Riverbank council to discuss district elections

The idea of changing city council elections to favor minority neighborhoods will resurface at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Lawsuit threats have prompted the switch to district elections for Modesto and several area school districts in recent years. But the Turlock and Ceres city councils, the second- and third-largest in Stanislaus County, are inclined to ask voters first, and the issue remains up in the air in Riverbank, the fourth-largest city.

Riverbank leaders did not knuckle under to a demand for change by the Latino Community Roundtable, and in February hired a consultant to analyze the city’s historical voting patterns. If warranted, the contract could include suggestions for creating districts, but numbers in the analysis have proved inconclusive, City Manager Jill Anderson said.

Those numbers should be unveiled tonight in a presentation by the firm, National Demographic Corp., and council members will debate the next steps.

Courts generally have supported the notion, reflected in the California Voting Rights Act, that minorities are better represented when leaders are chosen by geographic area rather than at large. Modesto and several school districts made the switch, while Turlock leaders last month selected a map with proposed council districts and decided to ask voters in November. Ceres’ council last year seemed to favor a vote of the people but never scheduled an election.

Latinos make up about 52 percent of Riverbank’s nearly 23,000 people, and minority representation on the council became an issue in late 2012 and early 2013 when the council could not agree on how to fill a vacancy.

Also tonight, the Riverbank council will consider:

• Providing feedback on a draft public outreach plan for the former ammunition plant, which is transforming into an industrial center. The change has “potential to affect the lives of all Riverbank residents and the surrounding population,” a report reads. A Local Redevelopment Authority set up to oversee the change “values an informed public and their involvement and believes that meaningful public involvement is an asset to the project and integral to its success,” the report says.

• Updating fees to rent city buildings. If approved, the cost for Scout Hall would double to $250 for nonresidents and to $200 for residents, and the community center would go from $1,000 to $1,200 for nonresidents and from $900 to $1,000 for residents. Fee waivers for specific services clubs and other groups would remain in place.

• Renewing a contract with Oakdale, which would continue providing animal control services to Riverbank for about $157,000 a year.

• Adopting permit fees for solar panels.