Home | Opinion | CITY OF GLENDALE RESIDENTS SOUNDLY OPPOSE DISTRICTING MEASURES

CITY OF GLENDALE RESIDENTS SOUNDLY OPPOSE DISTRICTING MEASURES

By

Henri Gurgenyan

 Threatened with a lawsuit that claims their current electoral system discriminates against Latino voters, the City of Glendale, Glendale Community College (GCC), and the Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) have all proposed measures that would replace their at-large voting system with district-based elections. Measure D and Measure E proposed for the City of Glendale and GUSD Board of Education, respectively, were placed on the April 2015 ballot. Both measures were strongly opposed by the voters. Glendale Community College, however, is not part of the City charter, and therefore, is not liable to the electorate. Due to this, the GCC Board of Trustees voted in June 2015 to begin the transition to the new by-area Trustee Election System, which is going to be effective April 2017.

 Attorney Kevin I. Shenkman of Shenkman & Hughes sent a letter to the City, GCC, and GUSD threatening to file a lawsuit asserting that the election system of the three bodies violates the California Voting Rights Act. Shenkman wants the aforementioned bodies to create specific   geographic council districts to replace the current at-large voting system.

 The California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA) is an extension of the Federal Voting Rights  Act of 1965, which outlawed intentional and unintentional voting practices that may have any discriminatory effects. CVRA specifically addresses at-large voting systems, the type of electoral system currently used in the City of Glendale. Section 14027 of the CA Election code states that “an at-large method of election may not be imposed or applied in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice.

 When the issue was discussed at a City Council meeting in November 2014, Glendale City Attorney Michael Garcia stated that the plaintiff would have to show specifically how the city’s current electoral system discriminates against the Latino population of the city. According to the United States Census data, Latinos represent about 17% of Glendale’s 196,000 residents.

 Despite publicly opposing the initiative of a new district-based system, the members of the City Council proposed Measure D on the April 2015 ballot, which gave voters the options to abandon the current at-large electoral system and split the community into districts. Several of the members also stated that the decision on this important issue should be up to voters.

 Glendale voters, however, soundly defeated two measures which would create district-based systems for the City of Glendale and the Glendale Unified Board of Education. This outcome means that the current at-large voting system will remain in place, thus creating a possibility for potential litigation.

 According to the Los Angeles Times, no California City has won a lawsuit challenging it sat-large voting system. The cities of Bell, Palmdale, Anaheim, Whittier, and Escondido all went to court and lost, and later had to adopt voting districts.

 City Attorney Michael Garcia expressed his confidence that the City will have a very strong case if sued on this statute; however, he gave no guarantees. Garcia also mentioned that a lawsuit over its election system could cost the City of Glendale anywhere between $3.5 million and $5 million.

 While the current electoral system remains in place for the City of Glendale and GUSD Board of Education, the Glendale Community College District Board voted on June 16 to change the current at-large voting system to a by-area election. The Board made this decision after holding three public hearings on February 17, March 17, and April 21. The main reasons for the shift, as indicated in Resolution No. 15-2014-2015, are to protect the community college from potential litigation and to use the estimated $1.5 million to “serve Glendale Community College students and meet community needs.”

 The Glendale Community College District Board also decided on a district map effective April 2017. From the seven maps presented by the consultant firm, the District Board chose Plan 5-E, which divides the City of Glendale into five districts.

 La Crescenta and Montrose will make up the first district. District 2 will include the Henderson and Engelheard Canyons, Glendale Community College and its surrounding areas, as well as the Glendale Adventist Medical Center. District 3 consist of areas on the border of Glendale and Burbank, and includes the Brand and Fremont Parks. District 4, located in the southern part of Glendale, includes the area between Colorado Street and the southern border of the city. Lastly, District 5 covers the area between Colorado Street and the CA-134 Freeway.

 

*Henri Gurgenyan is a participant of the Armenian National Committee of America- Glendale chapter 2015 summer internship program. The views expressed in this article are based on individual observation and are not representative of the opinions directly upheld by the ANCA-Glendale or oragark.com. For more information about internship program please contact ANCA-Glendale Community Outreach Coordinator Tigranna Zakaryan: tigranna@ancaglendale.org

 

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