Glendale Town Hall Meeting on Election Issues
I attended Glendale’s Town Hall Meeting moderated by Ardy Kassakhian, city clerk, that pertained to elections issues, i.e. voting methods, changes, ideas, and suggestions. Mike Garcia, City Attorney was also present who provided a briefing on Elections by District, At Large Elections vs. District Elections. This was prompted by threat of a potential lawsuit, under the California Voting Rights act that aims to protect the voting clout of minority groups by mandating a district-based system in elections where the at-large process dilutes their votes. The voting rights act “was meant to give everybody an equal opportunity to participate” in elections. (1)
Attorney Kevin Shenkman, of Shenkman & Hughes, who initiated a letter to the three bodies, Glendale Community College Board, Glendale Unified School Board, as well as the City Council, indicated that a lawsuit was forthcoming if each of the three bodies did not conform.
GCC officials in October already passed a resolution to switch from the at-large system. The resolution is now before the GCC Chancellor’s office for consideration. If approved, the change is expected to take effect for the April 2017 election. The GUSD board will take up a resolution on December 9, 2014 that would seek approval from the City council to allow GUSD to go to the voters in April 2015 to amend the City Charter to go to a district-based system.
If the resolution is passed, members of each body would be required to live within the specific geographic area of the district that they represent as opposed to the current at-large system that allows council candidates to be elected regardless of their address. In addition, each voting district must be proportional, equal in population, whether there are five or seven districts.
Glendale school officials recently moved to change the district’s voting system from an At-Large election to a district-based system to remove the school district from scrutiny under the California Voting Rights Act and the potential for litigation, after threat of a lawsuit by law firm Shenkman & Hughes, earlier this year. We learned that the school board had in fact approved elections by district.
Presently, the City is also considering putting on the ballot for the electorate to decide changing Council Elections from at Large to District Election. At the meeting, City Attorney Michael Garcia said the doesn’t think the City has discriminated against any particular group, i.e. Latinos’, since one of its members, Frank Quintero, was elected to the City Council in the past. A defiant Garcia speculated that looking at the demographics as it pertains to Latinos, it would not create a district where you would increase the likelihood of a Latino council member. Of course Garcia did not provide any data or source reference that supports his theory.
What is clear, No local government had won a state voting rights lawsuit, that cannot demonstrate a fair treatment of minorities in at-large election systems. Garcia said that a loss could be between $3.5 million to $5 million without divulging his source. Does this include both the cost of the City hiring an outside attorney as well as paying the plaintiff’s attorney? When Garcia said that he feels that the City has a very strong case if the City is sued on this statute, but he can’t guarantee it, what he is saying, is don’t bet on the City prevailing. All you need to do is look at Garcia’s track record since being appointed City Attorney, to know what the likelihood of success vs. failure is.
Per the 2010 Census, the City of Glendale population demographics included 17.9% Hispanic and 14.9% Asian, totaling 32.8% of Glendale’s population or 63,286 people. Most of this population live in the unrepresented Geographical districts.
South Brand comprises a large majority of renter occupied apartments, in which Hispanics and Asians represents over 50% of the population. (2) In Grand Central, Hispanics and Asians represents about 70% of the population. (3) In Woodbury, Hispanics and Asians represents about 45% of the population. (4) In Tropico, Hispanics and Asians represents about 75% of the population. (5) In Somerset, Hispanics and Asians represents about 43% of the population. (6) In Riverside-Rancho, Hispanics and Asians represents about 60% of the population. (7) In Rancho-San-Rafael, Asians alone represents over 50% of the population. (8) In Pacific Edison, Hispanics and Asians represents about 60% of the population. (9) In Moorpark, Hispanics and Asians represents about 50% of the population. (10) In Milford Industrial, Hispanics and Asians represents about 48% of the population. (11) In Adams Hills Square, Hispanics and Asians represents about 50% of the population. (12) In Grand Central, Hispanics and Asians represents about 60% of the population. (13) In Mariposa Glendale,, Hispanics and Asians represents about 44% of the population. (14)
It should be noted that Hispanic and Latino classifications are not necessarily the same. Basically,
- you’re Hispanic if you and /or your ancestry come from a country where they speak Spanish, i.e. Mexico, majority of Central and South American Countries. i.e. Mexican American and Spanish American are Hispanic
- you’re Latino if you and/or your ancestry come from a Latin American Countries., i.e. the term Latino is restricted to immigrants and their descendants from either Spanish, French, Italian, Romania or Portuguese speaking counties in North Central and South America, i.e. Brazillian American are Latino.
The 2010 Census maintain additional separate reports on Hispanic or Latino population.
- The Nixon Administration tried unsuccessfully to fit racially mixed North, Central and South Americans into an established race group.
- Since the late 90’s Hispanic/Latino labels were questioned and forced the Census to put a disclaimer that Hispanic or Latino were ethnic and not racial terms which is not the case.
- Latinos are classified as white, like Armenians. Over 70% of Mexicans are Mestizo and Mulato , Brown, was considered inferior to White and they knew most people would not identify with the labels, so Hispanic and Latino labels were selected for use. (15)
At Large Elections:
1. There is Geographical unfairness. Most council persons live in one to two district leaving the other five districts unrepresented.
2. Voters do not have one specific council member who answers direct to them
3. Most citizens cannot get representatives to speak on their behalf and address their concerns.
4. When citizens do speak at city council meetings, addressing their concerns, there is generally disrespect from the council seat, if they don’t like the speaker or subject matter i.e. if you don’t like it then sue us.
5. This is why most citizens don’t see the necessity to vote, and why there is very low voter turnout.
6. Most people do not choose to run for City Council because of the high expense involved, competing with Unions cherry picking their candidates whom will support their interest.
• candidates must live within the district boundaries
• Each Geographic area is represented whom each community can hold their elected representative accountable.
• Campaigns would address more local community concerns rather than citywide policy issues
• Minorities fare better in district elections
• Cost of running for election is much less expensive, not influenced by Unions
• There would be at least 7 to 9 council seats, based on 39 nighborhood, that would spur more community involvement and increase voter turnout
• Result in Racial fairness, in some jurisdiction, may be possible to draw a majority from one minority group to elect a candidate of their choice.
It’s apparent that Glendale will eventually be forced to change to elections by Council District voluntarily or involuntarily. With the City’s sustainability plan, bringing in more multi-use buildings in downtown, pushing affordability, this will certainly attract more minorities. Renters now exceed the number of single family homeowners.
Three members of the City Council, last week passed on putting Term Limits on the ballot for their own personal self serving reasons, rather than let the city electorate decide. The majority if not all of the council members live in North Glendale, in one to two districts. It’s obvious that other districts within the City of Glendale are underrepresented and that minorities if the City made the transition to District Elections would stand a much better chance to being elected considering the higher populations they represent in Glendale’s various other districts.
If the City Council fails to allow District Elections to be placed on the ballot, they effectively will cost taxpayers over $5 million dollars in attorney fees that could be put to better use. Elections should have consequences on each City Council members’ performance. The ball is in the City Councils court.