Commentary: Why Weight – One Person, One Vote

A core principle of democratic representation has long been this: “one person, one vote.”


While this is not universally honored, even in the United States (consider that California, with 39,959,247 people, has 2 U.S. Senators, while Wyoming, with 581,813 people, also has 2 U.S. Senators), it is a goal of living in a democracy to honor each individual citizen with respect.


On January 13, 2023, at a meeting of our regional government body, the San Diego Association of Governments, or “SANDAG,” the City of Del Mar’s representative, Ms. Gaasterland, joined eight other San Diego regional cities in arguing that regardless of the population of any city (or the Unincorporated County) in the region, each of these jurisdictions should have one vote.


It seemed to me useful to collect the facts on this issue.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2021 (the 2020 Census), the population figures in the SANDAG region were as follows:

The aggregate population of the bulleted cities above = 757,905, or 23% of the total regional population, which is 3,326,073.


The other cities and Unincorporated SD County = 2,539,347, or 77% of the total regional population.


The bulleted cities are the ones that walked out of the SANDAG meeting in a huff, objecting to the California State law that requires a weighted vote based on population.


In her recent e-blast sent through the “Knowledge for the Vote” platform of Mr. Hershell Price, Ms. Gaasterland attempted to defend her actions, but in fact she “cooked the books” by saying that the bulleted cities represented 43% of the population of the SANDAG region. They do not, as the Census facts above confirm.


Del Mar, as you can see, is by far the smallest city in our region, having just 0.12% of the population of 3,326,073. We have always been the smallest city in the San Diego region.


Ms. Gaasterland’s pitch at the SANDAG meeting was, in effect, that 0.12% of the people in the San Diego region should have as many votes as, say, the City of San Diego, which has 42% of the region’s population. Ms. Gaasterland’s position is indefensible on grounds of any respect for democracy.


It is easy to criticize thoughtless positions taken by elected officials, but it is useful to suggest constructive solutions to regional problems concerning Del Mar’s interests.


Here’s one: Our representatives to all regional bodies, SANDAG among them, should work closely with the more populous cities in our region to form partnerships and coalitions that will support our needs as a city, no matter how small we may be.


This is hardly a new idea. Del Mar’s past representatives to regional bodies have done this with great success for decades. Indeed, Del Mar Councilmembers have been elected to the position of Chair of SANDAG, a position Ms. Gaasterland desired but which was denied to her because of her behavior and inability to collaborate.


Politics is the art of the possible, and that requires cooperation and partnership among parties large and small. Ms. Gaasterland’s grandstanding is neither grand nor helping Del Mar achieve good standing and respect in the San Diego region.


I spoke to the Mayor of another small city in our region who was present at the January 13th SANDAG meeting, and was told that Ms. Gaasterland was “making Del Mar look like a bunch of elitist fools.” This small city Mayor has worked within SANDAG for many years and accomplished many benefits for that city.


We can, we should, we must do much better in our dealings with our region, and not allow grandstanding politicians with their own agendas to make our small city appear populated with “elitist fools.”


There are many critical regional issues that impact Del Mar, and we need a respected representative at SANDAG who can build bridges, not knock them down to gain a little publicity.