Seeno: Will some Council members ignore their voters?

And what should be done if they do?

On August 25, the Concord Communities Alliance (CCA) invited Concord residents to sign a petition requesting that the City Council reverse their August 21 decision selecting the Seeno group as a master developer candidate for the Concord Naval Weapons Station. More than 1,775 people agreed and signed. A clear majority of public comments on August 21st was against Seeno. And a wide majority of the signers of that petition are clearly identifiable as Concord voters, and many more are likely to be Concord residents. We have the data, just keep reading. Will some City Council members ignore their voters? At CCA, we think public sentiment data is relevant and important, because we think residents' opinions matter. And we know many Concord residents don't just agree with us. They also vote. 

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Some Background
At the August 21st special City Council meeting, all three potential candidates for master developer presented their qualifications and were subject to questions. Prior to and at the August 21 special City Council meeting, public comment was overwhelmingly against the selection of the Seeno group - this is all a matter of public record associated with that City Council meeting. Information on August 21st didn’t change the public opposition to Seeno, but rather seems to have catalyzed it.

CCA offered the petition in response to the vote of three City Council members - a bare majority - to proceed with the Seeno group despite the very public sentiment against such a decision. At CCA we like to encourage public engagement, and we place a high value on listening - and accountability - to the public. City Council members regularly ask for data, especially on occasions when public opinion may conflict with their actions.

So here's the data
With that in mind, here's data about the petition, and a small amount of analysis.

1,764 - number of unique signers as of Oct 19.
   995 - number of signers clearly identifiable as Concord voters
   769 - number of signers not clearly identifiable as Concord voters.

The last number can also include Concord residents, because not all residents are registered voters, nor could all signers be identified as residents in the petition.

Here's some demographic information based on the nearly 1,000 signers who are Concord voters. This helps us understand opposition to the Seeno selection more broadly across Concord residents.

Signer political affiliations
   66% - registered Democrats
   13% - registered Republicans
   21% - registered but neither Democrats or Republicans

These numbers exceed the proportions of registration in both directions: petition signers tend to be more Democratic than Concord as a whole, and less Republican or independent than Concord as a whole. In Concord, voter registration is roughly 52% Democratic, 20% Republican, and 28% independent.

This is worth noting given that the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County has been debating a resolution on the question of whether or not the August 21st vote by three City Council members is consistent with party principles, values and platform. All three of the Seeno supporting City Council members are registered Democrats. 

Age breakdown
   15% - under the age of 35
   33% - between the ages of 35 and 55
   52% - above the age of 55

Council district representation
   33% - from Concord District 1
   22% - from Concord District 2
     4% - from Concord District 3
   17% - from Concord District 4
   23% - from Concord District 5

Several observations can be made. Although influenced by other factors, there isn't a pure ideological divide to the opposition to Seeno as a master developer candidate. Resistance is visible across the spectrum of party affiliation - a rare occurrence in our times. Opposition to the Seeno group also crosses the range of age groups, although it is more concentrated in the age demographic with a higher propensity to vote - those over age 55.

Finally, petition signers tend to be located closer to the CNWS property than not. Districts 3 and 4 are in the western portion of Concord, and do not border the CNWS property directly. Districts 1, 2 and 5 are in the eastern portion of Concord and have varying degrees of shared boundaries with the property. In Concord, districts 1, 3 and 5 - under the current district definitions - will be voting for City Council candidates in November 2022.

Our Conclusions
While clearly not a scientific survey, petition data nonetheless reveals the breadth and depth of voter opposition to the selection of the Seeno group as a master developer. Opposition is strong in high propensity voters from the same party as the City Council members who voted in favor of the Seeno group. And regional stakeholders have also expressed their opposition to the selection of Seeno through the petition. Those neighbors are affected by and care about what happens in Concord, and they can influence Concord voters.

At CCA, we believe City Council members should not just listen to their constituents, but heed them in important matters. Concord voters are speaking clearly - “reverse the Seeno decision.” City Council members can certainly disagree with their constituents. But when they do, they owe their constituents good and clear reasons why their vote was still in the best interests of Concord. At CCA we haven’t heard good and clear reasons from the three Councilmembers. But we have heard the petition signers. We have asked the Concord City Council to reverse their decision to proceed with the Seeno group in an open letter available here.

If three City Council members continue to support a Seeno contract despite this opposition, it's pretty clear they are ignoring their voters. What should the voters do if that happens? Just read the comments many made when they signed the petition: many reminded the City Council that they don't just sign petitions. They also vote. 

Full petition details will be conveyed to Concord City Council members in advance of their meeting on Tuesday, October 26th at 6:30pm, during which they will be taking up the question of an exclusive negotiating agreement between the City of Concord and the Seeno group.

The Concord Communities Alliance will be making a statement and responding to questions on Tuesday, October 26th at 3:30pm at the Concord city offices, 1950 Parkside Drive, Concord, CA 94519.

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