Koperski Succeeds Navarro In Colton’s Third Council District

Three months after a majority of Colton’s residents voted to reduce the number of its council members and council districts from six to four, the council voted to fill an existing gap within ts ranks with Kenneth Koperski.
Colton’s 3rd District has been without representation since Frank Navarro resigned from his council post to move into the mayor’s slot following his election as the city’s top political dog in November.
While competition for spots on the Colton City Council has on occasion been stiff in the past, in the aftermath of the November 2018 election there was no mad rush to succeed Navarro. Koperski was the only 3rd District resident to apply for the post after the council determined it would make an appointment rather than hold a special election.
The filling of the Third District gap runs counter to the general sentiment in the city as well as on the council. Two years ago, Councilman Luis Gonzalez took up the cause of reducing the number of council positions from a half dozen to four. Until 1994, only San Bernardino of San Bernardino County’s 24 cities had more than five members on their respective city councils. In 1992 Colton’s voters voters approved adding two more members. That move was made despite the consideration that 13 of the county’s cities had larger populations than Colton. The larger council found justification in the consideration that despite its small size, Colton is among the most mature of the county’s municipalities, having incorporated in 1887, the third one to do so, one year before Redlands. The second of the county’s city’s to incorporate, nearby Riverside, left the county in 1893 when what is now Riverside County seceded from San Bernardino County in 1893. Colton was, and for the most part remains, a full municipal service city, with its own fire department, police department, water utility, electrical utility including electricity-generating plants, wastewater treatment facilities, a municipal cemetery district and city-owned and operated senior citizen housing. Until 1997 it had a municipal sanitation division that handled refuse collection and disposal. Founded by would-be railroad magnate David Colton, the city incorporated into its layout railroad bridges within its 16.04 square mile expanse that in 2019 dollars would cost more than $2 billion to reproduce.
Gonzalez first appealed to his council colleagues more than two years ago, asserting that the city’s machinery of government was too elaborate. He initially failed to get the requisite support he needed to proceed. Last year, District 1 Councilmen David Toro and District 6 Councilman Isaac Suchil registered their opposition when Gonzalez raised the issue once more, but the remainder of the council came though and in August, at what was literally the last minute, put an initiative, designated by the County Registrar of Voters Office as Measure R, on the November 6 ballot. The city’s voters favored returning to four council members representing four separate districts comprising roughly one-forth of the city’s 54,000 residents each, and continuing with a mayor elected at-large, with 5,321 votes or 54.35 percent in favor of Measure R and 4,469 votes or 45.65 percent in opposition.
The transition is to take place in 2022. In preparation for the change, council members representing current districts 3, 5 and 6 in accordance with their 2016 election are to serve out their four year terms, which are to expire in December 2020. In the November 2020 Colton Municipal Election, those vying in districts 3, 5 and 6 will do so with the understanding that the terms will last only two years. In 2022, at which point the boundaries for the four newly drawn districts will be set, city voters will then elect a full complement of council, the mayor and two of the council members for a full-four year term and two of the council members to a two year term. Thereafter, commencing in 2024, all elections will be to elect candidates to full four-year terms.
In the meantime, to ensure the residents of District 3 have representation, Koperski will be their councilman.
-Mark Gutglueck

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