ANAHEIM – Loud, repeated chants of “people map” and “justice delayed is justice denied” prompted Mayor Tom Tait to shut down the City Council meeting early Tuesday night.
The outburst came after the council voted 3-2 to reject Tait’s proposal to allow a panel of judges to recommend which voting districts should be placed on the November 2016 ballot.
More than than 150 residents, union members and activists packed City Hall, urging the City Council to adopt a voting map that would have given Latinos a significant advantage in three districts for next year’s election. Many waved signs that read “People Power,” “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied,” and “Walk in Our Shoes.”
The protesters gathered in response to the the City Council’s 3-2 vote last week to toss out that previously recommended map – dubbed by supporters as “the people’s map” – in favor of examining other proposals that activists believe could dilute the potential voting power of Latinos living in Orange County’s most populous city.
“We organized, compromised and united to figure out this map would be the best for the community,” Oscar Reyes, a 24-year-old substitute teacher who drew the previously approved map, told the City Council.
“We want this map to stay the same, we want representation now,” Reyes said. “It’s very disrespectful that you guys reject the people and want to start this process all over again.”
Up until last week, the council was close to approving a map in which Latinos made up of majority of registered voters in one district and a plurality in two other districts. However, the council disagreed about which council districts should be placed on the ballot for the 2016 election.
Tait and Councilman James Vanderbilt believed that the three Latino-dominant districts should be considered by voters next year. Council members Jordan Brandman, Kris Murray and Lucille Kring wanted to place the sole Latino-majority district on the 2018 ballot.
The disagreement over sequencing and threats of a lawsuit from two Latino advocacy groups prompted Brandman, Murray and Kring to toss out the map last week.
“I would ask for you to continue to have patience and deliberativeness as we as a council body continue to work through this,” Brandman said. He also asked that public hearings start Jan. 12 to re-examine roughly 30 maps that were presented earlier this year to a panel of five retired Superior Court judges known as the Advisory Committee on Electoral Districts.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund sent a letter this week to the City Council, warning that delays in approving a voting map could be a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and potentially lead to a lawsuit. The California League of United Latin American Citizens sent a letter echoing MALDEF, adding that a delay could prevent potential City Council candidates from mounting viable campaigns for the 2016 election.
The council majority now wants to consider a map with two Latino-majority districts. Opponents of that plan said that plan could potentially hinder the voting power of Latinos living in Anaheim.
Though Latinos make up 53 percent of Anaheim’s population, only a few have ever served on the City Council.
“People who have been shut out of City Hall for years have been inspired by the process,” Marisol Ramirez said during a rally prior to the meeting. “Any further delays trample on the hope that we built together.”
Voters passed a pair of ballot measures last year that add two members to the City Council and require council members, except the mayor, to be elected by those living in their particular districts. The mayor is elected citywide.
The measures settled a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which charged that the city’s at-large election process had violated the state’s Voting Rights Act.
The early termination of the meeting meant the council could not hold a pair of scheduled public hearings regarding utilities and parking permit fees.
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