.

Zone 3 covers Rainbow and other NCFPD territory north of East Mission Road. The fire station in Rainbow is Station 3. Zone 3 has a total population of 9,648, and 7,436 of those are 18 or older. The white adult population is 4,486 or 60.3% while zone residents 18 and older also include 2,579 Hispanics at 34.7%, 174 Asians and Polynesians at 2.4%, 57 blacks at 0.8%, 31 American Indians at 0.4% and six from other races at 0.1%.

Zone 4 east of Gird Road and north of state Route 76 includes Live Oak Park and Pala Mesa. NCFPD Station 4 is in Pala Mesa. The 9,799 total population includes 7,853 who are at least 18 years old. The zone consists of 6,106 whites at 77.8%, 1,172 Hispanics at 14.9%, 344 Asians and Polynesians at 4.4%, 80 blacks at 1.0%, 23 American Indians at 0.3% and 15 members of other races at 0.2%.

Zone 5 covers Bonsall and southern Fallbrook including the Olive Hill area where Station 5 is located. The zone not only has the highest total population of any zone with 10,038 residents but also the highest percentage of the total population over 18, as the 8,101 residents of voting age constitute 80.7% of the total. The 6,414 whites comprise 79.2% of the adult population which also includes 1,155 Hispanics at 14.3, 284 Asians and Polynesians at 3.5%, 72 blacks at 0.9%, 36 American Indians at 0.4% and 11 others at 0.1%.

“There’s pretty good diversity in three of the five,” Abbott said.

The boundaries will be adjusted after each census. Local agencies are allowed to revise their trustee area boundaries, contingent upon the areas having approximately equal population and the boundaries not being drawn to disenfranchise any specific group, as the district feels is warranted. Development projects in Zone 3 will likely increase that zone’s population, but those projects are expected to be complete by the time census-based adjustments will be reviewed by the board in 2021.

“I think it’s going to be kind of a self-resolving issue,” Abbott said. “Whatever new growth there is will be captured.”

The minimum number of valid signatures for a recall election is based on the number of registered voters rather than the population. If a zone has between 1,000 and 10,000 registered voters, the signatures of at least 25% of the voters are necessary for a recall election to occur. The signatures of at least 20% of the number of registered voters are required for a district or territorial unit with between 10,000 and 50,000 registered voters. The change in the election format thus revises the recall petition requirement from 20% of the total number of registered voters in the entire fire district to 25% of the number of registered voters in the zone of the incumbent being targeted for recall.

The North County Fire Protection District did not have an election in 2016 as Harris, Bob Hoffman and Fred Luevano were the only three candidates who filed for the three seats which were subject to election that year. The 2018 election saw Ken Munson returned to the board and Van Doorn join the district. Because three directors would have been elected in 2020, the decision was made for seats 1, 4, and 5 to be subject to the 2020 election and seats 2 and 3 to be elected in 2022. The current directors will be allowed to retain their seats until those elections although if any incumbent dies, resigns or is recalled before the filing deadline for the November 2020 election the remainder of that term will be filled through a by-trustee area election.


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