Colton Taking Another Look At Reducing Council’s Ranks From Seven To Five

The Colton City Council next week will consider restructuring its composition by dispensing with its expansion to seven members effectuated more than two decades ago and returning to being a five member panel.
Last year, a similar proposal was considered, and a public discussion took place among the council members at the April 4, 2017 council meeting. While there was indication at least three members of the council saw some merit in the concept, at the end of the discussion a motion to reduce the number of electoral wards in the city from six to four was opposed by councilman David Toro, Jack Woods, Isaac Suchil and then-councilwoman Summer Zamora Jorrin, while councilman Luis González, councilman Frank Navarro and Mayor Richard DeLaRosa supported it.
Last July, Jorrin resigned, and has been replaced as District Two council member by Ernest Cisneros.
Arguments for and against the reduction in the number of council districts and council members have been made. Named after David Colton, the director of the Central Pacific Railroad who was instrumental in bringing the rail system through Southern California in the 1870s, Colton is the second oldest of San Bernardino County’s current 24 incorporated cities. It has some of the most mature and complete infrastructure among local municipalities, and stands out from practically all of its surrounding cities in that it offers very close to a full line of services, with its own police department, fire department, water and electrical utility divisions, public works department, cemetery division and library. In 1996 Colton privatized its long existing sanitation division.
Colton’s 54,800 population ranks it as the 14th largest of the county’s cities in terms of number of residents and its 16.04 square miles ranks as 19th among the 24 cities in area.
Twenty-two of the county’s 24 cities have city councils composed of five members. Only Colton and San Bernardino have councils with seven members.
An issue those advocating for the reduction in the number of wards in Colton will need to confront is the possible resistance of those council members in place presently who might be concerned that the reduction could result in their removal from the council as a consequence of the consolidation of their districts with others. For Toro, Woods and Suchil, such a consideration may prove defining. All three resisted the reduction last year. González, who was last year and is currently the prime mover toward making the change, is favorably disposed to the concept, as are DeLaRosa and Navarro. A crucial swing vote, therefore, appears to be Cisneros.
Based upon previous public and private statements, the entirety of the council seems intent on keeping the mayor as an at-large elected position. Some San Bernardino County cities elect five council members, and those elected then elevate one from among their ranks to serve as mayor.
-Mark Gutglueck

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